Controlling Access to Sick Leave Programmes: Practices of Physicians in the Netherlands

Agnes Meershoek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Policymakers in industrialized countries attempt to contain the costs of sick leave and disability schemes by limiting access to include medically proven cases only. However, a person's incapacity to work cannot be fully deduced by referring to his or her medical condition. It is the question whether using more restrictive eligibility criteria that focus on medical evidence actually reduces the number of benefit recipients and makes access to employee benefit arrangements fairer. This ethnographic study shows that physicians working in Dutch illness certification practices use alternative methods to restrict access to sick leave programmes. Doctors do not control their clients in a restrictive sense of the word. Rather, they exercise control over their clients by inciting them to internalize norms about being active and responsible. While we do not claim that this is good per se, we do contend that this control style may have some advantages over and above more restrictive control mechanisms. Elaborating on policy that supports this alternative notion of control, therefore, seems worthwhile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-561
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Sickness certification
  • Return to work
  • Notions of control
  • Disability
  • Activation
  • Participant observations

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