Living and working in the Netherlands

18 October 2017

  •   Population: 17 million (2017)
  •   Real GDP growth: 2.2% (2016)
  •   Unemployment rate: 6.0% (2016)

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for Netherlands

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Netherlands: 96% of people consider themselves good at their work

The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to the Netherlands:



Read the highlights for 2017 for working life in the Netherlands

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Netherlands

Correspondents in Netherlands

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the countries working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Panteia B.V.

Eurofound governing board members from Netherlands

Eurofound's Governing Board represents the social partners and national governments of all Member States, as well as the European Commission. Read more

Roel Gans Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment

Mario Van Mierlo Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW)

Jan Kouwenberg Federation Dutch Labour Movement (FNV)

Related content

More resources on Netherlands

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Living in the Netherlands

Quality of life

Quality of life

According to Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), both life satisfaction and happiness have remained fairly stable in the Netherlands in recent years, being also higher than their respective EU28 averages. Respondents in the Netherlands were also relatively more optimistic than on average in the EU in 2016: 74% of respondents were optimistic about their own future in 2016 compared with the EU average of 64%, and 63% were optimistic about their children’s or grandchildren’s future compared with the EU average of 57%. 

In 2016, respondents in the Netherlands were also relatively more resilient in comparison to many other EU countries. Only 13% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normal’, which was the lowest share among the EU28 countries. 

Self-perceived health has increased in the Netherlands, from 18% of the respondents reporting very good health in 2011 to 25% in 2016. The frequency of doing sports has also increased, from 62% of the respondents doing sports weekly in 2011 to 70% in 2016. This is also significantly higher than the EU28 average of 42%.

  2003200720112016
Life satisfactionMean (1-10)7.57.97.77.7
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)7.78.07.77.8
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---74%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---63%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--62%70%
In general, how is your health?Very good-25%18%25%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-676565
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty27%23%31%24%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--35%30%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---17%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---13%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

The frequency of work–life balance problems is low in the Netherlands in comparison to other EU countries. For instance, 45% of respondents in the Netherlands reported being too tired from work to do household jobs at least several times a month in 2016, which was the lowest of all the Member States. Similarly, 26% of respondents had difficulties to fulfil family responsibilities because of work at least several times a month in 2016, which was significantly lower than the EU28 average of 38%. Furthermore, only 8% of respondents experienced difficulties to concentrate at work because of family responsibilities, again the lowest share among the Member States.
 

  2003200720112016
(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal33%37%36%45%
Men28%37%32%35%
Women39%38%42%57%
      
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal18%29%18%26%
Men17%32%15%19%
Women20%26%22%34%
      
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal7%6%6%7%
Men6%5%3%6%
Women9%7%10%10%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Involvement in unpaid voluntary work at least once a month increased among EQLS respondents in the Netherlands in recent years, rising from 19% in 2011 to 25% in 2016. Therefore, among all the EU countries, the frequency of volunteering is highest in the Netherlands. 

Perceived tensions between poor and rich people have decreased in the Netherlands, from 20% of respondents reporting a lot of this type of tension in 2011 to 15% in 2016. This is also lower than the EU average of 29% in 2016. However, perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups have consistently remained high during the observation period. In 2016, 52% of respondents in the Netherlands reported a lot of tension between different racial and ethnic groups, which was significantly higher than the EU28 average of 41%.

  2003200720112016
Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-1.92.01.9
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)6.16.56.36.2
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% 'at least once a month'--19%25%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'24%12%20%15%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'61%58%48%52%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---48%

Quality of public services 

Quality of public services 

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

All the quality ratings for public services are higher in the Netherlands than on average in the EU. In addition, some of the ratings have improved in recent years. For instance, the perceived quality of the education system increased from 6.9 in 2011 to 7.3 in 2016, being also significantly higher than the corresponding EU28 average of 6.7 (on a scale of 1–10). Similar positive developments can be seen in the perceived quality of public transport and childcare services. Social housing received the lowest quality rating in the Netherlands, at 6.3 in 2016. However, this is still significantly higher than the corresponding EU28 average of 5.6 in 2016.

  2003200720112016
Health servicesMean (1-10)6.77.27.27.3
Education systemMean (1-10)6.76.96.97.3
Public transportMean (1-10)5.86.56.67.2
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-6.86.97.3
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--6.66.4
Social housingMean (1-10)--6.56.3
State pension systemMean (1-10)6.76.76.66.5

Working life in the Netherlands

About

  • Author: Robbert van het Kaar
  • Institution: Consortium AIAS University of Amsterdam (UvA)/TNO
  • Published on: Friday, August 3, 2018

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in the Netherlands. It aims to complement other EurWORK research, by providing the relevant background information on structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

 

Highlights – Working life in 2017

Highlights – Working life in 2017

Author: Wim Zwinkels, Epsilon Research
Working paper: Netherlands: Developments in working life 2017

With the general elections in March and the subsequent forming of a new government, 2017 can be characterised as a year short on policy developments. The atmosphere between employers’ organisations and trade unions has further deteriorated. Negotiations on important topics such as a social agreement, regulation of dismissal, reform of the pension system, and payment of sick and disabled persons have come to an impasse.

With discussions on rearranging social security with respect to employers' payments in the second year of sickness/disability having come to a halt in 2016, not much seems to be left of the once famous ‘polder model’ (consensus-oriented consultation between the social partners).

The flexibility of the labour market may also have led to a decline in the position of trade unions. Flexible workers (often young) do not always fully identify with the interests and attitudes of traditional employee organisations, which are generally organised around permanent employment contracts.

Usually, outcomes of negotiations and social agreements between employers’ organisation and trade unions are translated into new policy without too many changes, which is particularly relevant in an election year. This time the new government did not have to take any agreements into account, which – to a certain – degree gives them an element of freedom; although it could also create opposition from the social partners in the event of implementation of new regulations.

The case of primary education, for example, shows that employee initiatives can be a major factor in social dialogue. This could be seen as a threat to traditional trade unions because of their flexibility and use of social media. Hence a new type of trade union has emerged which, in their words, is ‘not one with a large budget to finance strikes, a glossy magazine or a head office, but one with direct communication to and participation of school teachers.’

One of the main challenges is to find a balance between flexibility and security. Several economic and technological changes require a flexible workforce on the demand side of labour. Employers do not want high dismissal costs, risks of paying wages for a period of two years in case of illness or disability, or higher contributions for disability schemes. This need for flexibility has led to a rise in fixed-term contracts and the hiring of self-employed staff.

With this, greater protection for workers is needed: reduced chances for dismissal; higher payments in case of dismissal to support workers during transition to other employers; reduction in the number of extensions of fixed-term contracts with one employer; and minimum pay and pensions for the self-employed. These developments lead to serious policy challenges: how to prevent dichotomy in the labour force with the working poor at the lower-paid end; how to combat competing on working conditions, and abuse of agency and self-employed workers; how to maintain a strong labour force when employers invest less in the skills and training of agency and self-employed workers than permanent employees.

In the Netherlands, the opportunities to move from a temporary to permanent contract with the same employer are slim. With the increase in economic growth comes the need for additional employment; mostly flexible workers and workers with a temporary or fixed-term contract. The downside is that these people might become unemployed very quickly in the event of an economic downturn, suffering the consequences of the business cycle and fluctuation of the labour market without being able to improve their employment status to a permanent contract.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Netherlands

 

2012

2017

% (point) change
2012–2017

Netherlands

EU28

Netherlands

EU28

Netherlands

EU28

GDP per capita

37900

25700

40500

27600

6.9%

7.4%

Unemployment rate – total

5.8

10.5

4.9

7.6

-0.9

-2.9

Unemployment rate – women

6.2

10.6

5.3

7.9

-0.9

-2.7

Unemployment rate – men

5.5

10.4

4.5

7.4

-1.0

-3.0

Unemployment rate – youth

11.7

23.3

8.9

16.8

-2.8

-6.5

Employment rate – total

79.0

71.7

79.7

73.4

0.7

1.7

Employment rate – women

74.0

65.5

75.2

67.9

1.2

2.4

Employment rate – men

83.9

77.8

84.2

78.9

0.3

1.1

Employment rate – youth

69.2

42.4

68.3

41.7

-0.9

-0.7

Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012-2017 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

Between 2012 and 2017, GDP grew 6.9%, when the EU average growth for the same period was 7.4%. Unemployment figures for all categories in 2017 remained below the EU averages and stood at 4.9%, below the EU average for that year – 7.6%. Employment rates increased slightly for all workers, especially for women (+1.2% in 2017), with total employment rates in 2017 (+79.7%) well above the EU average for that year (73.4%).

More information on:

Legal context

Employment and industrial relations are regulated mainly by law, with the exception of industrial action (for which case law is the only form of regulation). Major legislative acts are:

  •  Volume 7 of the Civil Code (regulation of individual employment contracts);
  • the Act on Collective Agreements (in force since 1927);
  • the Act on the extension of collective agreements (since 1937);
  • the Act on working time (amended in 2007);
  • the Act on works councils (in force since 1950, but in its present form essentially since 1979).

EU directives are implemented by way of acts (for instance, on equal treatment, collective redundancies, transfer of undertakings).

As a consequence of a social pact between the government and the social partners in spring 2013, dismissal legislation has undergone major changes from 1 July 2015. A major aim of the act was to change the balance between permanent and flexible labour in favour of flexible workers. Opinions are sharply divided whether this goal will be achieved by the new legislation. Given the large and growing proportion of flexible workers in the Netherlands, this topic figures high on the agenda of all parties concerned.

With regard to individual and collective employment issues, the legal environment has been fairly stable, with one exception, the 1996 Law on flexibility and security.

There is no (direct) legislation on representation or representativeness of unions and employers’ organisations. The legal basis for representation in the tripartite Social and Economic Council, a consultative body consisting of employer organisations, trade unions and independent members, can be found in the Act on the Social and Economic Council.

Industrial relations context

Since WW II, the national level has become very important in Dutch industrial relations, with the establishment of the tripartite Social and Economic Council (Sociaal Economische Raad, SER) and the bipartite Foundation of Labour (Stichting van de Arbeid, STAR).

Since 1982 (the Wassenaar agreement between government and social partners, where the employers agreed to working time reductions in exchange for wage moderation by the unions) industrial relations in the Netherlands have generally been fairly stable. However, in 2017 negotiations between social partners on further adaptation of dismissal rights, reform of the pension system and the finance system of long-term sickness and disability of employees have merely come to a standstill. Exchange of arguments have been made and neither employer organisations nor trade unions are willing to compromise.

Unions and employers have a strong presence at national level. The dominant level of collective bargaining is the sector. Union presence at company level is (with some exceptions) rather weak.

As in most EU countries, union density has decreased, in the Netherlands to around 18% when based on active employees.

Collective bargaining coverage remains high (around 80%) and has become somewhat more decentralised, especially with regard to working time issues. Strike levels remain low by international standards.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in the Netherlands.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

In the period up to 1980, the government played a major role in the Dutch industrial relations system, especially with regard to wage setting. This picture has changed since, but the social partners carefully watch for possible intrusions by the government.

The Netherlands has a relatively well developed system of consultation of the social partners by the government. Permanent consultation takes place in the Social and Economic Council. Successive cabinets have frequently conducted social pacts, usually through the bipartite Labour Foundation.

In the 1990s the public authorities to a large extent pushed the social partners out of the social security system.

The main actors are the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the Inspection SZW (the former Labour Inspectorate which is also responsible for monitoring health and safety), the abovementioned Social and Economic Council, and the social security agency that is responsible for benefits and reintegration of unemployed and disabled workers (UWV).

The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the bulk of labour-related legislation, monitoring of collective agreements, social dialogue and labour-related inspection activities, including working conditions.

Actual inspection is carried out by the Inspection SZW (ISZW, the former Labour Inspectorate), which not only covers working conditions, but also social fraud, minimum wages and illegal labour.

There is no specific labour court and conflicts are decided by regular courts. There is no specific mediation board for labour-related issues, with one exception: the bedrijfscommissies can mediate in conflicts between employers and works councils, on a voluntary basis.

Representativeness

Since 1945, the representation of social partners at the national level has been very stable, with three union and three employer federations being members of the tripartite SER and the bipartite STAR. The legal basis of their representation (of more general representativeness) is limited to a 1980 Decree on membership of the SER. This Decree only establishes very broad rules on representativeness. In a legal sense, there are few conflicts on the issue of representativeness. However, falling union density has resulted in debates on the role of the unions in the collective bargaining system (including the issue of extension), and on the representativeness and status of the SER (and to a lesser extent the STAR).

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

In the Netherlands there are no restrictions on union membership in legislation. The level of union density is gradually declining, and (is now just below 20%), down from around 40% 30 years ago. The decrease in the past 10 years has been steady but slow.

The landscape has been more or less stable over the past decades, apart from the establishment in 2017 of a new trade union in the primary education sector, POinactie. This trade union started as a Facebook group and within a short space of time had 45,000 teachers as supporters. Union presence at the national level has been strong since WWII, and relatively weak at the company level (with some exceptions). Unions are, mainly through their membership of tripartite and bipartite bodies (including the tripartite Social and Economic Council) involved in all major social and economic issues.

An important characteristic of the Dutch system is that collective bargaining is much higher (around 80%) than trade union density (under 20%). The main reason is not so much due to the extension of collective agreements (this adds only seven percentage points to collective bargaining coverage), but through the duty of employers that are party to a collective agreement to treat organised and non-organised employees equally. This creates the well- known ‘free rider’ problem for unions: unorganised employees reap the same benefits of union activities as organised employees.

One problem for the unions is the increase in the average age of their members. The average age is gradually increasing, and in the long run this should lead to lower density when they retire. Furthermore, the rise of the flexible labour force – usually a group with a low trade union membership rate – does pose a threat.

New initiatives such as POinactie show that trade union membership can be boosted by a more direct communication with members, including the use of social media.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)

17.6

16.9

16.2

15.7

15.3

14.9

14.6

Statistics Netherlands. Active Employees (including self-employed) 25–65 years.

Trade union membership in 1000

1,533

1,493

1,440

1,395

1,360

1,330

1,319

Statistics Netherlands. 25–65 years.

Main trade union confederations and federations

The main development over the past years has been the internal restructuring process of the largest federation FNV. The present structure is one federation, divided into 28 branches. At the same time the traditional unions (industry and services, construction, civil servants, teachers etc.) still exist. This final transformation took place at the end of 2014. It remains to be seen what the main effects of the transformation will be. Furthermore, some trade unions (ANBO, Unie and UOV) have joined the VCP.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members (2016)

Involved in collective bargaining?

Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging

FNV

1,060,200

Yes (through member organisations)

Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond

CNV

262,400

Yes (through member organisations)

Vakcentrale voor professionals

VCP

151,200

Yes (through member organisations)

Other

 

228,800

Yes

Employers’ organisations About employers’ representation

Every employer, or branch organisation, can become a member of one of the employer organisations. There are no specific rights or obligations deriving from legislation. Of course, there may be some rights and obligations deriving from the articles of association of the employer’s association, setting rights and obligations for members and member organisations.

There have been no important developments on the employers’ side in recent years.

Unlike the unions, Statistics Netherlands does not publish figures on employers’ organisation density, but it is estimated to be in the 80–90% range, not having changed significantly in the past 10 years.

Employers’ organisations - membership and density

 

2012

2013

2014

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

n.a.

71%

n.a.

Visser (2014)

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

European Company Survey 2013

*Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The main employer organisations are VNO-NCW, MKB Nederland (SMEs) and LTO Nederland (agricultural sector). These three federations are also the ones represented in the tripartite Social and Economic Council and the bipartite Foundation of Labour.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Year

Involved in collective bargaining?

Vereniging Nederlandse Ondernemers-Nederlands Christelijk Werkgeversverbond

VNO-NCW

115,000

2017

Yes (through members and member organisations)

Koninklijke Vereniging MKB-Nederland

MKB-Nederland

186,000

2017

Yes (through members and member organisations)

Land en Tuibouworganisatie Nederland

LTO

Unclear. Claims to represent 50,000 employers, but no figures on actual members.

2017

Yes (through members and member organisations)

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

The most important tripartite body is the Social and Economic Council ( Sociaal Economische Raad, SER), consisting of one-third employee representatives (the three main union confederations), one-third employer representatives (the three main employer confederations) and one-third independent members, appointed by the government. The SER is the main advisory body for the government on all major socio-economic issues. Consultations take the form of a request for advice from the government. These consultations of the SER are unanimous, reflecting consensus on the side of the social partners. Several outcomes of consultations have formed the basis of labour legislation. Important examples are the consultation on flexicurity (1996) and working time (2007). In 2017, negotiations between social partners on various levels have come to a standstill on three issues: reducing the gap between the rights of permanent and flex workers (in particular dismissal rights), reform of the pension system, and change of the payment system of wages of employees in the second year of sickness (collective or individual by employer).

Mention should be made of the bipartite Foundation of Labour ( Stichting van de Arbeid, (STAR), which has an equal number of members from the social partner federations. On several occasions, the STAR and the government negotiated so-called social pacts, which may form the basis of labour legislation. The most recent example is the 2013 social pact, which has resulted in new legislation on dismissals and on flexible contracts, entering into force on 1 July 2015.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

Sociaal Economische Raad

Tripartite

National

Broad – all major socio-economic issues

Stichting van de Arbeid

Bipartite

National

All major labour and socio-economic related issues

Workplace-level employee representation

The main form of employee representation in Dutch enterprises is the works council (ondernemingsraad). This is a body, made up solely of employees' representatives, which it is obligatory to set up in enterprises with more than 50 employees and has extensive information and consultation rights and some decision-making powers. In enterprises with between 10 and 50 employees, a personnel delegation (personeelsvertegenwoordiging ) with less extensive information and consultation rights may be set up voluntarily by the employer and must be set up at the request of a majority of the workforce.

In enterprises with 10 to 50 employees, in the absence of either body, the employer must hold a twice-yearly meeting of employees, at which any employee may express their opinion, and the employer must: present the company accounts; provide information on the general situation of the company and on employment policy; and consult employees about decisions that may lead to job losses or to a major change in the work of at least a quarter of the workforce.

Union presence at the workplace level is relatively rare, and exists mainly in sectors which traditionally have a strong union tradition (like the metal sector and ports).

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company-level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/set up

Type 1 (e.g. Works council)

Law

Employees

Information rights, consultation rights on strategic issues, right of consent on social issues. Collective bargaining: sometimes in the elaboration of framework collective agreements; sometimes full bargaining in the absence of a collective agreement.

50 employees

Type 2 (e.g. Trade union)

Collective agreement or practice

Union members

Depends on the level of the collective agreement. Elaboration of sector agreements, participation in negotiations by higher union officials

n.a.

Employee representation at establishment level

In the figure, we see a comparison between Netherlands and European Union for the people with 'Establishment size : All' when asked 'Official structure of employee representation present at establishment'. For the 'Yes' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'No' answer, Netherlands's score is lower than the European Union score. The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.


Source: ECS 2013. Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees. Eurofound data visualisation.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in the Netherlands.

Bargaining system

The dominant bargaining level in the Netherlands is the sector, with many large firms having their own company agreement. According to the ICTWSS-database, coverage in 2008–2010 stood at around 84%. There are no collective agreements in the public sector in a formal sense. There are, however, 15 subsector agreements (covering areas such as central government, local government, defence, and police), which are generally considered to be collective agreements. Many sector agreements are declared generally binding by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment for all firms in the sector. In some companies, the agreements are negotiated between the works council and the company. Examples can be found in the chemical and IT sectors, and also in several firms based in the US or Asia. More and more, sector agreements can be considered as framework

agreements, which are then elaborated at company level (either by the unions or by the works council). The main pay issues remain firmly in the hands of the sector level. Since the crisis, agreements have been more difficult to conclude. The number of cases where gaps between agreements exist has increased. After the expiry of an agreement, the content remains in force if there is no new agreement.

The general trend is still somewhat towards decentralisation.

Wage bargaining coverage

Below, the figures from the ECS show the coverage of employees at different levels (first row), with 79% overall bargaining coverage. The figures from the Ministry of Social Affairs in the second column are similar for overall bargaining coverage, but show a different picture at sector level, which is dominant in the Netherlands. This is partly due to the extension mechanism, which adds some 13 percentage points to the sector level. It should also be noted that a different methodology is used by both sources (ECS allows for multiple answers, while the national source only for a single one), making a direct comparison between different levels difficult.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees at different levels

Level

 

Source

All levels

79%

2013 – ECS

All, excluding national level

73%

2013 – ECS

All levels

79%

2015 – Statistics Netherlands

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible. Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (2015), biannual report on collective agreements, single answer.

The main recent trend in collective bargaining is the rise in the duration of the bargaining rounds. Negotiations have become more difficult and therefore protracted. Sometimes there are long gaps between the expiry of the former agreement and the starting date of a new agreement. Another recent issue is the negotiation of agreements which have not been signed by the largest federation FNV. However, these trends have not results in changes in overall coverage. What should be kept in mind is the growing proportion of the self-employed, who are not covered by agreements.

Bargaining levels

The sectoral level is dominant in the Netherlands but many large companies have company agreements. With regard to working time, the situation is slightly different as for wages: in sectoral agreements there is more room for deviations in working time than in wages.

Levels of collective bargaining 2017

 

National level (Intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

   

x

x

   

Important but not dominant level

       

x

x

Existing level

           

Articulation

At national level, social partners may make recommendations to the affiliated bargaining parties, but this is increasingly less important. Links may exist between the sector level and the company level, and sector agreements increasingly have the character of framework agreements that leave some scope for deviation and elaboration at the company level, especially with regard to working time.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

Traditionally, this was in the first months of the year. However, there is really no ‘usual’ pattern anymore.

Coordination

Coordination is relatively weak in the Netherlands. The federations may issue recommendations, but these are not binding. Employers are demanding less coordination, asking the unions to take more account of differences across sectors and companies. There is no pattern bargaining, although traditionally some agreements (like that in the metal sector) are considered to be more important (trendsetting) than others.

Extension mechanisms

Sectoral collective agreements may be declared generally binding for a maximum of two years, or five years if they regulate joint funds (say, for pensions or training). Only certain types of provision may be made generally binding. A distinction is made between ‘normative’ (or substantive) clauses and ‘obligation’ (or procedural) clauses in collective agreements. Normative clauses regulate issues such as pay, working hours and other terms

and conditions of employment, and may be extended by the minister to cover all employers and employees in the sector concerned, whether or not they are members of one of the signatory parties. Obligation clauses, on the other hand, set out the mutual rights and obligations of the contracting parties in relation to the implementation of the agreement and may not be made generally binding: an example is a ‘peace obligation’ clause.

Some companies voluntarily follow sector agreements, without being bound by those agreements.

Derogation mechanisms

Most agreements contain clauses to this effect in a general sense: firms can ask the parties to the agreement for dispensation. This used to happen only very rarely, but its use seems to have increased since the crisis. There are however no figures on the incidence of this form of derogation. In the case of extension, firms can ask the ministry for dispensation. This is not very common, and the ministry is rather restrictive in issuing exceptions.

Expiry of collective agreements

After expiry, the collective agreement remains in force, but formally only for the signatory parties. For the non- signatory parties, extended agreements in principle expire. In practice, all parties stick to the agreement until a new one enters into force. This has become more important in recent years, since the negotiation process has become more difficult and time consuming since the crisis. In several cases, there have been delays of up to two years.

Peace clauses

Peace clauses in collective agreements exist but there is no quantitative information on it in the Netherlands. See also the section on Industrial actions and disputes, Legal aspects.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

Every year the Labour Inspectorate publishes an overview over developments in collective agreements. Next to wages and working time, the reports address other subjects which are of importance in the agreements. These include:

  • pay during sickness and unemployment: to what extend do collective agreements contain provisions on pay on top of the statutory minimum benefits. This is especially important in the case of sickness and disability. The employer pays at least 70% of the wage during the first two years of sickness, but in many agreements this level is raised to 100% during the first year;
  • employability and life-long learning;
  • variable pay;
  • the lowest wage scales;
  • fixed-term contracts.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

Trade unions (and individual employees) have the right to strike. This right is not laid down in Dutch law, but the Supreme Court has ruled that Article 6 of the Council of Europe's European Social Charter (which recognises the right of workers and employers to collective action in cases of conflicts of interest, including the right to strike)

has direct effect in the Netherlands. However, case law has established that the right to strike is not without limitations. The interests of third parties should not be damaged in a disproportionate way (for example, by holding transport strikes during rush hour). Strikes and other forms of industrial action are not very frequent in the Netherlands.

The common form is the normal work stoppage, either for a very short or a longer period, followed by relay strikes (short consecutive strikes at different firms) across a sector, and support strikes (which are not very common in the Netherlands).

Many collective agreements contain clauses restricting the use of industrial action by both employers and employees during the lifetime of the agreement over issues dealt with in the agreement. These are known as ‘peace clauses’. Case law has found that a peace clause is implied even where no such provision has been expressly agreed. However, employees may take action over other issues – for example, if the employer breaches the agreement. There is no legal requirement for ballots to be held prior to industrial action being called. Peaceful picketing is considered to be covered by the right to strike.

There is no statutory system of mediation, conciliation or arbitration in industrial disputes, although some collective agreements provide for joint dispute-resolution procedures.

Industrial action developments 2012–2017

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Working days lost per 1000 employees

31.1

2.8

6.0

6.9

2.7

n.a.

Number of strikes

18

24

25

27

25

n.a.

Source: Statistics Netherlands, CBS

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

Some collective agreements have established boards to deal with conflicts arising on the existing agreement.

There is no official mechanism on dispute resolution, and no board. Very rarely the government has appointed mediators in protracted conflicts, but this exceptional.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

Some collective agreements have established boards to deal with conflicts arising on the existing agreement. There are no special bodies with a permanent task.

Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

Mediation may be used, but this is up to the parties to the conflict. A certification system exists for private mediators. There is no quantitative information but mediation is rarely applied.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Netherland.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

Employers must provide employees with a written statement of the main terms of the employment contract within one month of the start of employment, and of any changes in these terms within a month of them occurring (notification of changes is not compulsory in the case of amendments to statutory provisions or collective agreements referred to in the statement or contract). The statement must provide details of (amongst others):

  • the name and address of the employer and employee;
  • the place or places where the work is to be performed;
  • the job title or a description of the type of work to be performed;
  • the starting date of the employment;
  • the duration of the contract if it is for a fixed term;
  • the daily or weekly working hours;
  • the amount of pay and when it will be paid;
  • the duration of any probationary period;
  • the amount of holiday allowance;
  • any applicable pension scheme.

The minimum working age is 15 (although those aged 13 and 14 may do some light tasks, under supervision). For 15–18 year olds there is stricter legislation with a protective character (for instance, maximum working time, limited night work).

Dismissal and termination procedures

There are six basic procedures for terminating a contract of employment:

  • termination by mutual consent;
  • termination during the probationary period; non-renewal of a fixed-term contract; summary dismissal for an ‘urgent’ reason; dissolution of the contract by a court; and
  • dismissal with official authorisation from the regional public employment office.

The law relating to termination of employment contracts has undergone significant change, with effect from 1 July 2015. The key changes are set out below.

If an employer and an employee agree to terminate the contract of employment by mutual consent, the employee will have two weeks in which to change his or her mind and withdraw consent.

Where an employer wishes to terminate an employment contract for business or economic reasons or for sickness absence lasting longer than two years, the employer will be required to ask the permission of the regional public employment office. If the employer wishes to terminate the contract for any other reason, it will be required to make an application to the civil court.

Where an employment contract is dissolved by the civil court, the employee will be granted the right of appeal. The former system of redundancy payments has to a large extent been replaced by a new system of transition payments, as from 1 July 2015.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The new government plans to change paternity leave from 2019 onwards. The number of days off after the birth of the child for partners (not necessarily fathers) is currently low (2 days) compared to other European countries and this will become 5 days in 2019. There is also a plan to give partners the option to extend their leave to five weeks for which they receive compensation of 70% of the wage.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Mothers: six weeks before and ten weeks after giving birth. Variations are possible for flexible leave after birth, allowing mothers to start part-time work earlier. Fathers are entitled to two days’ paid and three days’ unpaid leave but new legislation is in preparation.

Duration of leave is higher for mothers with twins and multiple births.

Reimbursement

100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer and government

Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001; Civil Code, Book 7

Parental leave

Maximum duration

No legal basis

Reimbursement

For a child up to eight years old, parents can take up leave for 26 times the length of the working week for the number of hours the employee chooses.

Who pays?

Not paid, unless agreed in collective agreement. Period: maximum of six months

Legal basis Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001 (Act on Care and Leave)

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

Fathers are entitled to two working days’ leave after birth.

Reimbursement

100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer

Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001; Civil Code, Book 7

 

Sick leave

Employers are obliged by law to pay employees who are absent from work due to sickness 70% of their normal wage for a maximum of two years. The wage on the basis of which the 70% figure is calculated is subject to a ceiling (€205.77 per day in January 2017). During the first year of absence, the amount of sick pay must at least equal the national minimum wage. Many collective agreements provide for higher rates of sick pay, predominantly during the first year.

An employment contract or collective agreement may provide that no sick pay is payable for the first one or two days of sickness absence, although such ‘waiting days’ may not be applied to a second incidence of sickness within four weeks of the first.

During longer-term periods of sickness absence, employers are obliged to make efforts to reintegrate the employee into the workplace, and the employer and employee must draw up a ‘recovery and reintegration plan’. If employees do not cooperate sufficiently with efforts aimed at getting them back to work, the employer may cease paying sick pay and, ultimately, dismiss the employee. After two years of sickness absence, the employer's sick pay obligation normally ends and employees are assessed by the Social Security Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UWV) to establish whether or not they are entitled to a state occupational disability benefit. If the UWV decides that the employer has made insufficient efforts to reintegrate the employee, it may order the employer to continue paying sick pay for a third year.

Retirement age

From 2013 onwards, the official retirement age (for men and women) has started to gradually increase, from 65 in 2012 to 66 years in 2018 and to 67 years in 2021. Flexible/early retirement schemes will be adjusted accordingly, with some special arrangements for employees with lower incomes.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Netherland.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

Employers must provide employees with a written statement of the main terms of the employment contract within one month of the start of employment, and of any changes in these terms within a month of them occurring (notification of changes is not compulsory in the case of amendments to statutory provisions or collective agreements referred to in the statement or contract). The statement must provide details of (amongst others):

  • the name and address of the employer and employee;
  • the place or places where the work is to be performed;
  • the job title or a description of the type of work to be performed;
  • the starting date of the employment;
  • the duration of the contract if it is for a fixed term;
  • the daily or weekly working hours;
  • the amount of pay and when it will be paid;
  • the duration of any probationary period;
  • the amount of holiday allowance;
  • any applicable pension scheme.

The minimum working age is 15 (although those aged 13 and 14 may do some light tasks, under supervision). For 15–18 year olds there is stricter legislation with a protective character (for instance, maximum working time, limited night work).

Dismissal and termination procedures

There are six basic procedures for terminating a contract of employment:

  • termination by mutual consent;
  • termination during the probationary period; non-renewal of a fixed-term contract; summary dismissal for an ‘urgent’ reason; dissolution of the contract by a court; and
  • dismissal with official authorisation from the regional public employment office.

The law relating to termination of employment contracts has undergone significant change, with effect from 1 July 2015. The key changes are set out below.

If an employer and an employee agree to terminate the contract of employment by mutual consent, the employee will have two weeks in which to change his or her mind and withdraw consent.

Where an employer wishes to terminate an employment contract for business or economic reasons or for sickness absence lasting longer than two years, the employer will be required to ask the permission of the regional public employment office. If the employer wishes to terminate the contract for any other reason, it will be required to make an application to the civil court.

Where an employment contract is dissolved by the civil court, the employee will be granted the right of appeal. The former system of redundancy payments has to a large extent been replaced by a new system of transition payments, as from 1 July 2015.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The new government plans to change paternity leave from 2019 onwards. The number of days off after the birth of the child for partners (not necessarily fathers) is currently low (2 days) compared to other European countries and this will become 5 days in 2019. There is also a plan to give partners the option to extend their leave to five weeks for which they receive compensation of 70% of the wage.

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

Paternity leave recently became an issue in the Netherlands. The number of days off after the birth of the child for fathers is presently very low and a bill has been introduced to increase paternity leave.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Mothers: six weeks before and ten weeks after giving birth. Variations are possible for flexible leave after birth, allowing mothers to start part-time work earlier. Fathers are entitled to two days’ paid and three days’ unpaid leave but new legislation is in preparation.

Duration of leave is higher for mothers with twins and multiple births.

Reimbursement

100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer and government

Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001; Civil Code, Book 7

Parental leave

Maximum duration

No legal basis

Reimbursement

For a child up to eight years old, parents can take up leave for 26 times the length of the working week for the number of hours the employee chooses.

Who pays?

Not paid, unless agreed in collective agreement. Period: maximum of six months

Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001 (Act on Care and Leave)

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

Fathers are entitled to five working days’ leave after birth.

Reimbursement

100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer

Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001;

Civil Code, Book 7

Sick leave

Employers are obliged by law to pay employees who are absent from work due to sickness 70% of their normal wage for a maximum of two years. The wage on the basis of which the 70% figure is calculated is subject to a ceiling (€205.77 per day in January 2017). During the first year of absence, the amount of sick pay must at least equal the national minimum wage. Many collective agreements provide for higher rates of sick pay, predominantly during the first year.

An employment contract or collective agreement may provide that no sick pay is payable for the first one or two days of sickness absence, although such ‘waiting days’ may not be applied to a second incidence of sickness within four weeks of the first.

During longer-term periods of sickness absence, employers are obliged to make efforts to reintegrate the employee into the workplace, and the employer and employee must draw up a ‘recovery and reintegration plan’. If employees do not cooperate sufficiently with efforts aimed at getting them back to work, the employer may cease paying sick pay and, ultimately, dismiss the employee. After two years of sickness absence, the employer's sick pay obligation normally ends and employees are assessed by the Social Security Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UWV) to establish whether or not they are entitled to a state occupational disability benefit. If the UWV decides that the employer has made insufficient efforts to reintegrate the employee, it may order the employer to continue paying sick pay for a third year.

Retirement age

From 2013 onwards, the official retirement age (for men and women) has started to gradually increase, from 65 in 2012 to 66 years in 2018 and to 67 years in 2021. Flexible/early retirement schemes will be adjusted accordingly, with some special arrangements for employees with lower incomes. 

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in the Netherlands and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

Changes in wages have been modest in the Netherlands during the last five years. The Dutch government and other institutions (e.g. Central Bank) have called on employers’ organisations to be more generous in collective agreements. The table below presents average basic wages per NACE sector for 2012 and 2017. It was not possible to present wages for full-time workers only as the number of hours has no breakdown by gender. For men, the highest wage rise has taken place in agriculture, industry, transport and financial services. For women, the same sectors, as well as government and healthcare show the highest rise. It should be noted that a rise can also be caused by a growing average number of hours worked per week and it is more likely that figures of women are influenced by the number of hours. The slowest rise over five years has been seen in trade, Horeca, education and cultural sector for both men and women.

Average monthly basic wages (excl. overtime) per worker, annual average, 2017 (provisional)

 

2012

 

2017

 

NACE

Men

Women

Men

Women

A

1764

1061

1964

1246

B

5352

3487

5670

4036

C

3058

1833

3363

2100

D

4341

3010

4525

3328

E

3054

2412

3236

2507

F

3151

1821

3380

2049

G

2369

1196

2404

1274

H

2538

1642

2822

1920

I

1119

764

1180

852

J

3758

2476

3975

2751

K

4632

2654

5139

3038

L

3496

2154

3655

2295

M

4127

2311

4253

2581

N

1686

1132

1755

1233

O

3267

2620

3491

3020

P

3072

2185

3173

2393

Q

2988

1663

3231

1914

R

1993

1249

2055

1347

S

2581

1581

2769

1765

See Eurostat RAMON for description and classification

Minimum wages

There is a statutory minimum wage for employees aged 22 years and older, which is changed every 1 January and 1 July, based on the wage developments in collective agreements.

The statutory minimum wage of younger workers is set at a lower rate than the general statutory minimum wage. The lower rate of the youth minimum wage for 22 year-old workers has been abolished from 1 July 2017 and will be for 21 year-old workers from 1 July 2019 on. In fact, all minimum wages for 18 years and older have risen in 2017 and/or will rise in 2019.

The government has also started experimenting with deviating from the statutory minimum wage for some categories of disabled employees (loondispensatie), although trade unions are opposed to new legislation in this field.

The level for the minimum wage in collective agreements is usually higher than the statutory minimum wage, especially for young employees.

Minimum wages per month (1st January)

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Adult rate

1,469

1,486

1,502

1,525

1,552

Youth rate for all years

22 years 85%

21 years 72.5%

20 years 61.5%

19 years 52.5%

18 years 45.5%

17 years 34.5%

16 years 30%

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in the Netherlands.

Working time regulation

The limits of working time are set out in the Working Time Act. The main instruments are collective agreements. The Act allows for many deviations in collective agreements from the standard settings in the Act.

The contractual length of the weekly working time has been stable for a long time. On average, collective agreements contain a 37.5-hour working week for full-time employees. By international standards, the average working week in the Netherlands is relatively short. This can to a large extent be explained by the high incidence of part-time work. This type of work is exceptionally common in the Netherlands.

In 2007, the statutory working week was changed by amending the Act on working time. The maximum amount of hours per day is 12 (60 per week). These amounts are restricted by so-called reference periods. Unlike the former regulation, there is no longer a legal difference between normal working time and overtime (but most collective agreements do make a distinction on this point).

For at least two decades, working time has not been a major issue in collective bargaining.

The number of actual weekly working hours is on average somewhat higher than the collectively agreed number of hours. For an average full-time employee this would amount to a working week of almost 39 hours.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

Since 2007, overtime is no longer defined or regulated in legislation. The Working Time Act only sets limits on maximum working hours, in conformity with the EU Directive on Working Time.

Most collective agreements contain provisions on overtime, granting employees extra pay for overtime, and also setting limits on the maximum number of hours.

Part-time work

Part-time work is very common in the Netherlands: 2017 figures are 22.6% for men and 74.1% for women. In 2017, some 46.6% of all employees worked on a part-time basis; these figures are well above the EU average for the same year: 18.7%. There is no legal definition of part-time work in the Netherlands, but equal treatment legislation forbids discrimination on the grounds of the length of the working week. The number of hours is usually agreed in individual contracts.

Persons employed part-time in the Netherlands and EU28 (% of total employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total (EU 28)

18.6

19.0

19.0

19.0

18.9

18.7

Total (Netherlands)

46.1

46.9

46.6

46.9

46.6

46.6

Women (EU 28)

31.4

31.8

31.7

31.5

31.4

31.1

Women (Netherlands)

75.5

75.6

75.2

75.3

74.8

74.1

Men (EU 28)

7.7

8.1

8.2

8.2

8.2

8.1

Men (Netherlands)

20.7

22.1

22.2

22.4

22.1

22.6

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part time because they could not find a full-time job.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in the Netherlands and EU28 (% of total part-time employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total (EU 28)

28.4

30.0

30.4

29.9

28.5

27.1

Total (Netherlands)

10.0

10.8

12.0

11.0

11.0

9.1

Women (EU 28)

24.9

26.4

26.8

26.2

25.0

23.7

Women (Netherlands)

8.3

9.0

10.0

8.9

8.8

7.0

Men (EU 28)

41.0

42.4

42.7

42.5

40.1

38.7

Men (Netherlands)

16.5

17.2

18.9

18.4

18.5

16.0

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

The Netherlands has one of the lowest shares of involuntary part-time employment in the European Union. There is a large supply of employees willing to work part time and a high proportion of temporary agency workers, who mainly work part time. Furthermore, the Law on Flexible Work (from 2016) and the Law on Adaptation of working times (before 2016) allow employees who have been employed at least 6 months to apply for a change in the number of working hours; this can only be refused by an employer due to compelling circumstances. Firms with less than 10 employees are exempted from this legislation.

Night work

Night time is defined as work of at least one hour between 00.00 and 06.00 (article 1:7 of the working time act).

Shift work

There is no statutory definition of shift work. In health and safety at work regulations, it is defined as working irregular hours according to a fixed schedule.

Weekend work

There is no statutory definition of weekend work. In practice and (collective) agreements it means work on Saturdays and Sundays.

Rest and breaks

Rest is defined as non-working time (article 1:7 of the working time act). There is no statutory definition of breaks, only provisions on minimum breaks (and rest time).

Working time flexibility

Employees with at least six months’ service at an employer with at least 10 employees are entitled to ask their employer for an increase or decrease in their working hours (for example, a switch to or from part-time hours). The request must be made at least two months prior to the proposed change in working hours. In principle, the employer should honour such a request unless there are compelling circumstances. These circumstances may include: problems with getting a replacement, safety or work schedule in the case of a request for reduced hours; financial or organisational problems, or lack of work, in the case of a request for increased hours. Two years after a request has been denied, the employee is entitled to file a new request. The figures in the table below indicate that size of establishment is not a major factor in determining working time flexibility from the viewpoint of employees.

Do you have fixed start and finishing time in your work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Netherlands and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have fixed starting and finishing times in your work?'. For the 'No' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Netherlands's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 39d from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.


Source: European Working conditions survey 2015.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be high-priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce; organisations lose productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in the Netherlands.

Health and safety at work

In the Netherlands, the employer together with its employees is primarily responsible for health and safety at work. Large organisations and companies conclude these agreements in consultation with the Works Council and the management board. Each company has to have one employee assigned the role of health and safety officer who is able to implement measures that focus on health and safety within a company. The director is allowed to hold the position of health and safety officer in small companies that have 25 employees or less.

The health and safety officer supports the employer in the performance of policy pertaining to safe and healthy work and is closely involved in drawing up the Risk Assessment and Evaluation (RI&E). In some branches (mainly the ones with high risks), branch organisations are providing information and best practices. Compliance is monitored by the Dutch national Labour Inspectorate.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

All accidents

119,941

116,029

108,097

56,377

53,683

Percentage change on previous year

-4,6

-3,3

-6,8

-47,8

-4,8

Per 1,000 employees

11992,6

12087,7

12156,8

12460,1

12655,7

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Statistics Netherlands presents figures which are not fully comparable to the Eurostat figures (but do not differ significantly).

Psychosocial risks

Psychosocial risks are part of the general legislation on health and safety. The Dutch Labour Inspectorate monitors the health and safety legislation.

The general principles of health and safety law are that employers are required to ensure all aspects of their employees' health and safety and to seek an optimum level of safe working conditions, while employers and employees should cooperate in the implementation of policy in this area. On this basis, legislation lays down specific rules and measures to protect the health and safety of employees, customers and others.

Collective bargaining and social dialogue play an important part in the regulation of health and safety. The legislation sets ‘target regulations’ – minimum protection levels that companies must provide to their employees so that they can work safely and in a way that does not endanger their health. Employers and employee representatives at sector or company level should agree on detailed policies for achieving these target levels, with their agreements recorded in a health and safety ‘catalogue’. There is no formal monitoring of these catalogues as such, but it is part of the general monitoring task of the Inspectorate SZW.

In 2013, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment announced a new approach to deal with psychosocial risks. For the Labour Inspectorate, this is one of the priorities as announced in the 2014 annual programme. The subject remains high on the agenda.

Work intensity: Do you have enough time to get the job done?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Netherlands and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have enough time to get the job done?'. For the 'Always or most of the time' answer, Netherlands's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Rarely or never' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Sometimes' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 61g from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Dutch system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

Workplace training in the Netherlands is predominantly voluntary, with no statutory obligation on employers to provide or finance training for their employees. The main exceptions are requirements to provide employees with health and safety training and for training works council members.

Collective agreements, primarily at sector level, play an important role in regulating vocational training. Agreements deal with issues such as vocational courses, combined work/training schemes, recognition of acquired experience, educational leave, career development, language courses for non-Dutch speakers, and the identification of target groups for training. A number of agreements give employees an individual right to receive training. Agreements may be influenced by a set of recommendations for bargaining and policies on training issued by the bipartite Labour Foundation in 2006, which pays special attention to relations between companies and educational establishments, training in restructuring situations, equal treatment and special policies for target groups.

In many sectors, unions and employers have set up joint education and development funds to promote and finance vocational training and employability policies in companies. They also participate in sectoral Expertise Centres for Vocational Training and Employment ( Kenniscentra Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven, KBBs), which oversee the training and qualifications systems in their industry.

Training and development have gained importance since 1 July 2015. According to the new Flexibility and Security Act, employers are under an obligation to offer employees the training and development required to enable them to perform their job. Training must also be offered to assist an employee obtain an alternative position if made redundant or if unable to perform his or her job. Employers may be entitled to deduct training and development costs from the new obligation to pay a transition payment to redundant employees where those costs were incurred to assist an employee obtain alternative employment.

Training

There are no public institutions responsible for training regulation and development, with the exception of the Ministry of Education (but only in a very general sense). In recent years, successive governments have stepped up initiatives to stimulate lifelong learning. In 2012, the Social and Economic Council published advice on the issue .

Training: Have you had any on the job training in the past years?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Netherlands and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, Netherlands's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 65c from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effect on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

More information on:

For the Netherlands, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013 43% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 43.3% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and 22.4% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

There have to our knowledge not been any major studies on this topic in recent years.

Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Netherlands and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, Netherlands's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Netherlands's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 54b from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

For more detailed figures visit:

 

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, sex, disability, nationality, race and religion.

There are several acts that aim to ensure equality. The umbrella act is the General Act on Equal Treatment (Algmene wet gelijke behandeling).

There are specific acts covering discrimination based on age, disability or chronic illness, and gender. Discrimination in employment is forbidden on the following grounds:

  • sex;
  • race;
  • age;
  • disability or chronic illness;
  • marital/civil status;
  • sexual orientation;
  • religion;
  • belief;
  • political orientation;
  • nationality;
  • employment status (full-time/part-time or open-ended/fixed-term contract).

This prohibition covers many subjects, like advertisements for job vacancies, the commencement or termination of an employment relationship, terms and conditions of employment, access to education or training during or prior to employment, access to career planning and vocational guidance, promotion and working conditions.

Employees who believe that they have suffered discrimination on any of these statutory grounds may make a complaint to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights ( College voor de Rechten van de Mens), the statutory body that promotes and monitors compliance with the discrimination legislation and provides advice and information. The Institute cannot impose penalties or other sanctions, and its judgements are not legally enforceable. To seek legal redress (for example in cases where an employer has not complied with an Institute judgement), employees may bring a case in the civil courts to claim damages, obtain an injunction to cease the discriminatory behaviour or, in the case of dismissal, seek compensation or reinstatement. In court cases, a judgement from the Institute has the status of an expert opinion in court proceedings.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

The main mechanism for ensuring equal pay for equal work is the General Act on Equal Treatment (Algemene wet gelijke behandeling). There are no specific legislative support measures as yet. The joint Dutch (mainly left-wing) opposition partners GroenLinks, SP, PvdA en 50Plus have proposed a law for equal pay. Organisations with 50+ employees have to prove that they pay equal wages for equal work.

Recent research from the Dutch Statistical Agency shows that when corrected for 20 background characteristics the wage gap between men and women has diminished between 2008 and 2014 from 7% to 5% in the public sector and from 9% to 7% in the private sector.

In 2014, the tripartite Social and Economic Council published unanimous advice on combating discrimination with regard to labour, including pay discrimination. A growing number of collective agreements contains provisions against discrimination. An example is the 2011-2012 agreement for ABNAMRO bank or the recent agreement in the agricultural sector.

Quota regulations

Dutch company law (Book 2 of the Civil Code, articles 166 and 276) states that larger companies should strive to have at least 30% women and 30% men on both the executive and the supervisory boards. This is a ‘comply or explain’ rule (soft law) and there are no sanctions when companies do not comply.

In the 2013 Social Pact, the social partners have agreed to create 125,000 jobs for people that are not able to earn the minimum wage (in practice, disabled employees) by 2026. The schedule for the private sector is 4,000 jobs in 2014, 5, 000 in 2015, with the target increasing every year by 1,000 until reaching 10,000 a year in 2020. From then until 2026, the goal is to create 10,000 such jobs a year, reaching the total goal of 100,000 new jobs for this group in the private sector in 2026. The aim of the government sector is 2,500 jobs every year, until the total goal of 25,000 new jobs is reached in 2026.

The legislation came into force on 1 May 2015 including a regulation that will result in fines for employers (€5,000 for every job not created) who do not reach the intermediate targets that have been set, based on the goals. In 2017, figures shown that the private sector had reached the intermediate target in 2016 but the public sector had not. Therefore, in 2018 this quorum legislation was activated for the public sector. Employers who do not attain 1.93% of employment by the target group will receive a fine of €5,000 for every job not created. Legislation is in preparation to postpone the fines regulation until 2020 to give employers more time to comply with the regulation.

 

Bibliography

Bibliography

Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid (2016), CAO-Afspraken 2015, The Hague.

TNO (2015), Werkgevers enquête arbeid 2014, Leiden.

TNO (2016), Nationale enquête arbeidsomstandigheden 2015, Leiden.

Slooten, J.M. van, Vegter, M.S.A. and Verhulp, E. (2016), Tekst en Commentaar Arbeidsrecht, Kluwer, Deventer.

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