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Leaves and time off in Netherlands

Every country has different requirements for the paid and unpaid time off that employers have to grant to their employees. In the Netherlands, paid time off is defined by labour laws and the collective labour agreements (CAO) that apply to employees. These might give employees more annual leave than the statutory minimum. Many employers in the Netherlands choose to set their own leave policy, which can be more generous. 

If you want to hire employees in the Netherlands, you’ll need to know what paid and unpaid leave they are entitled to so you can protect their statutory rights. In this guide, we’ll take you through the different types of leave that employees have access to in the Netherlands, including annual leave, sick leave and all types of parental leave. We’ll also talk about some additional types of leave that employers in the Netherlands can choose to include in their company leave policy.

Dutch leave policy

Employees in the Netherlands are entitled to four weeks of paid holiday every year. This is worked out based on the number of hours they normally work in a week, so a full-time employee working 40 hours a week is entitled to 160 hours (or 20 days) of annual leave. A part-time employee working three days a week would be entitled to 12 days’ leave, which is the equivalent of four weeks of work. 

If an employee hasn’t taken some of their statutory leave by the end of the year, they can take it until the end of June in the following year. After this date, the leave will expire. Employers are only obliged to let their employees carry over statutory leave. That means that, if you provide your Dutch employees with additional annual leave, you don’t have to let them carry it into the next year. 

Holiday allowance

In addition to paid leave, employees in the Netherlands have the right to an additional holiday allowance. This is an extra payment of at least 8% of their annual salary, which is usually paid in May or June. Employers don’t have to pay the holiday allowance to employees earning more than three times the minimum wage. 

Paying out leave in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, employers are only allowed to ‘pay out’ employees’ statutory leave when they leave the company. This means paying your employees for days they would have taken as leave. Employers can pay out non-statutory leave instead of the employee taking time off, but only if the employee agrees. When an employee leaves your company, you have to pay them any statutory and non-statutory leave that they haven’t used. 

Sick leave

Businesses in the Netherlands are required to continue paying their employees if they are too sick to work. Employees can get paid time off work for sickness for a maximum of two years. During this time, employers have to pay 70% of the employee’s last earned salary. If this amount is less than the minimum wage, they have to top it up to at least the minimum wage for the first year. Many employers in the Netherlands have a sick leave policy that provides for 100% of salary in the first year of sickness, and 70% in the second year. 

Other statutory leave entitlements

Statutory leave entitlements are set out in the Work and Care Act, which grants employees the right to: 

  • Pregnancy and maternity leave
  • Partner/paternity leave
  • Parental leave
  • Adoption leave or foster care leave
  • Short- and long-term care leave
  • Emergency leave 

Holiday entitlement while taking leave

When an employee in the Netherlands is taking leave, they continue to build up holiday entitlement. Employers are not allowed to deduct days taken as leave from an employee’s holiday balance unless the employee has a holiday entitlement of at least four times the number of days they work in a week. In this case, employers can only deduct days if it has been agreed in the collective labour agreement that applies. 

Setting your leave policy in the Netherlands

Companies in the Netherlands can set their own leave policy, which could provide more generous leave than the amounts mentioned above. However, employers must provide at least the minimum amount of leave as defined by Dutch labour law and any collective labour agreement that applies. For example, many Dutch employers choose to give their employees 25 or even 32 days of paid leave per year, instead of the statutory minimum of 20 days.

Maternity and paternity leave Netherlands

Maternity and paternity leave in the Netherlands is time that employees can take off work when they or their partner has a baby. Employees in the Netherlands can also take parental leave at any time before their child’s eighth birthday. 

Pregnancy and maternity leave in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, employees are entitled to leave when they have a baby. This is split into two parts:

  • 6 weeks pregnancy leave
  • 10 weeks maternity leave 

Pregnancy leave can begin 4–6 weeks before the employee’s due date, and maternity leave begins on the day of the birth. If an employee takes less than six weeks of pregnancy leave, they can add the balance to their maternity leave. Pregnant employees have to take at least four weeks’ leave before their baby is born. 

Employees are also entitled to paid leave when they have a medical check-up related to pregnancy during working hours, as stated in the Working Hours Act. 

Maternity leave for self-employed contractors

Freelancers and self-employed professionals are also entitled to paid maternity leave in the Netherlands, under the Maternity Benefit Scheme for the Self-Employed (Zelfstandig en Zwangerregeling, ZEZ). Under this scheme, self-employed people in the Netherlands can apply for 16 weeks of ZEZ maternity pay, which is based on their income for the last calendar year. ZEZ maternity pay is capped at 100% of the statutory gross minimum wage. 

Paternity leave in the Netherlands

Employees in the Netherlands are entitled to one week of paid paternity leave when their partner gives birth, which they can take any time in the first four weeks after the birth. Paternity leave in the Netherlands is sometimes called ‘partner leave’ because it also applies to same-sex partners of birthing parents. 

In addition to this one week of paternity leave, employees can take up to five weeks of extended paternity leave within the first six months after their partner gives birth. This can be taken in one block or in several shorter stints if their employer agrees. 

Pay for maternity and paternity leave in the Netherlands

Employees on maternity leave are paid via the maternity benefit, which employers can apply for on their behalf. Employers in the Netherlands usually make the initial payment and then claim the amount back from the Employee Insurance Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen). 

Paternity leave is paid by the employer for one week, at 100% of the employee’s normal salary. Extended paternity leave is usually unpaid, but employees who take it can claim up to 70% of their usual wages from the Employee Insurance Agency. 

Unpaid and paid parental leave in the Netherlands

In addition to these entitlements, all parents in the Netherlands are entitled to up to 26 weeks of parental leave, which can be taken any time before their child’s eighth birthday. The first nine weeks of this leave are paid by the Employee Insurance Agency at up to 70% of the employee’s salary as long as they are taken within the first year of the birth. The remaining 17 weeks are unpaid unless the employee’s collective labour agreement says otherwise.

Adoption leave Netherlands

In the Netherlands, parents are entitled to six weeks of adoption or foster leave when they adopt or foster a child. This applies to both parents, though they don’t have to take the leave at the same time. In the case of adoption, this leave is only guaranteed if the court has pronounced the adoption. Foster carers can take leave as long as the child is registered at their address. This leave can be taken in one block or spread out over a period of up to 26 weeks. 

Arranging adoption leave in the Netherlands

Employees who want to take adoption leave in the Netherlands must request it from their employer at least three weeks before they want the leave to start. When they apply, they should let their employer know whether they want to take their leave all at once or spread it out over a longer period. Employers can’t refuse to let their employees spread out their leave unless it would cause significant problems for the company. 

Payment for adoption and foster leave

When an employee adopts or fosters a child in the Netherlands, their employer has to apply for adoption or foster care pay on their behalf. Employees on adoption or foster leave receive the equivalent of their full average daily income for as long as their leave lasts. Employers who adopt or foster more than one child at the same time don’t receive an additional payment (or additional leave).

Other employee leaves

There are various statutory leave schemes in the Netherlands that allow employees to take time off work for different reasons. Collective labour agreements (CAO) might also give employees additional entitlements. Employers can also make individual agreements with their employees about the leave they’re allowed, as long as they provide at least the minimum defined by Dutch labour law and the CAO that applies. 

Short- and long-term care leave

In the Netherlands, employees are entitled to short-term care leave if they need to take care of someone who is ill or otherwise in need of help. This leave only applies if the employee is the only person who can look after the person. Employees can take short-term care leave to care for: 

  • Their children or grandchildren
  • Their partner
  • Their parents or grandparents
  • A member of their household
  • A friend, neighbour, or acquaintance (in some circumstances) 

Employers have to pay their employees 70% of their normal salary while they’re on short-term care leave. If this amounts to less than the minimum wage, they have to top it up so that the employee receives at least the minimum wage. 

Dutch employees can also take long-term care leave if their child, partner, or parent is seriously ill and requires care. They should request this leave from their employer at least two weeks in advance, and employers can ask for details to assess whether the employee should be granted the leave. Long-term care leave is unpaid. 

Emergency leave and short-absence leave

Sometimes, employees need to take time off work to deal with a personal emergency. For example, they might have to arrange for care for a family member or deal with a death in the family. In the Netherlands, employers must always grant reasonable requests for emergency leave, and continue to pay the employee’s salary while they’re on leave. Once the employee returns to work, you can ask to see proof that the leave was needed. 

Special leave in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, special leave or extraordinary leave is meant to cover important events such as marriages or funerals. Employees in the Netherlands can also take special leave for: 

  • Moving house
  • Doctors’ appointments
  • Work anniversaries
  • Taking an exam
  • Activities for a trade union 

There is no particular law that provides the basis for special leave in the Netherlands. Instead, it should be defined by the employee’s collective labour agreement, company policy, or employment contract. 

Unpaid leave

Employees in the Netherlands can take unpaid leave if their employer agrees. They can take this leave on a full-time or part-time basis. During the leave, the employment contract continues, but the employee is not paid. They also stop accruing holiday benefits, and their pension might be affected. 

There is no legal right to unpaid leave in the Netherlands, so whether or not you allow it for your employees is usually up to you. However, a collective labour agreement might include arrangements for unpaid leave, in which case you have to follow the rules it sets out.

Public holidays Netherlands

The Netherlands has a number of public holidays each year. These are days that employers can choose to give their employees off work in addition to their statutory holiday entitlement. However, there is no statutory obligation to give your employees leave on public holidays in the Netherlands. 

Public holidays and collective labour agreements

In the Netherlands, many employees are covered by a collective labour agreement (CAO) that applies to either their sector or company. Many CAOs stipulate whether employees should or shouldn’t be given a day off on public holidays. If there is no collective labour agreement for your company or it doesn’t cover public holidays, employers are free to decide this themselves. 

Also, many collective labour agreements state that a Christian public holiday such as Christmas or Easter can be substituted for a different religious holiday like Eid-AL-Fitr or Chanukah. This allows employees of different faiths to celebrate the holidays that are important to them without having to use their holiday entitlement. 

Liberation day

In the Netherlands, 5 May is a public holiday called Liberation Day. However, many collective labour agreements state that it only needs to be given as a day off every five years. If your collective labour agreement doesn’t mention Liberation Day or there is no collective labour agreement for your sector, you can decide whether to let your employees have this day off work. 

Public holidays in the Netherlands in 2024

Here are the public holidays observed in the Netherlands in 2024:

1 January
New Year’s Day
29 March
Good Friday
31 March
Easter Sunday
1 April
Easter Monday
5 May
Liberation Day
9 May
Ascension Day
19 May
Whit Sunday
20 May
Whit Monday
25 December
Christmas Day
26 December
Second day of Christmas

Protect your employees and your business

As an employer in the Netherlands, you need to understand your employees’ rights and entitlements. But keeping up with them can be a lot of work. 

When you hire workers with CXC, we’ll ensure your engagements are in line with all local, national and international employment regulations. That way, your workers will get their benefits they’re entitled to, and your business will be protected from risk.

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