Your guide to navigating pregnancy rights in the Dutch workplace
Are you expecting a child in the Netherlands? Congratulations! This exciting time also brings many questions, especially when it comes to your rights in the workplace. Understanding these rights can help ensure a safe, healthy, and stress-free pregnancy experience. As a mother, I wish I had known these rules earlier, so I am writing this inclusive article to support ALL parents in their new journey.
When to tell your employer?
By Dutch law, you must inform your employer about your pregnancy at least three weeks before your maternity leave begins. However, telling them earlier can be beneficial as it allows them to find a suitable replacement during your absence.
Understanding modified work, hours, and leave during pregnancy
You're entitled to modified working hours and conditions during your pregnancy and up to six months postpartum. This includes extra breaks, regular working hours, rest periods, and exemption from overtime and night shifts. You may also request a dedicated space to recharge your batteries.
Your rights as an expecting parent
You are entitled certain rights if you are expecting a child, namely:
- Extra breaks (up to one-eighth of your daily working time)
- Regular working hours and rest periods
- A suitable, lockable room to rest (with a bed or rest chair)
- Exemption from overtime and night shifts (unless the employer can prove the need)
Maximum working hours
An expecting parent in the Netherlands cannot be required to work more than:
- A maximum of 10 hours per shift
- A maximum average of 50 hours per week (in a four week period)
- A maximum average of 45 hours per week (in a 16-week period)
You can ask your employer to adjust your working hours.
Maternity leave in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, you can take maternity leave up to six weeks before your due date and must stop working at least four weeks before the due date. The total leave lasts for 16 weeks, ensuring you have at least 10 weeks off after birth - even if the baby arrives later than expected. If you're employed, your maternity benefits will be equal to your salary.
Medical appointments during working hours
When you tell your employer that you are pregnant, you are entitled to legal protection during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This legal protection consists of modified working hours, modified workload, and maternity leave. You should also be allowed to visit the midwife or gynaecologist, including during working hours.
The maternity statement
This declaration from your midwife allows your employer to apply for maternity benefits on your behalf. It contains details about your pregnancy, due date, personal information, and citizen service number.
Breastfeeding and pumping at work
For the first nine months postpartum, you have the right to breastfeed or pump during working hours.
Your employer is required to provide a pumping room. It must meet the following requirements:
- Quiet space
- Lockable so that the employee cannot be disturbed
- Possibility to sit comfortably, for example, on a chair or couch
- A pleasant climate and air circulation
- Refrigerator available to store pumped milk
Another thing that is not mandatory, but is convenient for expecting parents, is a water connection with hot and cold water.
Right to adapted work during pregnancy
If specific tasks pose a potential hazard during your pregnancy as well as six months after giving birth, your employer must make necessary adjustments to your role. These changes could include reducing physical strain like lifting and bending.
Self-employed or unemployed parent
If you are self-employed or unemployed, different rules apply than if you are employed. If you are self-employed, you must apply to the UWV for benefits. You are entitled to 16 weeks of benefits for pregnancy and childbirth together.
Each week, you receive benefits for five working days. You will not, therefore, receive benefits for Saturdays and Sundays. The benefit lasts for at least 16 weeks and you are always entitled to 10 weeks of benefits after giving birth. The amount of your benefit depends on your income in the calendar year before you became pregnant. The benefit is never higher than the minimum wage.
Birth leave for employed partners is one multiplied by the number of working hours per week. Partners can also take additional birth leave. Birth leave is also called maternity leave, paternity leave, or partner leave.
Unpaid and paid parental leave
In the Netherlands, parents are entitled to unpaid parental leave until their child is eight years old. This leave is a maximum of 26 times the number of hours of their work week. From August 2, 2022, parents can take nine work weeks of this paid parental leave and receive benefits from the UWV for it.
Paid parental leave lasts a minimum of one up to a maximum of nine work weeks. In these weeks, parents can take the leave flexibly as long as it is within one year after the child’s birth or admission into the family if the child is adopted or fostered.
Pregnancy and equal treatment at work
Remember, your employer should treat you no differently from non-pregnant colleagues. If they fail to do so, it constitutes unequal treatment during pregnancy.
Take the time to familiarise yourself with the legal framework, seek guidance from relevant resources, and ensure you have the information to make the best choices for you and your growing family. Remember, being well-informed is empowering and can positively impact your pregnancy experience in the Netherlands.
Issues with employer during pregnancy
If you have questions about your rights during pregnancy or after childbirth, share them with your employer or HR department. If issues persist, contact a health and safety expert or your Arbodienst (working conditions service).