Sick-leave, re-integration and disability pension for Justice workers.
On August 16th, 2021, the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson welcomed representatives of the Committee of Civil Servants Unions (CCSU) to a follow-up information session on the topic of existing policies and procedures related to sick-leave registration, re-integration, chronic illness and disability pension for civil servants. Speakers included the Social & Health Insurances (SZV), Medwork, and the Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten (APS). The aim of the meeting was to initiate a series of informed dialogue between the Ministry of Justice and the CCSU, and ultimately serving employees in the Justice chain with adequate information about their rights and obligations pertaining to sick-leave.
The Minister of Justice, reiterated the importance of safety and security in the workplace, promoting the urgency of having well-equipped workers in the Justice chain that are ‘fit for work’. SZV, Medwork and APS all play a role in various stages of an employee’s sick-leave management process, including access to disability pension. The three institutions highlighted their independent roles, executing laws and procedures, the role of the employer – in this case the Ministry of Justice, and the employee – in this case, the workers in the Justice chain. CCSU representatives unanimously agreed that the information presented was “very informative”, echoing that more information should become available to better guide civil servants in their rights and obligations.
Kicking off the session was SZV, represented by Mr. Reginald Willemsberg – Chief Operations Officer. Mr. Willemsberg explained the role of SZV as the institution that is responsible for registering the sick-leave of the civil servant as fit or unfit for work, according to the SZV AO-control procedure available via www.szv.sx. Unlike private sector employees, civil servants, unless otherwise indicated by their HR policy, must report to SZV online on the 4th day of being unfit for work.
By law, employers may hire the services of an occupational health agency to validate the sick-leave of personnel (in Dutch: Arbodienst), in addition to supporting sick-leave management and re-integration of the employee. This concerns the fact that a treating physician should not make a (value) judgment about the fitness for work of a patient who is or was under his/her treatment. Medwork, represented by Dr. Joanne Siebel – General Manager, explained the different services of the company and in particular the services to Justice workers, in accordance to the applicable laws that dictate the rights and obligations of employees and employers. “Medwork is the neutral third-party between employee and employer when it comes to sick-leave management,” according to Dr. Siebel during her presentation.
As a result of a medical assessment, a civil servant may be declared ‘permanently’ unfit for work, in this case, the worker may be entitled to a disability pension, which is assessed and executed by APS. APS was represented by Mr. Oscar Williams – Manager Pension Administration & Reporting / Adjunct Director and Mr. Eric Tjon Tam Pau – Senior Pension Administrator. Mr. Eric Tjon Tam Pau explained the conditions, application and approval process for disability pension from APS and the changes, due to the pension reform as of July 1st, 2020. Being registered as an APS participant prior to applying is one of the most important conditions to become eligible to apply for the disability pension, which would be paid out until the applicable retirement age, currently age 65.
“The need to address the ongoing concerns of sick-leave management and re-integration is a matter of safety and security for all workers and by extension the community. I look forward to having more opportunities to collectively discuss and identify the problem areas and proposed solutions. It starts with sessions such as these, where we share first-hand information from the institutions involved. In this case, with Government being the employer, it is my wish that within the Ministry of Justice, we are able to address these matters with transparency and empower Justice workers with the knowledge they need to access their benefits.” – Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson
CCSU representatives posed many questions throughout the session, not all could be answered as some scenarios are still to be addressed in pending laws or future stakeholder discussions. CCSU accepted the invitation of the Minister of Justice to revert with follow-up questions, as spokespersons indicated that “grey areas” still exist in the interpretation of the laws and policies that were presented during the information session. A copy of the presentations of all three institutions will be made available to the CCSU representatives.