After the pandemic, companies around the world started developing remote work policies for their employees. Now, the majority of the global workforce expects their post-COVID-19 jobs to offer some type of flexibility regarding how and where they are able to work. This is especially true in the Netherlands, where the government is debating a bill that would make work-from-home a legal right.
In July of 2022, the Dutch House of Representatives approved a proposal that would make working from home a legal right for citizens, but the proposal still needs to be approved by the Dutch Senate. The bill was introduced by Steven van Weyenberg and Senna Maatoug.
Here is everything you need to know about the new work-from-home law in the Netherlands and how it could affect the future of remote work around the world.
This new law being debated is called the Flexible Working Act (Wet flexibel werken). If passed, the new legislation would allow employees to petition for WFH accommodations if they’ve worked for their present employer for at least 6 months
Under this new law, workers must give their employer two months' notice of their work-from-home start date. Once a worker submits his/her request, the employer will have 1 month to give written approval and set up the proper accommodation for the employee to safely work from home.
As of right now, Dutch employers are legally allowed to deny employees requests for remote work without giving a reason.
Under the new proposal, this will no longer be the case. Employers will need to guarantee workers the ability to work from home, unless the employer has a justifiable cause.
The new “Work where you want” proposal applies to any employer that has more than 10 employees. Smaller businesses will not be legally obligated to respond to a request to work from home.
However, there are some restrictions. Each employee’s desired workplace must be 1) within the EU (European Union) and 2) must be either the employee’s home address or at an appropriate workplace, like a co-working space.
To be considered for a remote working request, employees need to be employed for at least 26 continuous weeks.
In a recent survey of 5,300 Dutch professionals, 70% preferred hybrid-remote work models, with 20% wanting to work fully remote. Only 10% said they would like to remain completely in-office following the pandemic.
So, if this new legislation passes, employers will likely start receiving an influx of work-from-home requests. Employers will be legally required to give proper consideration to each request, and decide whether the employee will be working completely remote or on a hybrid working model.
Most marketing and sales positions can be done remotely, so there would (technically speaking) be no justifiable cause for an employer to deny an application from a marketer or sales person unless the job required an in-person element.
On the other hand, for a job position like a teacher, the employer and employee will have to figure out the details of how to make a hybrid-remote work model easy for both parties. As the teacher needs to complete their lectures in-person, they will still need to report to their classroom to fulfill this part of their duties, but all of their lesson planning and grading can be done from home. The employer would need to help them accommodate being allowed to work partially at home.
If an employee has already proven that they can work from home, especially following the pandemic, but they were required to return to the office, then the employer won’t be able to deny the employee’s right to work from home.
Employers are only allowed to deny remote work requests for practical reasons, such as in instances where work can’t be completed at home.
Reasons employers could deny a request include:
If an employee needs specialized equipment that can't reasonably be kept at home
If a job requires them to interact with other employees, customers, or members of the public in person
If an employee needs immediate access to documents or information that can only be stored in office
Part of the reason the Netherlands governments wants to pass these laws is that flexible work-from-home policies benefit both employees and their employers.
Having a remote workforce immensely cuts down the cost of having to pay for office space. This push towards remote work will make it easier for business leaders to stop paying for real estate that isn’t benefiting their company's bottom line.
Following COVID, it wasn’t clear how employers were going to navigate work-from-home processes, not only in the Netherlands, but all over the world.
This legislation will force employers to make formal policies surrounding these new work arrangements. Other countries will likely look to these Dutch policies as a model for developing remote and hybrid work models.
Remote work has been shown to increase employee productivity by removing some of the distractions from the office setting.
Although not all employees enjoy working from home, remote work has proven to reduce employee stress in areas like commuting, completing projects, and preparing meals.
The result? They are more content with their work-life balance.
In recent studies, many employees have reported that they expect their companies to have some sort of flexibility surrounding remote work. These days, having strong and flexible remote work strategies in place can drastically reduce employee turnover.
Companies without strong work-from-home policies will risk losing top talent. Replacing and training new employees is a huge cost to businesses.
With the new Dutch law allowing anyone within the European Union to work remotely for companies within the Netherlands, it’s likely that more candidates from across Europe will apply.
This means that employees from all over the EU will want to apply for positions at Dutch companies. Having access to a larger talent pool will give companies a competitive advantage and, more importantly, allow them to diversify their teams.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is eagerly waiting for this new Dutch law to go into effect so that business leaders can monitor its impact on the future of remote work and the economy.
Either way, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and that companies need to continue adapting to a world where more people want to work from the comfort of their homes.
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