Labour rights in the Netherlands
Labour rights in the Netherlands (for migrant workers)
As workers, we are vulnerable when we are unfamiliar with our rights. Especially foreign workers in the Netherlands all too often get taken advantage of. This may be due to a lack of available information on basic workers’ rights in the Netherlands in languages other than Dutch. With this pamphlet we hope to change that and to encourage solidarity between workers, so we can defend ourselves against employers looking to exploit us. Please share its content with your fellow workers. Of course the rights listed below are only our basic rights. We’ll have to fight for it if we want more!
On our site you can find this pamphlet in many translations, if you have a translation to add, please send it to us.
Published in 2014. Last modification April 2020
- + Contracts
- + + Basic information
- + + Zero hours contracts
- + + Contract termination
- + + + Compensation
- + + + Notification period
- + + + Unemployment protection
- + Schedule
- + + Working times
- + + Breaks
- + + Extra hours
- + Health & safety
- + + Basic information
- + + Health insurance
- + + Mobbing & Abuse
- + + Background checks
- + Leaves
- + + Unpaid leaves
- + + Childbirth leaves
- + + Vakantiegeld (holiday leave)
- + + Sick leave
- + Economics
- + + Payments
- + + Taxes
- + + Minimum salary
- + Organize & fight back
- + + How to get help
- + + Tips for the working dynamics
- + Reporting
In principle a verbal labour agreement has the same validity as a written contract. However it is hard to prove the details of the agreement when there is no physical evidence. Always get a copy of the agreement on paper, by e-mail or text message!
People without residence permit (verblijfsvergunning) are lawfully entitled to their wages after having worked and to regular health and safety protection while at work. (A boss however, is not allowed to hire people without a residence permit.) In other words, everybody who is working in the Netherlands falls under dutch labor law, even if your employer/contract says differently.
If you are hired while undocumented, it’s the employer the one that’s violating the law and the only one that can be fined If your labor rights have been violated as an undocumented person, you have the possiblity to start a legal procedure to claim for unpaid salary. In practice, this can be proven difficult, as employers can threaten with dismissal and there could be a risk of deportation. It’s therefore advisable to seek assistance of a (pro deo) lawyer (advocaat). If there are indications of exploitation it is also advisable to discuss this with a lawyer or organisations specialised in providing assistance to victims of human trafficking and labour exploitation.
Never sign any documents without fully understanding their meaning. Ask a copy in a language you understand and decide whether you want (legal) advice on it.
In case of lacking a copy of your contract, ask for it via email. If you don’t get a contract, write your own contract, including everything you have agreed with your employer, then send this contract to your employer and ask them to give you a signed copy. It doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. If they still refuse to give you a signed contract, the contract you wrote is legally valid. Tell this to your employer. If your employer then doesn’t stick to this contract, go to a lawyer and sue your employer.
In case of facing a court case, bare in mind that what counts as binding is not solely the drafted contract, but also the written correspondence with your employer about this topic.
Zero hours contracts
In the Netherlands contracts can be made for zero hours. Unfortunately with most zero-hour contracts your are obliged to come to work when the boss calls you to do so. When you want to quit you have to give a month’s notice. This doesn’t mean you can not try to leave immediately. Just check whether or not you are doing this legally, so you know what risk you are taking.
There is also another, very important regulation: When an employee works more than his/her contracted hours for three consecutive months, the contract changes to that new average of hours!
Ending an employment contract, by either the employer or employee, can be done orally, per letter, per fax or by e-mail. Of course the problem with ending an contract orally is that it will be difficult to prove. It is therefore recommended to do this in writing if you are the employee and to request this when your employer fires you to have the reasoning for dismissal in writing.
Normally, the employer needs a a ‘dismissal permit’ (ontslagvergunning) from the UWV to fire you (for example for economic reasons or a longterm inability to work (langdurige arbeidsongeschiktheid). Your employer however is never allowed to fire you for the reason that you are (temprorarily) sick or unable to work or when you are pregnant, regardless of the fact whether the employer obtained a ‘dismissal permit’ (ontslagvergunning) from the UWV.
Another way to end the contract, is by getting it dissolved by the judge (kantonrechter).
Your employer can also fire you immediately (op staande voet) for the following urgent reasons: theft, grave insult, fraud, assault or refusal to work.
General rule is that the employer needs to state the reason for immediate dismisal immediately when the urgent reason comes to light. As the employee you can fight this immediate dismissal for urgent reasons before the civil court (kantongerecht).
It is also possible that you agreed with your employer to prematurely end your labour contract and for some reason you regret your decision. This normally is done through a written settlement agreement (vaststellingsovereenkomst). You always have two weeks from the moment that you and your employer have signed the settlement agreement to come back on your decision. If your employer did not notify you of these two weeks, you even have thee weeks. There is no need to state any reasons why you got back on your decision, but you do have to notify your employer of this in writing (revoking it or disolving the agreement). Your labour contract will then continue as it was.
With labour agreements for a determined period of time (bepaalde tijd) for 6 months or longer, the employer needs to notify you whether he wishes to extend your contract, and if so for how long, one month before the ending of the contract at the latest . If he does not do this, he needs to pay you a fine, which is the equivalent of one month salary. If he does not do it on time, the fine will be pro rata.
When quitting a there’s no compensation. However you should always get your holiday allowance (around 8% of your gross salary) paid. Quitting your job of getting fired does not make a difference when it comes to getting this amount of money paid. Double check your contract and/or collective labour agreement, there might be extra provisions.
Your contract should have a clause for notification period. When there is no clause to that regard, by law there is a minimum of a natural month’s notification period. This implies that you can quit on spot but the consequences are that you won’t be allowed social benefits or transition fee and in case of having it, you’ll loose your 30% ruling.
You should take into account, that when the notification period is one month or more, it’s most probably a full calendar month. This means that no matter which day of the month you inform the company that you are quitting, you would have to still work at least the whole next month. In either case, your contract should be explicit about this being one calendar month or 30 days. If your contract is temporary, but you keep doing your regular job after the expiration date, the contract is renewed for the same amount of time it was for. After three years your temporary contract is by law changed into a permanent contract.
Although by law you are always covered for an unemployment situation, there are several scenarios to consider in order to benefit from it:
In case you quit, it’s most likely you are not entitled to get social benefits, there are exceptions around extreme cases as sickness, mobbing and so on.
When getting fired due to your own fault, you are not entitled for unemployment protection. In case you got fired with a made up excuse (illegal), consider fighting back.
When a company argues that they are firing you not due to your own fault (third party reasons as economic situation for instance) or the contract ends, then you are entitled to unemployment protection if you fit certain conditions. Those conditions are: you need to be able to work and in the last 36 weeks, you worked at least 26 weeks.
You can get up to 3 months in case of working a minimum of 26 weeks out of the last 36 weeks. In case of working at least 4 years out of the last 5 ones, you get at least a year of social coverage.
A shift may not exceed 12 hours. A working week may last no more than 60 hours. When you make a week of 60 hours it should be compensated because you are not allowed to work more than 55 hours a week on average over in 4 weeks. After 16 weeks this number becomes an average of 48 hours.
You are entitled to a mandatory 30 minute break for every 5 and a half hours you work. (You have to take this break!) If you work for more than 10 hours this becomes 45 minutes. This can be made up of three breaks of 15 minutes spread throughout the 10 hours. This break is not paid.
When it comes to extra hours (overtime work) you might find rules in your CAO, your contract or company rules. Apart from that, you cannot be forced to work overtime. You should only work when and for how much money and/or off days you want. There are rules about the maximum amount of work per day (including overtime): 12 hours per shift and 60 hours per week, 11 hours of rest after a shift and a 36 hour weekend. Special rules for minors and pregnancy. Bear in mind that there are many jobs with exceptions.
Health & safety
A boss is responsible for the health and safety of his/her workers. This means providing a safe working environment, safe tools and vehicles, proper instructions regarding safe operation of those tools and vehicles, and proper precautions for working with (potentially) hazardous substances.
Everyone how lives in NL should have private health insurance. It’s your duty to choose and sign contract with insurance company of your choice.
Most workers are entitled to zorgtoeslag from the government. This monthly allowance could save you up to half of your health insurance fee. You can apply for this through: http://www.toeslagen.nl.
Mobbing & Abuse
Never hand over any documentation, especially passport and work permit, to anyone. These are important personal possessions and in the hands of others they can be used to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do.
In case you are facing mobbing, there are multiple factors to consider.
First of all find allies among your colleagues who feel the same. Together, make a list of demands and a plan of action. Think about how could things be improved for you in a practical way.
Then, you can choose to talk with your manager directly, to give them the chance to improve. If that doesnt work, or you dont feel safe doing this, you can go to the ‘Vertrouwenspersoon’ (‘trusted person’) or Ondernemingsraad (company council). These are official positions and it should be mentioned somewhere who this is. Lastly, go to Human Resources (personeelszaken) or a higher manager.
In all cases, be prepared to not get a satisfactory solution. Vetrouwenspersonen are only there to listen, they dont have power. Neither does the Ondernemingsraad, which are responsible for keeping company’s activities in line with pre-existing protocols and internal rules. Human resources and other managers are usually not really interested in helping people, its not in their own interest and not what they get paid for. So dont expect too much from this and do not spend a lot of energy on the official process, because it will burn you out. Think about it beforehand: if I dont get what I want, what am I able and willing to do? When people team up, results have been made by direct actions like walk-outs and strikes. If this is what you want, contact us via e-mail.
If you dont get results, and you cant team up with colleagues, a good option is to call in sick due to stress related complaints, which you probably have. You can then hopefully relax a bit. If you have a normal (not agency) contract this also means you cannot be fired. READ YOUR CONTRACT FIRST! After two weeks you will be asked to go to an HR doctor where you can say what is causing you stress. You will make a plan of action to improve this and go back to work. You can of course stretch things for as long as possible while looking for a different job and enjoying the 70% sick pay.)
A company most commonly demands a so called ‘VOG’ (‘Declaration of Conduct’). For some professions, it is mandatory. A government service called Justis looks if you have a criminal record with crimes that have been declared relevant for the job you want. The Declaration is then sent to your house address, not to the employer. You then give the result to the employer. If you dont get a positive Declaration of Conduct, it does NOT necessarily mean the employer can fire you. Do not accept this just like that, because they have to motivate this separately. For the VOG the government does only look at your personal criminal record, not that of your family.
There can also be a bigger investigation called an ‘Antecedentenonderzoek’ (background investigation). This is much broader and can include family. It is done by private investigators.
Dutch law does not cover unpaid leaves, however some CAOs have clauses for this cases. If you are under a CAO, better check it. In any case, although not frequent, in some companies it’s possible to arrange a private deal with management for getting an unpaid leave. There are two cases covered by the dutch law: parental leave and taking care of a sick person, these cases are quite complex and in such cases better ask for professional legal advice.
Pregnant employees are entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave for at least 16 weeks. You can take pregnancy leave from six weeks before the date the baby is due but it should start no later than four weeks before the baby is due. After giving birth you are always entitled to at least ten weeks of maternity leave, even if the baby is born later than it was due. During your leave, you will receive an allowance which matches your salary up to a maximum amount. After your partner has given birth, you are entitled to five days of paternity leave and and from july 2020 five weeks. This leave is paid.
Parental leave: You are entitled to parental leave when you have been working for the same employer for at least 1 year and are caring for a child who is younger than 8. Both parents are entitled to parental leave. If you have more children, you may take parental leave for each child separately. You are also entitled to parental leave for your adopted children, foster children or stepchildren, provided the child is living with you. You are entitled to parental leave up to 26 times your weekly working hours. The normal arrangement is that for six months, you work half of your normal hours. For example, if you work 32 hours per week, then for six months you will work 16 hours per week together while taking 16 hours parental leave per week. Parental leave is unpaid.
Vakantiegeld (holiday leave)
Holiday leave is calculated based on the 8% of your gross annual salary. Given that amount of money, you’ll need to pay taxes for it. The % paid for the holiday leave varies (in 2019) between 36,65% and 51,75%.
When you are physically or mentally (including stress or fear) unable to do your work, you are in most cases, entitled to sick pay. Depending on the type of contract you have the amount of sick pay can differ. Take into account that many contracts say you won’t get paid the first two days, these days are called wachtdagen.
Regarding sick leave: When you fall ill the boss is not allowed to ask the worker what is the cause of the illness. You are free to tell them if you wish, but they cannot make you tell them. We recommend not to enter into a discussion and let your boss follow the legal rules.
You have the right to keep your medical conditions it in secret and you are not oblied to report a medical leave to your employer. But a lot of companies have contract with third party companies, so called ‘Bedrijfsartsen’ (corporate doctors) that can ask you to prove that you are sick. Such companies can not share with your company what is you illness, they will just answer whether you are sick or not.
When facing a medical condition or illness, the Dutch law provides that during the first 104 weeks (2 years) of sickness/disability to work, the employee is entitled to a minimum of 70% of the wages. If this 70% turns out to be less than the statutory minimum wage, the employee is entitled to the statutory minimum wage. Always double check your CAO since it might sometimes provide a higher ratio/periods as well.
Only in extremely rare circumstances or after 2 years of sickness you can be fired while on a sick leave. In general under Dutch employment law, there is a prohibition against termination of employment during an employee’s sickness (in Dutch: ‘opzegverbod tijdens ziekte’). This is a very strict rule in the Netherlands and it is nearly impossible to deviate from it.
You can however be fired while being sick if your employer claims other reasons. However this would imply asking a judge to disolve the contract and it will mostly result in a denial from the judge, since it will consider the fact of you being sick.
After your contract has finished, make sure you get all your back payment, including your holiday pay (around 8% of your gross monthly wage) and unused vacation days. Bear in mind that your last salary has to be payed within the normal term (maximum within one month). If there are other costs (‘eindafrekening’), they have to be payed within one month after the end of the contract.
Make sure you get the ‘jaaropgaaf’ from your boss, a statement of what you earned last year, so you can fill in your tax return. Most often this will already be filled in on the online tax form.Tax forms can be found at in the links section.
In case you move to another country and you want to ask for a tax refund contact to the belastingdienst asking for an early application of your taxes or just wait until the beginning of the next year and then you can ask for the refund. Bare in mind that the first year you do your taxes you’ll required to fill the ‘M’ form via paper instead of using the online website.
Understanding a payslip in the Netherlands can be a quest and many concepts that you will see in your payslip may sound klingon. A nice post that explains the main points of a payslip can be found in the links section
If you have a partial disability your taxes get affected, you can deduct some healthcare costs. Best consult the federation of people with your particular disability for advice. Search for ‘patientenvereniging’ or ‘belangenvereniging’ + dutch name of disability. A general one for people with chronic illnesses or disability is https://iederin.nl/
For workers between 23 and 67 years of age the legal minimum wage is €8,63 gross an hour based on a 40 hour work week. This is €69,01 for an 8 hour day, €345,05 per week and €1.495,20 gross per month. If you are not paid an hourly wage but instead receive ‘piece wage’, you should be able to earn at least this minimum wage while doing your work at a ‘normal’ pace.
Organize & fight back
How to get help
If you need to find a legal advisor you can try to get a lawyer from advocaten locket. The first consult for lawyers you find here, is always free and without obligations. The lawyer can help you request legal cost support. To be eligible for support you cannot have a high income or savings. With an income above € 27.300 euro (singles) or € 38.600 (others), or more than € 30.360 savings (2019, subject to change), you get no support at all. Less income/savings = more subsidy.
Tips for the working dynamics
Keep your own administration! Save pay slips, keep a roster of your working hours and save all information you get from your boss on paper or email. Also write down addresses and names of companies you are working for.
Establish contacts with your fellow workers from day one at a new job. Exchange phone numbers. Try to inform each other about issues at work. Build a feeling of solidarity. In case of conflict you’ll be stronger together than on your own.
Your work might be regulated by means of a collective labour agreement (CAO, Collectieve Arbeids Overeenkomst). If you are working through a temporary work agency, the Dutch temp agency CAO applies to you. Recent versions in English, Polish and Dutch you can find here: http://www.abu.nl/publicaties/cao
You can report the employer to the government, but, most likely, it will not bring any results. (but nothing will happen except for maybe the most extreme situations). Another option you can combine is reporting to a union. (You should) Find out which union is active in your business. There is a big union called FNV
If problems at your company have major social or ethical impact, reporting those issues may require specific knowledge and actions. (you might be a whistleblower). You can contact https://www.huisvoorklokkenluiders.nl/ for advise and help. (however be very careful)
Since the moment you make a report, governmental institutions or unions will not be allowed to disclose you name to the employer. But there is always a chance that something can go wrong. (While normally they will take care to avoid this, the union or government could leak your name by accident.) If you are a whistleblower you should take more precautions. It’s important to take into consideration that it is a process involving a lot of patience and emotional strength. (Also you risk putting too much faith in the process of reporting and getting burned out.)
This leaflet was published in September 2014. By the time you read it some information might be outdated. So always double check with more up-to-date information sources.
More information can also be found on the following website:
We are not an NGO, assistance or charity organization, we are anarchists and work under self-management and mutual support basics. If you are facing troubles at your workplace, do not hesitate to reach us, together we can fight back. If you have no problems at work (pax socialis) but you disagree with this capitalist society where you are worth what you own, also come by and meet us, united we are stronger and we can trouble back to those that exploit the human race.
Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam – Vrije Bond
1001 RA Amsterdam
Or pass by our library on Saturdays from 2 to 6 pm: Eerste Schinkelstraat 14-16, Amsterdam
There are many groups and people involved in the Vrije Bond in the Netherlands and in large parts of Belgium. Check the website for contact details: vrijebond.org/groepen/
Or write to the secretariat to get in contact with members in your vicinity:
If any part of this document was in english is because we are missing some texts in the current language. If you want to collaborate finishing this translation, please visit http://220.127.116.11:8088/projects/aga/labour-rights/, there you’ll find a translation platform where you can submit your translations for the missing texts or you can suggest modifications/improvals over already existing text.