Dutch employment law - Part 1

11 March 2013, by
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The Netherlands is experiencing its highest rate of unemployment since 2005. However, compared to most of Europe, it is faring quite well.

Compare 6,3% (July 2012), for instance, to an unemployment rate of 9,6% in France, 15% in Portugal or a shocking almost 25% in Spain, and you realise that - though being unemployed is undeniably and personal and individual disaster that is not softened by percentages - the people of this country could be far worse off.

If you have not moved to the Netherlands on an expat contract governed by your home country laws, it is important to familiarise yourself with the rules of Dutch employment law.

Also if you are an expat and your contract explicitly states that a foreign law applies to your employment relationship, you will find that you are subject to mandatory rules of Dutch employment law and / or Dutch rules of public order by means of binding allocation rules of international private law.

For this reason, we include an overview of the main issues contained in this law:

Probation period
When you are first offered an employment contract, this will include a probation period, the length of which depends on the type of contract: one to two months for short-term contracts or contracts shorter than two years, two months for longer contracts. During this probation period, you can be dismissed or resign with immediate effect.

The probation period must always be confirmed in writing in the employment contract.

Chain contracts
An employment contract for a fixed period of time terminates automatically by operation of law (van rechtswege) on the agreed end date.

If the intervals between contracts do not exceed three months, or the total duration of all contracts exceeds three years, then the last employment contract is deemed to be a contract for an indefinite period of time, even if it is explicitly stated that it is a fixed contract.

This means that, should your employer wish to fire you, he will have to either ask permission from the UWV WERKbedrijf or have the court dissolve the contract (see more about this further on).

If the period between two contracts exceeds three months, the ‘chain’ is broken and the counting starts again.

Minimum / Maximum duration contract
If you work on call and you are not certain about the number of hours that you are working on a weekly or on a monthly basis, then you must always be paid out at least three hours a week even if you only worked, for example, two hours.

Foreign temps
All foreign temps working in the Netherlands have a right to the same basic employment conditions as their Dutch colleagues.

dutch employment law
Photo by Flickr user Victor1558

Consequently, (certain provisions of) the Collective Agreement for Temporary Employees applies to all employment agencies, thus also to (foreign) employment agencies that place employees on the Dutch labour market from abroad.

Furthermore, nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) can move to the Netherlands for work and enjoy the same conditions as Dutch nationals in areas such as access to housing, wages and social security - among others.

Multilingual jobs
When looking for a job in the Netherlands whereby you can work in your native language, you can either register with various specialised employment agencies or you can apply directly with companies where the business language is your native language.

The job market for foreign staff encompasses a wide spectrum of professions including, but not limited to: administration, secretarial, IT, finance, marketing, support staff, sales, logistics, middle and senior management, etc.

Most "multilingual" jobs are to be found in the over 150 international call and shared service centres located in the Netherlands, most of which are located in the Randstad region (the triangle between, and including, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam).

However, you will find more and more pan-European centres in Maastricht, Arnhem and other cities, particularly near the border. Within these organisations, English is usually the business language.


This is the first part of the "Dutch employment law: Which rules apply to you?" article written by Stephanie Dijkstra, editor-in-chief of The XPat Journal. Have a look at the current issue or subscribe here.


Next in the series
Dutch Employment Law - Part 2
(Protection labour market, Salaries, Citizen service number, Terminating a contract)

Dutch Employment Law - Part 3
(Procedure before the UWV Werkbedrijf, Procedure before the Court, Notice Period, Severance payment, Benefits, 30%-Ruling)


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About the Author
Stephanie Dijkstra

Stephanie Dijkstra is a Third Culture Kid in every possible way. Raised in four countries by Dutch/A...

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