Help! I have just been fired.. Budget flight home, or fight on..?

Losing your job can be tough at the best of times, but losing your job as an expat in the Netherlands, who may not understand the way Dutch employment law works, can make that budget flight home a true reality!

First things first

When expats lose their jobs the first thing they need to find out is what this means for their work and residence permit status. In short, all European Union passport holders have the right to live and work in the Netherlands without a work permit, so they are free to find a new job in the same way a Dutch national would.

Non-EU nationals, as a rule, need to be sponsored by a partner or a company to obtain a residence and work permit, and therefore can find themselves in the tricky situation of losing their job as well as their right to stay and work in the Netherlands completely. So, it is essential that the redundant non-EU expats seek work and residence permit advice as soon as they know that their position will be coming to an end.

Employment laws

Expats can find themselves in a variety of employment agreements, the most common being company secondment agreements, project contracts or standard Dutch contracts.

It is important as an expat to work out which country’s employment law your employment contract is governed by. A secondment contract from a head office of a company registered abroad may not be governed by Dutch law, however those who have been hired to come and work under a Dutch employment agreement, or those expats working here as "local hires" will probably find that their situation falls under Dutch employment law.

Once expats have established that their agreement falls under Dutch law, they then need to work out if their agreement has simply come to a lawful end because it was a defined or definite agreement, an employment agency contract, or whether there is a need to officially dissolve the contract via the Dutch legal system.

Indefinite employment agreements, or defined contracts which have not reached their end date, need to be terminated via the court or the UWV (employment benefits office). In either instance the redundant expat in most cases would be entitled to a "golden handshake" or severance package. This amount normally depends on how long the terms of employment were as well as the reasons behind the redundancy.

Following the Spring Agreements by the Dutch government, there will be changes on redundancy in 2013. The process will be simplified and at the end, there will be procedures that protect employees against unfair dismissal. The current system of terminating indefinite contracts via the court or benefits office (UWV) will be transformed into a simpler civil law procedure. One of the big changes will be that employers terminating indefinite contracts will - in most cases - have to pay the unemployment benefit for the first 6 months.

Unemployment benefits

Before throwing in the towel and booking a flight home, expats here can apply for an unemployment benefit via the UWV (0900 9294). It is essential to remember that you should apply for unemployment benefits no earlier than one month before you will be unemployed and no later than 2 days after you are unemployed.

Gone are the days where you have to queue at a counter to collect your unemployment benefit. If you are entitled and all is in order, it will be deposited directly into your bank account. However, before signing any termination agreement, it is critical to seek advice from a legal professional to make sure your termination agreement is not compromising your possible unemployment benefits.

As an expat myself, who was once made redundant due to the economic crisis back in 2003, I found the offer of paid career counselling a very useful bonus in my redundancy package.

The Spring Agreement in the Netherlands also dictates that from 2014 the normal redundancy package formulas will be capped to a maximum of 6 months, a monthly salary, and personal schooling budgets, and work to work projects will be introduced. These initiatives, although still in the pipelines, could be very interesting for expats seeking reemployment in the Netherlands once they are activated.

In all cases of employment termination, before booking that flight home we always advise expats to seek legal advice!

Expat 2 Holland provide legal advice on a number of issues including Dutch employment law and terminations, among other services such as Relocation, Immigration, House Hunt, Financial & HR. Their expat lawyer is fully qualified and offers expats advice in English and if needed, representation in court. For inquiries and more info please comment below or contact them directly.

Charlotte Buskens


Charlotte Buskens

Owner of expatriate service bureau expat2holland, "Home is where the expat is" Charlotte has 13 years International Human Resources experience and is a relocation and immigration specialist in the Netherlands. expat2holland is...

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