The Netherlands is known for its progressive policies. The country is the first to make working from home a legal right. A leader in IT and telecommunications, the Netherlands stands out as one of the most dynamic economies in the European Union. With the 17th largest economy in the world, the country is home to over 17 million people.
Employee rights in the Netherlands are fundamental to maintaining a fair and balanced work environment. Dutch employment laws emphasize the protection of employees' rights, ensuring their well-being, job security, and equitable treatment within the workplace.
These rights encompass employment contracts, working hours, wages, leave entitlements, and protection against discrimination.
In this guid,e we’ll break down how the Netherlands' comprehensive legal framework strives to promote transparency, provide avenues for resolving disputes, and uphold social justice in the employer-employee relationship.
Employee rights in the Netherlands are primarily governed by the Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek) and various associated laws.
Key legislative acts that establish and safeguard employee rights include:
Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek): This comprehensive legal framework addresses various aspects of employment, including employment contracts, termination, and general employment conditions. It outlines the rights and obligations of both employers and employees.
Work and Security Act (Wet Werk en Zekerheid): This law, implemented in phases between 2015 and 2016, introduced changes to employment law, including regulations on probationary periods, temporary contracts, and severance pay.
Work Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet): This legislation regulates the maximum and minimum working hours in the Netherlands, rest periods, and breaks, ensuring that employees are not overworked and are entitled to adequate time off.
Leave Entitlements: Various laws govern leave entitlements, such as the Annual Leave Act (Wet Vakantiebijslag) and the Pregnancy and Maternity Leave Act (Wet arbeid en zorg), which provide employees with rights to annual leave, maternity leave, and other types of leave.
Equal Treatment Legislation: The Equal Treatment Act (Algemene wet gelijke behandeling) prohibits discrimination based on factors such as gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and religion in the workplace.
Collective Labor Agreements: These agreements negotiated between employers and labor unions cover specific industries or sectors and can provide additional rights and benefits to employees beyond the legal minimums.
Dismissal Regulations: The Dismissal Protection Act (Wet Werk en Zekerheid) outlines rules and procedures for terminating employment contracts, protecting employees against unfair dismissal.
Privacy Legislation: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to employee data, ensuring the protection of personal information collected and processed by employers.
Employee Participation Laws: Laws such as the Works Councils Act (Wet op de Ondernemingsraden) provide employees with the right to participate in decision-making within companies through works councils.
Foreign workers in the Netherlands are entitled to many of the same rights as Dutch citizens when it comes to employment. However, certain regulations may apply specifically to foreign workers, especially those from non-European Union (EU) or non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries.
General rights for foreign workers include:
Trade union membership
Health and safety protections
Severance and termination
Privacy and data protection
Remote workers in the Netherlands have many of the same rights as in-office employees. These rights are designed to ensure fair treatment, clear communication, and a healthy work-life balance.
Key rights in the Netherlands:
Equal Treatment: Remote workers are entitled to equal treatment and protection against discrimination, just like employees working on-site. Employers must provide a discrimination-free work environment, regardless of where the work is performed.
Employment Contract: Employers should have a written employment contract that outlines the terms and conditions of their remote work arrangement, including job responsibilities, working hours, and any specific expectations.
Working Hours and Rest Breaks: Remote workers are entitled to adhere to the working time regulations, including limits on working hours and requirements for rest breaks, as specified by Dutch labor laws.
Health and Safety: Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of remote workers, which includes providing ergonomic equipment, assessing the remote workspace for safety, and addressing any concerns related to occupational health.
Privacy and Data Protection: Employers must ensure the privacy and security of remote workers' personal and work-related data, particularly in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Reimbursement of Expenses: If remote workers incur necessary expenses as a result of their remote work, such as internet costs or equipment, employers may be required to reimburse these expenses based on applicable agreements or policies.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Under the Working Conditions Act, employers are required to provide flexible work arrangements, and remote work can be negotiated between employers and employees to promote a healthy work-life balance.
Termination Rights: Remote workers have the same rights as on-site workers when it comes to protection against unfair dismissal and adherence to termination procedures outlined in Dutch labor laws.
Under Dutch employment laws, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employers based on gender during recruitment, training, or doing employment.
These laws are to ensure that employers performing the same duties are given equal pay and rights despite their gender. Employers that don’t participate in equal opportunity will void their employment contract and could incur a potential claim or fine by a discriminated employee.
Employer-employee relationships must be put into writing at the beginning of the working relationship through a labor agreement. Dutch laws strongly protect employees from unfair dismissals and end of employment should be handled carefully in the Netherlands.
Termination policies in the Netherlands vary based on the employment agreement and the type of contract that the employee and employer agreed upon. Employers are not allowed to terminate employees due to economic reasons or for long-term disability.
In the Netherlands, the statutory minimum notice period is 1 month. In practice, the notice period depends on the employee’s length of service to the company.
Notice periods break down as:
Less than 5 years - 1 month notice
5-10 years - 2 months' notice
10-15 years - 3 months' notice
Over 15 years - 4 months' notice
In the Netherlands, severance pay is referred to as transition payment. Former employees should receive their severance pay by the end of their last day.
Employees that work for companies with more than 50 employees are entitled to whistleblower protections. Companies that have a smaller number of employees may still report this misconduct to a supervisor or an inspector for the House of Whistleblowers.
Under the Whistleblowing Act, employees can disclose abuse by their employer or at another company that could impact public interest. Those who are proved to be in the right cannot be penalized.
Companies with 50 or more employees are required to establish a whistleblowing procedure which outlines:
How the employer will deal with internal notifications of misconduct by employees
When to suspect a misconduct
Whom they should notify about the misconduct
Ways to treat the information confidentially if the employee requests it
Allow for the employee to consult an adviser in confidence
When to go public with suspicions of abuse
The legal protection of a (potential) whistleblower.
All employers in the Netherlands are required to create a sexual harassment policy that protects all workers in the workplace. The policy should create a safe working environment that encourages workers that report any sexual harassment or misconduct.
The Dutch Constitution highlights that all potential workers in the Netherlands should be treated equally during hiring, under the conditions of employment, promotion, training, and dismissal.
Employers in the Netherlands may not discriminate based on:
Type of contract they’re employed under
It is the employers responsibility to have a permanent contract in place that prevents discrimination. Employers who do not comply with the conditions that prohibit discrimination under the Working Conditions Act are likely to be fined or incur a legal claim from an employee. Employees who feel they’ve been discriminated against may also contact the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and claim legal and emotional damage.
In the Netherlands, personal employee information is protected through a combination of laws and regulations, primarily governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Dutch national legislation. These measures ensure the privacy and security of personal data collected and processed by employers.
The GDPR is a European Union regulation that establishes a comprehensive framework for the protection of personal data. It applies to all EU member states, including the Netherlands. The GDPR sets out principles and requirements for processing personal data, including employee data.
Under this legislation:
Data can only be collected for legitimate and specific purposes
Employers may not keep this data for any longer than what they need it for
Data must always be complete and correct
Eligible reasons is only necessary for the performance of a contract, a specific legal obligation, of the employer has a explicit need
Employees must receive notification of how their data is being collected, what it’s being processed for, and how it’s being used by their employer
Employees are protected in cases of business transfers, mergers, and acquisitions through the implementation of the European Union's Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, commonly referred to as TUPE.
These regulations ensure that employees' rights and employment conditions are preserved when a business or part of a business is transferred to a new employer.
The key aspects of employee protection during business transfers in the Netherlands are as follows:
Automatic Transfer of Employment Contracts: In cases of business transfers, employment contracts of affected employees are automatically transferred to the new employer. This means that the new employer assumes all rights and obligations arising from these contracts.
Preservation of Terms and Conditions: The new employer is required to maintain the terms and conditions of employment that were in place before the transfer. This includes salary, working hours, benefits, and other employment-related terms.
Protection against Unfair Dismissal: Employees cannot be dismissed solely due to the business transfer. If an employee is dismissed as a result of the transfer, the dismissal may be considered unfair unless there are valid economic, technical, or organizational reasons.
Consultation with Employee Representatives: Both the old and new employers are required to consult with employee representatives (e.g., works council or trade union) about the transfer and its implications for employees.
Notification of Employees: Employers must inform affected employees about the transfer, including the reasons for it, its legal, economic, and social implications, and any measures that may be taken regarding employees.
Employee Consent: If the transfer involves changes that are unfavorable to employees (such as changes in job roles or working conditions), the employees' consent must be obtained for those changes to be valid.
Information to New Employer: The old employer is required to provide relevant information about the transferring employees to the new employer, including terms and conditions of employment.
Liability for Outstanding Obligations: The old employer remains liable for any outstanding employment-related obligations that existed prior to the transfer, even after the transfer is completed.
Collective Agreements: The new employer is generally bound by existing collective labor agreements (CAOs) that apply to the transferring employees, ensuring that they continue to benefit from the terms outlined in these agreements.
Notification to Authorities: Employers are required to notify the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) about the business transfer.
Unions in the Netherlands hold a pivotal role in safeguarding workers' rights and fostering a balanced labor environment. These unions champion the interests of employees across various sectors.
Through collective bargaining and advocacy, they negotiate for fair wages, improved working conditions, and employee benefits. Collaborative engagement with employers and the government ensures effective representation and promotes social dialogue. These unions remain steadfast in their commitment to shaping a just and equitable workplace, where the collective voice of workers contributes to the evolution of robust labor laws.
In the Netherlands, employees are entitled to various types of leave to accommodate different life situations and needs.
Here are some of the main types of employee leave available in the country:
Annual Leave (Vakantiedagen): Every employee in the Netherlands is entitled to a minimum number of paid vacation days, typically calculated as a percentage of their working hours. The standard minimum is four times the weekly working hours, which amounts to 20 days for a full-time employee with a 5-day workweek.
Sick Leave (Ziekteverlof): When employees are ill and unable to work, they are entitled to sick leave. During this period, they receive sick pay, which is a percentage of their salary, typically paid by the employer for a specified duration.
Maternity Leave (Zwangerschapsverlof): Pregnant employees in the Netherlands are entitled to maternity leave, which usually starts 6 to 4 weeks before the expected due date and continues for 10 to 12 weeks after childbirth. During this period, they receive maternity benefits from the government.
Paternity Leave (Partnerverlof): New fathers are entitled to paternity leave of one week, during which they receive paid leave to spend time with their newborn child. Additionally, partners can take extra weeks of unpaid leave.
Parental Leave (Ouderschapsverlof): Employees can take parental leave to care for their children. This leave is unpaid and can last up to 26 times the weekly working hours per child, typically spread out over a specific period.
Short-Term Care Leave (Kortdurend Zorgverlof): Employees are entitled to short-term care leave to provide urgent care for family members who are seriously ill or require immediate assistance. This leave is unpaid and limited to a specific number of days.
Long-Term Care Leave (Langdurend Zorgverlof): In cases where employees need to provide long-term care to a family member, they can take long-term care leave. This leave is also unpaid but allows for an extended period of absence.
Adoption Leave (Adoptieverlof): Employees who adopt a child are entitled to adoption leave. The duration varies based on the age of the child and the number of children being adopted.
Unpaid Leave (Onbetaald Verlof): In certain situations, employees may request unpaid leave for personal reasons, such as travel or personal development. The terms and duration of unpaid leave are usually negotiated with the employer.
In the Netherlands, social security is broken up into two types:
National insurance, which covers social benefits and comes from the Social Insurance Bank, and
Employee insurance, which takes care of benefits pertaining to work and is handled by the Employee Insurance Agency
To qualify for unemployment, maternity/paternity leave, and sick leave, employees must make social security contributions, which are automatically deducted from their salary by their employer.
Companies that want to hire workers and expand in the Netherlands need to have a comprehensive HR system in place to help navigate and manage compliance and employee rights.
Employment contracts are legally required in the Netherlands and are binding agreements between an employer and an employee that outlines the terms and conditions of their working relationship.
While verbal agreements can be considered legally valid to some extent, a written employment contract is highly recommended and often required to provide clarity, transparency, and legal protection for both parties.
The Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek) specifies that employers are obliged to provide employees with a written statement of essential employment terms within one month of the start of employment. This statement should include information about:
Identity of the parties (employer and employee).
Job description and duties.
Place of work.
Date of commencement of employment.
Duration of employment (if it's a fixed-term contract).
Probationary period (if applicable).
Notice periods for termination.
Salary and payment frequency.
Working hours and any collective labor agreements (union membership)
The employment contract helps prevent misunderstandings between employers and employees by clearly defining their respective rights and obligations. It is a crucial document that ensures compliance with labor laws, establishes the terms of employment, and provides a basis for resolving disputes.
It's important for employers to draft employment contracts that are accurate, comprehensive, and compliant with Dutch labor regulations. Consulting legal professionals or an employer-of-record the specializes in global hiring and expansion can help ensure that employment contracts meet the required standards and provide appropriate protections for both parties.
HR is required to give employees pay slips in order to ensure fair wages. The pay slip should specify the hours worked, pay, and any overtime hours.
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