Joining the Dutch labour market: legal factors expats need to remember
De Vreede Advocaten is a young and dynamic law firm specialised in immigration and international employment law for both businesses and individuals.
In this article, specialists Christine Sullivan and Reinier Wolters highlight important legal factors to remember when working in the Netherlands as an expat.
The first thing to consider when entering the Dutch labour market is the precise nature of the legal relationship between you and your local Dutch employer.
A foreign or local employer
Many expats continue to work for their foreign employer when they are sent to the Netherlands on an assignment, which can also be referred to as a secondment.
When this is the case, the employment relation remains with the foreign employer and the work contract may in large part be governed by the laws of that jurisdiction. We also see cases where employers opt to have Dutch law apply to the assignment for the duration of stay in the Netherlands.
Working under Dutch employment law
Other expats join Dutch companies as local employees, and in these cases there is a Dutch employment contract. When entering into a Dutch contract it is important to note the following factors:
› Permit requirements
You may require a work and residence permit. If so, it is likely that your work contract will contain a provision that your employment is dependent upon having those permits issued.
It is critical to manage your expectations toward the work and residence permit procedures and to take into account the time involved, particularly if you will be giving notice to a current employer. You should also clearly understand what type of permit(s) will be issued and the rights and responsibilities that will bring.
› Probationary period
The contract itself will most likely contain a probationary period in which both employer and employee can give notice of termination immediately, with very few restrictions other than some discrimination protections.
A probationary period in a contract for less than 6 months is null and void (as per January 1, 2015). The probationary period in contracts between six months and two years may only be one month. For contracts longer than 2 years or for an indefinite period of time the probationary period is limited to two months.
› Non-competition clauses
The job market can be fierce and you may want as few restrictions as possible on your future job options, should your contract be terminated. Competition restrictions can greatly impact your flexibility; therefore we suggest negotiating this clause as much as possible or even having the restriction removed entirely.
Under new employment laws, non-competition restrictions are null and void in fixed term contracts unless the employer can substantiate very compelling business reasons to have the restriction included in the employment contract.
If you are recruited from abroad, take a close look at both the relocation and repatriation clauses in your agreement. Who pays for your return to your home country at the end of your working period in the Netherlands? What happens if the assignment ends early and you are expected to return sooner than expected?
Quite often repatriation provisions are included in assignment/secondment agreements because a return to work in the home country is anticipated. However, when not on assignment you may want to secure repatriation rights in your Dutch employment contract.
You may have heard that in the Netherlands it is practically impossible for companies to terminate their employees. This is, in fact, not the case, although there are substantial protections for employees who face termination.
The Dutch government has recently taken measures to promote flexibility in the labour market, one aspect of which moderates severance payments made to employees who have been terminated. However, compared to other jurisdictions, the Netherlands remains very employee-friendly.
Understand Dutch employment law
Finally, it is important to remember that even for expats in the Netherlands on an assignment or secondment for a foreign employer, a certain level of Dutch employment law protection can still apply.
When issues with your work arise, whether because of sickness, termination or any other matter, we of course recommend that you get good legal advice!
Christine Sullivan provides support to American entrepreneurs seeking to apply for a residence permit via the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT).
Reinier Wolters heads the employment practice at De Vreede Advocaten. For more information and inquiries visit De Vreede Advocaten.