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Work contracts in the Netherlands

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Once you have got through the stressful phase of job interviews, and your new employer has made you an offer, then you need to check the details of the employment contract before you can get to work. Below is an overview of the main aspects of work contracts in the Netherlands.

Checking and signing your work contract

One of the first things that will happen after you accept a job in the Netherlands is that the company will present you with a labour contract (arbeidsovereenkomst) outlining all the aspects of your employment agreement.

It is not necessary to sign the agreement immediately. Your new employer will usually allow you to take the unsigned contract home to look over it for a day or two to ensure you fully understand it.

If there are any elements you are uncertain about or disagree with then you should discuss them with the company before signing. If you are especially concerned or confused then seek the advice of a lawyer or employment law specialist.

Once you have signed the contract you are officially in paid employment (loondienst).

Dutch labour contract checklist

It is important to carefully check all the conditions of your labour contract before signing. Here is a list of the most common contract elements:

Types of employment contracts in the Netherlands

There is a variety of employment agreements for employees in the Netherlands, with temporary and permanent contracts being the most common.

Temporary labour contract (tijdelijk contract)

A temporary contract is for a specific period of time, such as six months or one year, with a pre-determined end date. A dismissal procedure is not required to terminate a temporary contract at the end of its duration.

It is quite common for Dutch employers to offer a second temporary contract when the first expires, but it's not guaranteed.

As of July 1, 2015, employees who have worked with an employer on temporary contracts for at least two years are entitled to a permanent contract if the work agreement continues. This is known at the ketenregeling (chain rule). The previous time frame was three years.

Also, an employee cannot have more than three temporary contracts with the same employer in a row. If a fourth contract is offered then it must be a permanent one.

Permanent labour contract (vast contract)

A permanent contract is for an indeterminate period of time with no end date. This type of contract can only be terminated if the employee resigns (e.g. found another job in the Netherlands or abroad) or if the employer finds reason to end the contract (which must comply with strict legal guidelines).

Contract with a recruitment agency (uitzendcontract)

A contract with a recruitment agency (uitzendbureau) is a less common form of labour contract. You enter an agreement with a recruitment agency whereby they are your legal employer and salary provider even though you will be working for a third party. It is important to note that in such contracts there is limited protection against dismissal.

Zero-hour contract (nul uren contract)

A zero-hour contract can exist as either a temporary or permanent work agreement. In a zero-hour contract, an employee has no fixed working hours. This allows for a flexible working arrangement where the employee can be spontaneously rostered on.

Employees on zero-hour contracts have similar rights as employees with regular contracts, including sick leave and holiday pay. However, such contracts can leave employees vulnerable as a steady income is not guaranteed. Employees may also be obliged to accept the hours requested by the employer.

As of January 1, 2015, it is no longer allowed to extend zero-hour contracts indefinitely. Also since this date, zero-hour contracts have been banned in the Dutch healthcare sector.

Freelancer contract (DBA modelovereenkomst)

Freelancers are not officially in service (loondienst) with an employer, however they are required to draw up and sign a specific type of contract with a client that defines their working relationship. This is to clarify who would be responsible for contributing to the freelancer's welfare or unemployment benefits. This new freelancer contract arrangement, introduced in 2016, is called the DBA model contract system. Freelancers and their clients must use or adapt a template contract provided by the Dutch tax office.

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