Flexible workers gaining more protection
Thanks to several recent rulings, flexible workers, which includes employees with zero-hour contracts and freelancers employed through payroll companies and carers have gained more rights. In four cases there is now significant case law in favour of flex-workers.
A survey conducted by the Volkskrant found that judges who were ruling on legal conflicts over flexible labour contracts often choose the side of the employee. This trend was confirmed by the Kring van Kantonrechter (circuit district judges).
"Labour judges look at reality. That is more important than the legal construction," said Kees Wallis on behalf of the district courts.
More attention on flexible work
When passing judgement on these cases, judges are taking social trends into account. Evert Verhulp, professor of Labour Law at the University of Amsterdam, said that employers are increasingly seeking the limits of what they can do. "And judges are noting that society is protesting against excessive flexibility."
The Dutch government is also looking more closely at the rights of flexible workers. "In the social contract, Minister Asscher of Social Affairs and Employment has agreed that he will limit the possibilities of flexible work. That is yet to be worked out, but judges know this is coming," said Wallis.
Employees vs. employers
According to Hans van der Steen of employers’ association AWVN, a large searchlight is being used for a small problem.
"The market for flexible work has not grown only because employers need it, but also because employees want it. These [cases] reflect the jagged edges of an otherwise well-functioning flexible work market."
He added that the problems are mainly concentrated in low-paid, unskilled jobs and that it is good that action is being taken there.
The trade union movement disagrees. "It's not about employers needing more flexibility anymore," said Mariette Patijn of trade union FNV. "There are tricks performed to make labour increasingly cheaper."
More flexible workers
These issues may come even further to the forefront, as flexible work is increasing. Nearly 30 per cent of the Dutch workforce is now on a temporary contract or working as a freelancer, up from one fifth in 2012.
Breaking that down, there are more than half a million people of a zero-hour contract, over 150.000 working through a payroll company and around 60.000 carers. On average, these workers earn 15-30 per cent less than permanent employees and are more often out of work.
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