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Employment contracts in the Netherlands

Every country has specific rules regarding employment contracts, which employers need to understand. In the Netherlands, employment contract law is mostly defined by the Dutch Constitution, as well as numerous Acts, labour regulations and collective labour law. Case law from the court of labour disputes also provides guidance. 

In this guide, we’ll take you through some important information about employment contracts in the Netherlands, including the differences between permanent and fixed-term contracts, rules about maximum working hours, and employees’ right to work remotely.

Employment contracts and policies

In the Netherlands, an employment contract is an agreement between an employer and an employee, which contains the terms and conditions of employment. Employment contracts in the Netherlands can be written or verbal. 

Fixed-term vs. permanent contracts

Employers in the Netherlands can offer employees either permanent or fixed-term (temporary) contracts. There are limitations on how fixed-term contracts can be used and how long they can be extended for. 

Do you need to provide a written employment contract in the Netherlands? 

Legally, employment contracts in the Netherlands can be concluded verbally or in writing. However, Dutch employers are required to provide employees with a ‘written statement of employment details’ within one month of their start date. This is a written document that should include the employee’s job function, the duration of the contract and certain other key employment conditions. 

If an employer fails to provide an employee with a written statement of employment, an employment contract still exists between them. The employer’s failure to provide this document can be used against them in legal proceedings. 

Employment policies

Employers in the Netherlands may have certain policies in place that set out how they and their employees are expected to behave. For example, companies may have policies on confidentiality, remote work, leave, or social media use.

The following policies are mandatory in the Netherlands: 

  • Whistleblowing: Employers with at least 50 employees are required to draw up a whistleblowing policy. This should include details about how internal reports of wrongdoing will be handled, including who employees should report concerns to and how their confidentiality will be maintained if they request it. It should also include details about employees’ legal protections in the case of whistleblowing.
  • Risk Assessment & Evaluation (RI&E): Employers in the Netherlands have to conduct a Risk Assessment & Evaluation (RI&E) before they can engage employees. The RI&E must identify any risks that employees might be exposed to, and which ones are the most severe, and determine the measures that will be put in place to prevent harm to employees. The Netherlands Labour Authority (NLA) can check if businesses have an RI&E and issue a fine for non-compliance.
  • Work health and safety: Dutch employers also have to provide health and safety support for their employees, by hiring either a health and safety officer or a health and safety agency. They must also have a company doctor, who is on hand in case of employee illness. They also conduct medical examinations for new employees, and voluntary periodic occupational health examinations (PAGO) or periodical medical examinations (PMO) for all employees.

Contracting employee in Netherlands

Employers contracting employees in the Netherlands have to give them a written statement of employment within a month of their start date. This document sets out the terms of the employment contract, and should include: 

  • The name and address of the employee
  • The name and address of the employer
  • The location where the work will take place
  • The job title and job description
  • Information about overtime arrangements
  • How much the employee will be paid
  • The hours the employee will work
  • The start date
  • The type of employment contract
  • Details about the trial period (if there is one)
  • The employee’s holiday entitlement and allowance
  • Information about other paid leave
  • The notice period and procedural requirements for termination 

Depending on the terms and conditions of employment, it might also include: 

  • The end date if it’s a fixed-term contract
  • Details about training entitlements
  • Details about the employee’s pension
  • A non-compete or non-solicitation clause
  • Information about a ban on ancillary activities
  • The Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) that’s applicable to your company 

There are also certain implied terms, which apply to all employers contracting employees in the Netherlands, even if they are not explicitly stated. These are things that are expected from a good employer and employee. For example, the employer must treat all workers fairly and provide a safe working environment, and employees are expected to show discretion and loyalty towards their employer. 

Collective labour agreements and employment contracts 

Many employers in the Netherlands are covered by Collective Labour Agreements (CAO). These are agreements between employers (or employers’ organisations) and employees (trade unions). They are collective terms of employment that set minimum standards for things like wages, working hours, pensions and notice periods. 

As an employer in the Netherlands, you need to check if you’re covered by:

  • A sectoral collective agreement
  • A company collective agreement 

Businesses contracting employers in the Netherlands have to state in each employee’s employment contract whether a CAO applies, and which one. When a CAO and an employment contract contradict each other, employers must abide by the terms set out in the CAO. 

Probationary periods

Employers can make their employment contracts subject to a probationary period (or trial period). During the trial period, employers can dismiss employees without notice. 

For permanent contracts and fixed-term (temporary) contracts of more than two years, the maximum probationary period is two months. If a fixed-term contract has a duration of between six months and two years, a probationary period of one month is permitted. Probationary periods are not permitted for temporary employment contracts of six months or less in the Netherlands.

Fixed-term contracts Netherlands

A fixed-term contract is an employment contract that has a set end date. In the Netherlands, employers can use fixed-term contracts to hire employees to work on short-term projects or to replace other employees who are off on maternity leave (for example). It’s also possible to employ someone on a temporary contract without a set end date if you want to hire them to complete a certain project. In this case, the contract will end once the project is completed. 

A fixed-term contract in the Netherlands can be renewed, but employees must be offered a permanent contract if they have had three consecutive fixed-term contracts, or have worked under fixed-term contracts for a total of three years. 

Giving notice to employees on fixed-term contracts in the Netherlands

When an employee is hired on a fixed-term contract of at least six months, they have the right to a notice period of at least one month. That means that, if you employ a worker on a fixed-term employment contract in the Netherlands, you need to tell them whether or not you intend to renew their contract at least one month before it ends. You have to do this in writing. 

Exceptions and penalties

  • Employers don’t have to give notice to fixed-term workers if: Their contract is for less than six months
  • They are a temporary agency worker with a temporary employment clause
  • The fixed-term contract doesn’t have a set end date 

In most cases, employers have to pay compensation to their employees if they fail to give them adequate notice. The amount you have to give depends on how long you failed to give notice and the type of contract the employee has. 

Employers don’t need to pay compensation if:

  • They have gone bankrupt
  • They have applied for a deferral of payment
  • They are in a debt reduction scheme 

Giving notice vs. notice of termination

Giving notice to fixed-term employees means telling them whether or not you intend to renew their contract after it ends. This is different to giving an employee notice of termination, which is when you tell an employer they are being dismissed. Employers can only end fixed-term contracts early if the contract has an early termination option. If this is the case, the contract should also define how much notice they have to give.

Contract extensions

Employers in the Netherlands have to tell their employees on fixed-term contracts whether or not they intend to extend their contract at least one month before its end date. This is called ‘giving notice.’ Employers have to give employees notice in writing and should explain the terms of the contract renewal. If they don’t specify new terms, the terms of the previous contract apply. Employers only have to give notice to fixed-term employees when their contract is for six months or more. 

Limitations on contract renewals

Employees who have been on three successive fixed-term contracts or fixed-term contracts lasting 36 months or more have to be offered a permanent contract. Successive fixed-term contracts are generally defined as contracts that succeed each other with no more than six months in between. Some collective labour agreements shorten this period to three months due to the nature of the work. For example, in some sectors that hire a lot of seasonal workers, the requirement is shortened so employers don’t have to offer permanent contracts to anyone who has worked for three seasons. 

Extension of self-employed fixed-term contracts

If you hire an independent contractor in the Netherlands on a self-employed, fixed-term contract like a contract of work or a contract for services, you can choose to extend this contract if both parties agree. You should keep in mind that independent contractors in the Netherlands can’t have more than 70% of their income in one year come from one client, which may mean they’re unable to accept your offer of extension.

Netherlands working hours

The standard working hours in the Netherlands are between 9 am and 5 or 6 pm, Monday to Friday. Employees in the Netherlands can’t be required to work on Sundays unless it’s necessary for their job. There are also rules concerning the maximum number of hours an employee can work, both on average over a reference period and in any given week. 

Average working hours in the Netherlands

Full-time employees in the Netherlands typically work between 36 and 40 hours per week, split over five days. However, according to 4dayweekglobal, the average working week in the Netherlands is 29 hours, making it one of the shortest in the world. This is probably due to a law that allows employees to request a reduction to part-time hours after six months of employment. 

Maximum working hours in the Netherlands

The Netherlands’ Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet) defines how many hours employees can work per day and per week in the Netherlands. In any given week, employees can only work a maximum of 60 hours, or 12 hours per day. 

In addition, the maximum working hours an employee can work in the Netherlands are: 

  • 48 hours per week over a 16-week period
  • 55 hours per week over a 4-week period 

There are exceptions to these rules, but there needs to be a very good reason for employees to work additional hours. 

Overtime

According to the Working Hours Act, any overtime an employee works counts towards their statutory maximum daily or weekly working hours. The Act doesn’t provide specific rules for overtime payments — it’s up to employers to decide this for themselves. Many employers in the Netherlands choose to give their employees additional time off instead of overtime payments. In some cases, collective labour agreements include overtime agreements that employers have to stick to. 

Exceptions to the maximum working hours in the Netherlands

In some exceptional circumstances, employees can work more than the maximum weekly hours set by the Working Hours Act. For example, seasonal workers or workers covering peak demand may be able to work additional hours. Collective labour agreements (CAO) can also provide for exceptions to the rules. 

Working hours for independent contractors

The Working Hours Act doesn’t apply to self-employed professionals in the Netherlands unless working additional hours could put other people’s safety at risk. For example, self-employed drivers must follow the rules about rest periods and driving hours. 

How many hours can international students work in the Netherlands?

Students who are in the Netherlands on a student visa are allowed to work either: 

  • A maximum of 16 hours per week throughout the year, or
  • Full-time during the summer months of June, July, and August 

Their employer must apply for a work permit on their behalf, which can take about five weeks to be delivered. Students can also do relevant internships during their studies without a work permit, although the company hiring them must draw up an internship agreement and show it to the Labour Inspectorate if it’s requested.

Remote work Netherlands

In many countries around the world, remote and hybrid working has become more and more common in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. In the Netherlands, many employers allow their employees to work from home or another location at least part of the time. However, there are some specific rules that apply to remote workers, which employers should be aware of. 

Is remote work a legal right in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, remote work is not a legal right. However, the Flexible Working Act (Wet flexibel werken) gives employees the right to request flexible working. This right is only granted to employees who: 

  • Have worked for their employer for at least six months
  • Work for an employer with at least 10 employees 

Employees have to submit their request at least two months before they want to start working remotely. After they make their request, employees must respond to it no later than one month before the proposed start date. 

Employers in the Netherlands can refuse an employee’s request to work remotely, but they have a good reason for refusing. For example, they might refuse because:

  • The employee’s work can’t reasonably be done from home
  • It would not be safe for the employee to work from home
  • The employee working from home would cause scheduling problems 

Health and safety for remote workers

Employees who work from home have the right to a safe work environment, just like onsite employees. In the Netherlands, remote work arrangements need to comply with the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet) and should be included in the Risk Assessment and Evaluation (RI&E) that all employers are required to carry out. 

Specifically, employers have to ensure that their remote workers’ work environments are ‘ergonomically sound’, which means that the tools and equipment employees use should allow them to work safely and comfortably. For example, information workers should have an ergonomic mouse, a good desk chair and good lighting. 

Employers should also educate their employees about the risks of working remotely. For example, they should reinforce the importance of having a good posture and explain the risks of muscle and joint problems. 

Netherlands remote work visa

Due to the rise in remote work and changing attitudes towards work, many countries around the world have now introduced ‘remote work visas.’ These allow ‘digital nomads’ to live and work in the country for a set period, without being subject to the normal residency requirements. 

As of 2024, there isn’t a specific remote work visa in the Netherlands. However, digital nomads can register as independent workers and apply for the long-stay visa, or MVV visa, which allows foreign professionals to live and work in the Netherlands. The requirements for the visa vary depending on the candidate’s country of origin and professional situation.

Tailored employment contracts in 100+ countries

Like all countries, the Netherlands has its own rules and regulations when it comes to employment contracts — and non-compliance could land your company in hot water. 

Thankfully, our team is experienced in drawing up tailored, compliant contracts in the Netherlands (and more than 100 countries worldwide). That means that, when you work with us, you won’t need to waste time worrying about whether you’ve got it right. Instead, you can focus on what matters: your business.

Compliantly hire workers anywhere with CXC

With our EoR solution, you can engage workers anywhere in the world, without putting your business at risk. No more worrying about local labour laws, tax legislation or payroll customs — we’ve got you covered.

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