Sick leave, holiday leave and time off work in the Netherlands

Sick leave, holiday leave and time off work in the Netherlands

What is a normal amount of annual holiday leave? How do I call in sick? How long is pregnancy leave? This page answers questions about time off from work in the Netherlands including:

  • holiday leave (vakantiedagen)
  • sick leave (ziekteverlof)
  • maternity leave (zwangerschapsverlof)
  • paternity leave (vaderschapsverlof, kraamverlof, partnerverlof)
  • parental leave (ouderschapsverlof)
  • care leave (zorgverlof)

Holiday leave in the Netherlands

Full-time employees in the Netherlands are legally entitled to a minimum of 20 days (four weeks) of paid holiday leave per year. This is based on a calculation of four times the number of hours worked per week.

Part-time employees are also entitled to four times the number of hours they work per week. For example, a 25 hour work week will provide you with 100 hours of annual paid holiday leave.

Many companies offer more than the minimum number of days, with 24 and even 32 days of annual leave being fairly common. This amount is stated in your work contract and is usually based on union agreements, incentives to attract employees or compensation schemes where longer working hours are offset by additional leave.

Most employers allow unused holidays to be carried through to the next year, although it is wise to double check this. Some employers also offer the possibility to "buy" extra days off via salary sacrifice.

Holiday leave is also accumulated during maternity leave and (temporary) sick leave.

Important note: holiday leave is separate from Dutch national holidays, which are also paid if they fall on a weekday.

Maximum holiday period

The maximum amount of holiday leave that an employee can take at one time varies from employer to employer and is often influenced by company policy, union agreements and company operations.

The majority of employers allow a maximum consecutive holiday period of two to three weeks. If you want to take holiday leave for more than three weeks it will usually require special permission from your employer.

Some companies offer newlyweds a one-off opportunity to increase their consecutive holiday leave to four weeks so they can enjoy an extended honeymoon.

Accumulated holidays and leaving a job

If you leave your job (e.g. found a new job in the Netherlands) and you have accumulated holiday leave, it is wise to take that time off before the end of your contract - after discussing this arrangement with your employer.

It’s also possible to have your accumulated days paid out when you leave a job. However, employers are only required to pay out leave above the legal minimum 20-day amount, so you may not receive complete compensation for the total number of days owing.

Sick leave in the Netherlands

If you are working in the Netherlands and you fall ill on a working day then you must report it to your employer so you can claim sick leave.

Most companies have a formal process for reporting when you are sick which involves calling, messaging or emailing your manager and someone from the HR (P&O) department.

If you are sick during your holiday, and you directly inform your employer, it is possible to have those days counted as (paid) sick leave instead of holiday leave.

Maternity leave in the Netherlands

If you are employed in the Netherlands and you become pregnant then you are legally entitled to at least 16 weeks paid maternity leave.

Expectant mothers start their maternity leave from 4 to 6 weeks before the due date. This period before the birth, and the 10-12 weeks after, are financially covered by the maternity allowance (zwangerschapsuitkering).

After the end of your maternity leave, you can return to work or choose to take full- or part-time parental leave, in consultation with your employer.

Telling your boss you’re pregnant

If you are pregnant then legally you must inform your employer at least three weeks before you want to take maternity leave.

In reality, most pregnant women in the Netherlands tell their employer around week 12 or 13, when they are entering the second trimester, or after they have carried out the first round of prenatal checks. This allows the employer enough time to organise a replacement while the mother is away.

In most cases, it is not permitted to terminate the contract of a woman who is pregnant (and who has informed her employer) or who is on maternity leave.

An employer is not obliged to renew a temporary contract that is due to expire during pregnancy or maternity leave, however, the pregnancy must not be the reason for the non-renewal.

Paternity / Partner leave in the Netherlands

As of January 1, 2019, partners of mothers who have just given birth are legally entitled to 1 workweek of paid leave (partnerverlof or geboorteverlof). It doesn't matter whether the partner works full-time or part-time. For example, if the partner works 5 days a week, 5 hours a day, they will get 25 hours of geboorteverlof

To have additional time with their new child, fathers and partners also have the option to take (usually unpaid) extra parental leave or (paid) holiday leave after the birth of their child. Since July 1, 2020, partners of mothers can get an extra 5 weeks of aanvullend geboorteverlof. This is unpaid.

Parental leave in the Netherlands

Parents of children up to the age of eight are entitled to parental leave in order to be able to spend more time with their children. Parental leave is generally unpaid, however, some employers may partially cover some of the salary.

Each parent may take off 26 times their weekly working hours. This time can be distributed in many different ways and the employee must decide the arrangement of their hours in agreement with their employer.

Paid parental leave in the Netherlands

As of August 2, 2022, employees in the Netherlands are entitled to nine weeks of (partially) paid parental leave. 

During this leave, parents will receive a benefit from UWV, which is 70% of their daily wage (up to 70% of the maximum daily wage). The condition is that these nine weeks will have to be taken during the child's first year of life.

Only employed parents are entitled to partially paid parental leave. If both parents are in paid employment, both parents are entitled to partially paid parental leave.

Care leave in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, employees are legally entitled to take (short-term) care leave to look after a sick relative such as a child, partner or parent. In 2015, care leave was expanded to also include time off to look after extended family members (such as siblings or grandparents) and acquaintances (such as a housemate, neighbour or friend).

This type of leave is available on the condition that the sick person requires care, and that you are the only person who can provide it. If your loved one is in hospital then care leave is not applicable as the hospital provides the care.

If you wish to take care leave, you must inform your employer as soon as possible. They may request proof such as a letter from a doctor or hospital appointment confirmation.

Within a 12-month period, employees are entitled to take short-term care leave equal to twice their weekly working hours. During this time the employer must pay at least 70 percent of their salary. For cases of life-threatening illness, long-term care leave is also possible; up to six times one’s weekly working hours, however, an employer is not obliged to pay any salary during this period.

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