The Dutch government recently announced a series of regulations aimed at protecting the future of the Dutch labour market. These comprehensive policies include mandatory insurance for self-employed individuals and updated guidelines for workers’ contracts.
Minister Karien van Gennip of Social Affairs and Employment emphasized that these measures would provide individuals with greater income and schedule certainty, while also offering improved protection for entrepreneurs in the Netherlands during challenging times. Fundamentally, the objective of these rules is to secure the future of the Dutch labour market by safeguarding and attracting talent, protecting workers’ rights, and promoting increased work hours. The government hopes that these changes will foster a more balanced labour market.
Outlined below are the key modifications that will be implemented gradually over the next few years:
Elimination of Zero-Hour Contracts: One significant amendment to Dutch labour laws involves the prohibition of zero-hour contracts. Instead, workers will be required to sign fixed basic contracts, specifying a minimum number of hours. However, students working part-time will still have the option to engage in on-call contracts. In the Netherlands, full-time work typically consists of 38 hours per week, with most jobs ranging from 36 to 40 hours. Some companies may have a 40-hour workweek, offering higher pay for the additional hours. Another way employers may compensate for longer work hours is by increasing annual holiday leave. Lunch breaks are usually 30 minutes and unpaid.
Working less than 36 hours but more than 12 hours per week is considered part-time employment in the Netherlands. Around 74 percent of women in the country work part-time. This trend has advantages such as reduced stress and more time with family, but it also has drawbacks like lower financial independence and slower career progression.
Legally, employees in the Netherlands are allowed to work a maximum of 12 hours per shift and 60 hours per week for brief periods. Over a four-week period, the weekly limit is 55 hours, and over a 16-week period, it is 48 hours. Shifts longer than 5.5 hours entitle employees to a 30-minute unpaid break, which can be split into two 15-minute breaks.
Working overtime is less common in the Netherlands compared to other countries. Compensation for overtime depends on the employment contract. Some contracts include overtime as part of the job and cover it with regular salary, while others provide financial compensation or time off in lieu. If you feel you are working excessive uncompensated overtime, it is important to discuss the issue with your employer. Flexible working hours can be negotiated with employers in some cases. This can include options such as working from home on certain days, longer working days in exchange for a free day per week or every two weeks, or time off to replace evening or weekend hours worked.
Stricter Regulations for Temporary Contracts: Currently, employees with temporary contracts can leave a job and return to the same position under another temporary contract after only six months. Under the new regulations, employers will be able to rehire former employees on temporary contracts only after a period of five years has passed. This means that the interruption period between temporary contracts will be extended from six months to five years. After three temporary contracts, employers can only offer a new contract after five years. This change aims to stop the practice of continuous revolving door contracts for an extended period of time.
Compulsory Insurance for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs: In an effort to provide better protection for self-employed individuals without employees during periods of incapacity to work, the government plans to introduce a mandatory and affordable insurance package, known as “arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering,” in 2027. Self-employed individuals who are already insured will not be required to switch to the new scheme. The government is considering an “opt-out” option, allowing self-employed individuals to choose private insurance with equivalent coverage and premiums instead of the public insurance.
The Income Provision for the Older Unemployed (IOW) will be extended for another four years. This law provides a social assistance level benefit to individuals over 60 years and 4 months who have exhausted their extended unemployment or disability benefits, without considering their partner or assets.
Enhanced System for Replacing Absent Workers: Alongside the worker-focused policies, the government aims to support employers and businesses. A new system will be implemented to allow small companies (with up to 100 employees) to determine, after one year of illness, whether they can permanently replace the absent employee. Currently, employees can only be replaced after a minimum period of two years of sickness.
Crisis Scheme for Personnel Retention: The government has introduced the Crisis Scheme for Personnel Retention (Crisisregeling Personeelsbehoud) to assist employers affected by external crises or emergencies, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Under this scheme, employees may be temporarily transferred to different positions or work reduced hours for up to six months while retaining their unemployment benefits entitlement.
These rules aim to establish a balanced and future-proof labour market. While no specific implementation date has been confirmed, Minister van Gennip hopes that these changes will be approved by the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) in the spring of the following year. The government plans to roll out all the new policies gradually over the next three to four years.
Minister van Gennip explained, “Job security ensures that individuals know their work schedule, can meet their financial obligations, and can plan for the future. Many employees with flexible contracts or self-employed status lack this certainty. This package of measures will create a labour market that is better balanced, future-proof, and fosters mutual solidarity.”
Photo by Mikhail Nilov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/law-book-in-a-podium-8730785/