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Postcard from... Brussels


Calling in sick with a hangover or to enjoy unexpected good weather may soon be more difficult in Belgium, where the Government has proposed a law requiring that employees taking a sick day stay at home for a medical check-up.

Under the draft legislation, people claiming to be too ill to work will have to remain at home for a four-hour time slot between 7am and 8pm so that a doctor can visit to verify their reported ailments. If the employee is not there when the doctor calls they could lose their pay for that day, Belgian media reports.

The rule change is part of an overhaul of Belgian labour laws, which currently apply differently to blue and white-collar workers, according to the Flanders News website. At present, people working in manual jobs do not get paid for their first day of sick leave. That clause would be abolished under the new laws, but unions said the draft proposals were unacceptable and tantamount to house arrest.

“It means that employees are being medically tagged and cannot leave their home,” Jan Vercamst, of the union ACLVB, said. “We can’t agree with such a violation of personal privacy. Blue-collar workers are accused of throwing more sickies on a Monday than white-collar workers. We want to end all discrimination, but this we cannot accept.”

A study earlier this year by the private healthcare provider Benenden Health found that six in 10 bosses in Britain do not believe employees when they call in sick. Suspicion peaks when the weather is sunny.