Netherlands: Latest developments in working life Q1 2019
Paternity leave for fathers, uncertainty around the National Climate Accord and ongoing discussions relating to pension reforms are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in the Netherlands in the first quarter of 2019.
Talks on paternity leave continue
In the Netherlands, the issue of paternity leave for fathers remains a topic of policy discussion. In response to the European Parliament’s vote on the Work–life Balance Directive, national employer organisations the Confederation of Netherlands’ Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) and MKB-Nederland indicated that the costs of longer paternity leave should not be borne solely by fathers.  The Netherlands has been working on offering more generous paternity and partner leave to promote both gender equality in work and the labour market, and also a better work–life balance for parents. In that spirit, last year saw the Dutch cabinet increase paternity leave for fathers and the partners of mothers from two days of paid leave to five days (or one times the standard working week of the partner). This leave is for the immediate period after the birth of a child and, from 1 July 2020, paternity leave will be extended to an extra five weeks of leave, where a father or partner receives 70% of their salary throughout.
While this has been lauded by the Social and Economic Council (the scientific advisory body to the government and the tripartite organisation in the Netherlands), employer organisations worry that this would place too much pressure on employers.  In addition, most social security benefits are financed by the government, the employer and the employee together, which raises the question of how paternal leave should be financed. Certain factions, such as the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), also indicate that while this is a step forward, the Netherlands is still a long way from the equal distribution of care and home-life duties. Talks therefore continue on the matter of paternity leave in the Netherlands.
- Rijksoverheid: Geboorteverlof (partnerverlof)
Uncertainty over draft National Climate Accord
While not directly related to industrial relations and working conditions, the National Climate Accord is likely to have an impact on both in the future. In 2018, the Dutch government accepted a draft Climate Accord to help the country move to a more sustainable economic and social system. One of the main goals of the accord is to reduce the current CO2 emissions to half the 1990 levels by 2030.
However, the draft does not contain details about how this will take place, what measures will be put in place or who will bear the costs. As a result, negotiations are taking place between enterprises, employer organisations and the government about how to implement the accord. 
This has led to uncertainty amongst enterprises in the Netherlands and much discussion and negotiation. The VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland indicate that the current uncertainty is having a negative impact on support for the plan, innovation and trust among citizens and businesses.
Employer organisations and enterprises suggested designing their own, company-specific approaches in order to reduce their CO2 emissions. However, the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) indicated that this was too vague and so the plan was dismissed.  At the same time, the CPB calculated that lower income households would bear the largest brunt of the proposed draft accord.
Policy discussions and negotiations are currently ongoing regarding which measures will be put in place and who they will affect.
Ongoing issue of pension reform
In the Netherlands, the issue of a reform to the pensions system has been on the policy agenda for some time and negotiations took place throughout 2018. Employer organisations, trade unions and the government all recognise the need for the system to change in response to ageing societies, new ways of working and new business models.
The FNV, the largest national trade union in the Netherlands, organised strikes during the first quarter of 2019 to lobby for pension reforms,  while Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Wouter Koolmees continues to work on developing a new system. One of the changes proposed is to remove the ‘doorsneesystematiek’ (the uniform and standardised way of building up a pension).  This system means an employer pays the same proportion into a pension for every employee.  However, it is felt that this no longer matches the needs of society as the build-up of the pension ultimately ends up skewed, with individuals working longer weeks and building up comparatively less pension. Discussions relating to potential pension reforms are likely to continue throughout 2019.
The subject of pension reforms continues to be a key area for policy discussion between social partners. The government also continues to investigate how to extend paternity and partner leave, although social partners indicate there is still a long way to go towards equal distribution of care and home-life responsibilities. A newer development, which is being monitored closely by social partners, especially by employers, is the drafting of national policy measures to achieve the Dutch National Climate Accord goals.