Living and working in the Netherlands

15 October 2020

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, which included the UK prior to its withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020. 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

Living and working in the Netherlands and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-surveyLiving, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Two rounds of the survey in April and July allow for comparisons between a lockdown situation in most Member States and the gradual reopening of society and economies. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, and the quality of public services during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are now available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in the Netherlands.


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

Research carried out prior to 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

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 country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Panteia B.V.

Eurofound Management Board members from Netherlands

Eurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. 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

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%.

Life satisfactionMean (1-10)
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)
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.

(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%
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%
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal7%6%6%7%

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%.

Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)
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.

Health servicesMean (1-10)
Education systemMean (1-10)
Public transportMean (1-10)
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--6.66.4
Social housingMean (1-10)--6.56.3
State pension systemMean (1-10)

Working life in the Netherlands


  • Author: Robbert van het Kaar; Amber van der Graaf
  • Institution: Consortium AIAS University of Amsterdam (UvA)/TNO; Panteia
  • Published on: Monday, November 18, 2019

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 2019

Highlights – Working life in 2019

Highlights updated on: 28 February 2020
For more information, see working paper:
Netherlands: Developments in working life 2018

In the Netherlands, the dominant labour market issue for 2019 was the recent labour shortage in several sectors. These same sectors saw high-profile strikes take place during the year. Specifically, public transport, nurses and healthcare workers, and primary school teachers all took to the streets to protest against the mounting pressures at work, poor working conditions, and comparatively low pay. High work pressure and insecurity in these sectors led to an above-average level of complaints in occupational health and safety – notably psychological strain – as well as an outflow of workers. Exiting workers intensified the labour shortages in these sectors and increased the pressure on remaining workers. The inflow of new workers during the year was not high enough to offset those leaving the sectors.

An underlying feature of the year, also in 2018, is that the Dutch economy has been performing relatively well in recent years, with employment rates at pre-2008 levels this year. While the economy is doing well and enterprises are growing, this increase has not been sufficiently felt by workers or visible in their wages. This has been part of the reason for strikes in 2018 and 2019, although in 2019 the labour shortages have also played a dominant role.

In terms of new policy and legislation, two key developments stand out for the Netherlands. The first was the acceptance of the package of laws, theLaw for a Balanced Labour Market ( Wet Arbeidsmarkt in Balans or WAB) – laws and regulations aimed at making the Dutch labour market more dynamic. The package was accepted by the house of parliament and the house of representatives as of May. The new laws seeks to balance the Dutch labour force by making flexible work less attractive for both workers and companies, and by making fixed-employment contracts less risky and expensive for employers. This package was accepted as part of plans established by the current cabinet’s coalition agreement to address the rising proportion of temporary work and lower rates of permanent contracts observed in recent years. Younger workers, in particular, often struggle to find job security and hence cannot accumulate social security, while companies have obligations towards their ageing workers in permanent contracts.

Together with the WAB, the other major development in working conditions was the acceptance of a new pension agreement. After over a decade of deliberation between governments and social partners, agreement was finally reached in June. The Dutch dual system of public pension and private pension has been under increasing pressure from trends such as an ageing population and the increasing pressure on the shrinking labour pool to sustain more retired individuals. While these challenges had been acknowledged by social partners and governments over the years, there had been little agreement on how the system should be changed. The reforms include making the accrual of pensions more transparent and individually tailored, making rules for pension funds and their financial and more personalised approaches between companies and employees in physically demanding jobs (Zware beroepen).

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Netherlands




% (point) change 2012-2018








GDP per capita







Unemployment rate – total







Unemployment rate – women







Unemployment rate – men







Unemployment rate – youth







Employment rate – total







Employment rate – women







Employment rate – men







Employment rate – youth







Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012-2018 (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].Comparative figures on working life in Netherlands




Economic and labour market context

Between 2012 and 2018, GDP grew 8.62%, when the EU average growth for the same period was 9.73%. Unemployment figures for all categories in 2018 remained below the EU average and stood at 3.8%, below the EU average for that year – a drop of 2 percentage points compared to 2012. Employment rates increased slightly for all workers, especially for women (an increase of 1.8 percentage points in 2018), with total employment rates in 2018 (80.3%) well above the EU average for that year (73.7%).

Unemployment has been declining, reaching 3.5% at the end of 2018 (de Volkskrant, 2018) and is now below the unemployment level observed during the crisis. However, the Dutch labour market is not without challenges. Characterised by a high percentage of flexible contracts on the one hand, and permanent contracts on the other, the labour market is said to lack dynamism. An added feature is that certain sectors in the Netherlands are heading towards a labour shortage (with some already there). These include the health and care sector, the transport sector, and education.

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).

Currently a law is being negotiated and consulted regarding how to balance the labour market. This law, Wet Arbeidsmarkt in Balans (Labour market in balance), contains a range of smaller measures to balance the number of fixed and temporary contracts and to ultimately make the Dutch labour market more dynamic.

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 formal legislation on representation and social partners in sectors. Sectoral social partners establish bipartite collective labour agreements. For these to apply to a whole sector, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment examines the agreement and pronounces them generally binding for the whole sector. For national-level social dialogue, national, cross-sectoral social partners can do so through the tripartite body, the Social and Economic Council. This body and its role were established through 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, STVDA).

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.

In 2018, pension reform continued to be a major topic of policy discussion by national social partners and the government. Discussions progressed to the point that a tentative agreement was reached, with the current cabinet making more concessions than planned in its Coalition Agreement. However, at the last stage of negotiation on the agreement, the trade unions pulled their support. The issue remains a point of discussion.

Long-term sickness has long been a theme in the Netherlands, as employers must pay this for up to two years if an employee becomes ill. Social partners all agree that this system is inefficient and must change. Discussions were held and steps were made, with the government allocating extra financial resources to address the issue. Social partners and the government were all said to be happy with the agreement and this step forward, which also works to help balance the labour market.

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, and in 2018, social partners indicated that the current minister for Social Affairs and Employment makes special efforts to include the social partners.

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.

Besides this, the Netherlands has a highly developed approach to sectoral social dialogue. As a matter of national culture, sectoral trade unions and employers’ organisations come together to establish collective labour agreements to regulate and frame rules on working life for the sector in question. These agreements build on the national laws on working conditions.

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.


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 STVDA. 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 STVDA). This consequently undermines the legitimacy and representativeness of the collective labour agreements that are concluded. It has also sparked a small but growing trend of small, new trade unions springing up to represent younger workers, professionals, as well as solo self-employed, part-time and freelance workers.

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found 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. There have been further instances of new, younger trade unions establishing themselves, to cover workers not traditionally seen as part of trade unions. The AVV, for instance, is not seen as a traditional union, since it also represents entrepreneurs.

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 for the legitimacy and representativeness of the collective labour agreements reached.

New initiatives such as POinactie, and the AVV show that trade union membership can be boosted by a more open and inclusive approach to membership, and direct communication with members and their needs (through social media as well as other means).

Trade union membership and trade union density










Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)








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

Trade union membership in 1000








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.

There are three main national, cross-sectoral trade unions that negotiate and consult on policy related to employment and the labour market. These are FNV, CNV, and VCP. These are the largest trade unions in the Netherlands, and they negotiate with the government via the Social and Economic Council (the SER), and the Labour Foundation (the STVDA). 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. The CNV is also made up of a series of sectoral branches within its organisation. Furthermore, some trade unions (ANBO, Unie and UOV) have joined VCP.

There have been no major changes in the trade unions in the Netherlands. There is a trend however, of de-unionisation, as is the case in other European countries. This seems to have given rise to a small but visible trend where newer unions are appearing that attract younger, more diverse members such as AVV (Alternative voor Vakbond), or de Unie, which also represent entrepreneurs, flex-workers, and part-time workers.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name


Members (2016)

Involved in collective bargaining?

Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging




Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond




Vakcentrale voor professionals








Source: CBS 2018: Statline – Leden van vakverenigingen; geslacht en leeftijd

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






Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees




Visser (2014)

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*




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. VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland collaborate together and often work together as one organisation.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name




Involved in collective bargaining?

Vereniging Nederlandse Ondernemers-Nederlands Christelijk Werkgeversverbond




Yes (through members and member organisations)

Koninklijke Vereniging MKB-Nederland




Yes (through members and member organisations)

Land en Tuibouworganisatie Nederland


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


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, (StvdA), which has an equal number of members from the social partner federations. On several occasions, the StvdA 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




Issues covered

Sociaal Economische Raad



Broad – all major socio-economic issues

Stichting van de Arbeid



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




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)



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


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. 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). 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 for employees and employers who are members of the trade union or employer organisation that signed the agreement.

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




All levels


2013 – ECS

All, excluding national level


2013 – ECS

All levels


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

In the Netherlands, laws regulate the basic circumstances for working life, and collective labour agreements can build on these provisions. The law is immutable however, and must be upheld as a minimum requirement in sectoral agreements. 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



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level





Important but not dominant level




Existing level



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.


As the majority of social dialogue takes place at sectoral level, there is not much central coordination. As such, 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 termsand 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.

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.

In the Netherlands, peace clauses (vredesplicht) in collective labour agreements tend to centre on the fact that while a collective labour agreement is in place, employees will not take disruptive action towards their employer. This includes, for example, holding strikes.

There are hundreds of active sectoral collective labour agreements in the Netherlands. Based on an examination of agreements from three different sectors as a sample, there was no mention of peace clauses explicitly. It appears that these clauses are not very prevalent in the Netherlands. A reason for this may be that it is common practice to abstain from strike action during the running time of a collective labour agreement. That being said, 2017 was a high point in the number of strikes for the Netherlands, and it is unclear whether the 32 strikes recorded took place during or outside of the term of a collective labour agreement.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment maintains an overview of collective labour agreements active in the Netherlands. 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.

Some of the most publicised strikes throughout 2017 and 2018 were held over pressure of work and remuneration. In the public transport sector, for police, postal workers, and primary school teachers, pressure of work was a main theme.

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). 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








Working days lost (thousands)







Number of strikes







Source: CBS, 2019: Statline – Werkstakingen: geschillen, verloren arbeidsdagen, werknemers; kenmerken

Statistics Netherlands also reports that since 1989 there have never been as many strikes as in 2017, with the most strikes and highest numbers of individuals involved. As a result, the working days lost in 2017 was one of the highest levels recorded (, 2018a).

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. A first step recommended by the government and by judicial bodies is to enlist the help of a mediator. Where individual disputes escalate, they can be taken to court. This tends to start at the regional level, in a sub-district court (kantonrechter). The Public Employment Service, the UWV, can also be involved in reviewing requests by employers to let employees go. This tends to be in cases where an employer wants to let an employee go; the UWV examines the request and the basis for letting the person go, and assesses the legal validity of such a request. However, where no agreement can be reached, the district court is the first step in formal, judiciary procedures.

Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

Mediation may be used, but a decision on this is left up to the parties to the conflict. A certification system exists for private mediators. There is no quantitative information but mediation is rarely applied. As indicated above, where employers and employees cannot agree (such as on collective action and strikes), as well as individual disputes, cases can be taken to court for judiciary dispute resolution. There are no labour courts, but a general, sub-district court.

There are not many statistics on dispute resolution. The national statistics office maintains data on how many people were fired or let go via the UWV, and via the District Judge. There do not appear to be any timely data on the use of mediators in the Netherlands.

Use of dispute resolution mechanisms









Via the UWV (Dutch PES)





(no data)

(no data)

(no data)

Via the District Judge





(no data)

(no data)

(no data)

Source: (2017)

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;
  • summarily 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.

In cases where the employer takes the initiative to end an employee’s contract, employees can receive a transition compensation if they have been working for that employer for two years or more.

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. As of 1 January 2019, a partner of a mother who has just given birth may take leave equivalent to one times their weekly contract hours. For example, if a partner works 32 hours a week, he or she will receive 32 hours of partner leave (Geboorte (partner) verlof).*

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


100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer and government

Legal basis

Wet invoering extra geboorteverlof, 1 January 2019; Civil Code, Book 7

Parental leave

Maximum duration

No legal basis


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.

In July of 2020 this is set to change and expand to partners of a mother who just gave birth. Partners will be able to take up to 5 weeks of parental leave within the first 6 months of the baby being born.*

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

(See above under Maternity Leave).


100% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?


Legal basis

Wet Arbeid en Zorg 2001; Civil Code, Book 7

Source: * Rijksoverheid (2019)

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.

This system has been a subject of discussion between the government and national social partners, and it has been agreeed to change this system. New legislation is be expected for 2019 and 2020.

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: 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 (excluding overtime) per worker, annual average, 2017 (provisional), euro






























































































































































































Notes: See Eurostat RAMON for description and classification.

Source: CBS, (2019)

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 minimum working age in the Netherlands is 15, and between 15 and 21 years of age, a percentage of the minimum wage applies.

Twice a year (in January and July) the minimum wage is adjusted to the average expected growth of the collective employment wages. This expected growth is calculated by the Dutch Central Planning Agency. A fixed formula is then used to transform this expected growth into a change of level for the minimum wage. This follows normal procedures; the government does not have any direct influence on the adjustment of the minimum wage. This also means that there are no different stages of debate and no proposals on certain levels and a reached agreement.Click here to enter text.

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

Minimum wages per month (1 January), euro










Adult rate








Youth rate for all years

22 years 85%


21 years



21 years 72.5%


20 years



20 years 61.5%


19 years



19 years 52.5%


18 years



18 years 45.5%


17 years



17 years 34.5%


16 years



16 years 30%


15 years



Source: ** (2018a)

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

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

The statutory minimum wages presented above are a minimum that an employee must receive. Collective labour agreements for sectors tend to introduce extra or further agreements regarding pay, holiday pay, and other entitlements. This varies between sectors and the level of pay an employee receives can depend on criteria such as age, number of years of experience in the sector and in a given profession, as well as level of education. The exact constellation of criteria can vary per sector and per collective labour agreement.

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 ( Arbeidstijdenwet). Collective labour agreements use the law as a baseline and framework for stipulating the exact working time, shift duration, breaks, and rest-breaks that may be taken. 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 number of hours per day is 12 and per week is 60. 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: 2018 figures are 23% for men and 73.8% for women. In 2018, some 46.8% of all employees worked on a part-time basis; these figures are well above the EU average for the same year: 18.5%. 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. Statistics Netherlands uses the definition “deeltijd” to refer to workers with contract hours of less than 35 hours a week.

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









Total (EU28)








Total (Netherlands)








Women (EU28)








Women (Netherlands)








Men (EU28)








Men (Netherlands)








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)









Total (EU28)








Total (Netherlands)








Women (EU28)








Women (Netherlands)








Men (EU28)








Men (Netherlands)








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, for groups or shifts of workers at a time. Shift work (ploegendiensten) is understood as taking place within a time frame of 24 hours. In that period several shifts take place, usually consisting of 6 or 7 hours of work.

Weekend work

There is no statutory definition of weekend work. The statutory definition of a work week however is Sunday 00:00 to Saturday 24:00. Work times outside of this are Sundays and holidays, and different wage rates may apply for employees who work on those days. This depends on the sector and the agreements made in the collective labour agreement.

Rest and breaks

A rest break (pauze in Dutch or rusttijd), is defined in the Working Time Act as a period of at least 15 consecutive minutes where the labour or work activities are interrupted. During this time the employee has no obligation to carry out the stipulated work (, 2018b).

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.

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. The main law regulating health and safety at work is the law on Working Conditions, which includes provisions on health and safety. This falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. However, trade unions, employer organisations, and particularly employers, are the main actors involved in providing for health and safety at work.

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.

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). Compliance is monitored by the Dutch national Labour Inspectorate, or Inspectie SZW as it is now called, which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment.

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











All accidents










Percentage change on previous year










Per 1,000 employees










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). According to Statistics Netherlands, the numbers are as follows:





All accidents




Source: (2018b)

Based on the data provided by Statistics Netherlands, there is an increase in the number of accidents at work which resulted in an absence of four or more days.

Psychosocial risks

Psychosocial risks are part of the general legislation on health and safety. The Dutch Labour Inspectorate, Inspectie SZW, monitors the health and safety legislation. (please see above for more details under health and safety risks).

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 policy agenda. The Ministry initiated campaigns on work-related stress in collaboration with EU-OSHA in 2016 to highlight the issue and to initiate more preventive practices among employers. Bullying at work has also become an increasingly important subject of policy debate throughout 2018, with cases arising and being covered in the media.

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. Sectoral training and development funds (henceforth called O&O funds), are funds which are set up in connection with a sectoral collective labour market agreement. The collective labour agreements establish the strategic goals for the O&O fund to pursue specific skills which workers need for instance, skills required to meet future sectoral developments, etc. The goal of these funds is to help improve the sectoral labour market by training and schooling workers in a given sectoral branch. The funds are private initiatives which are managed by sectoral organisations and social partners. Workers can undertake education and training via these funds which reimburse or finance the training followed.

Once the collective agreement becomes mandatory and binding, all employers within a sector must contribute to the fund. All employees receive training rights and facilities, if their training interests fit the objectives formulated by the social partners. During restructuring, additional claims can be made on a fund, if agreed by the social partners.

The funds themselves are financed predominantly through contributions from employers and employees (where the exact level of these contributions are established in collective labour market agreements), with some funds receiving financing via the European Social Fund or other social partners. A study conducted in 2017 by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment showed that, regarding the 85 collective labour agreements under investigation, 87% of the financing for the O&O funds came from enterprises.


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.

In more general terms, 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 they are made redundant or if they are 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 help an employee obtain alternative employment.

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.

Recent research on this topic includes the following pieces:

· Krabbenborg, L and Daalhuizen, F. (2016), De geografie van het werken in Nederland verandert . This reports examines how working patterns have changed in the Netherlands in recent years. Elements covered include mobility and travel patterns, demographic trends, and shifts in national economies and in working cultures.

· Huws, U., Spencer, N. H., Syrdal, D. S., Holts, K. (2017), Work in the European gig economy – Research results from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy . This report presents the results of an innovative survey across seven European countries. Survey results are complemented by in-depth interviews with a range of crowd workers.

· Schaufeli, W. B., (2015), Van burnout naar bevlogenheid: Werk en welbevinden in Nederland . This article (in Dutch) uses survey results to examine the factors affecting well-being and burn-out among a pool of workers.

· WRR, (2017), Voor de zekerheid de toekomst van flexibel werkenden en de moderne organisatie van arbeid , available at: . Flexible working, new trends in the labour market and social security are all discussed in this report (in Dutch) by the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR).

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 source of law of non-discrimination is the Dutch constitution, revised in 2008. Individuals residing in the Netherlands may not be discriminated against based on religion, political inclination, race, gender, or sexual orientation. In terms of discrimination at work, a series of laws exist to safeguard different groups:

  • Algemene wet gelijke behandeling (AWGB) – General Law on Equal Treatment
  • Wet gelijke behandeling op grond van handicap of chronische ziekte (WGBH/CZ) – Law on Equal Treatment based on Disability or Chronic Illness
  • Wet gelijke behandeling op grond van leeftijd (WGBL) – Law on Equal Treatment based on Age
  • Wet gelijke behandeling van mannen en vrouwen (WGB) – Law on Equal Treatment of Men and Women (at work)
  • Wetboek van Strafrecht – Civil Code
  • Rijksoverheid: Wettelijk verbod op discriminatie

In 2018, the average pay gap between men and women was 7% in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands discrimination at work has been the subject of national political debate for the current cabinet. Research shows that people with a migrant background, young people, (pregnant) women, and older people face barriers on the labour market in finding a job. For this reason the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment ( Ministerie Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, SZW) is discussing plans for the Inspectorate SZW to be allowed to monitor the job application and screening procedure undertaken by employers (Rijksoverheid, 2018). On top of this, the Minister recognises that discrimination can take place subconsciously, and is also discussing a policy programme to help address this aspect of discrimination. An action plan to tackle labour discrimination was sent to Parliament for discussion in June 0f 2016, to renew the existing action plan on the same subject from 2014.

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 (2017), Ontslagen via rechter of UWV dalen met een kwart , 6 February. (2018a), Meer arbeidsongevallen met vier of meer dagen verzuim , 20 July. (2018b), In 2017 meeste stakingen sinds 1989 , 1 May. (2019), Werkgelegenheid; banen, lonen, SBI2008 per maand , 16 July. []

de Volkskrant (2018), Hosanna! De werkloosheid is op een recordlaagte van 3,5 procent , 21 December.

Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid (2016), CAO-Afspraken 2015 , The Hague. (2018a), Regeling van de Minister van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid van 9 mei 2018, 2018-00000811666, tot aanpassing wettelijk minimumloon per 1 juli 2018 (2018b), Working Hours Act

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.

Rijksoverheid, (2018), Kabinet wil discriminatie arbeidsmarkt harder aanpakken , 19 June.

Rijksoverheid (2019), Wat verandert er op 1 januari 2019? , 8 February.

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