Netherlands: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

A new law on extending parental leave for partners, new measures to better support people with disabilities who wish to study or work, and a series of strikes over working conditions 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 third quarter of 2018.

Partners of new mothers to receive more parental leave

On 2 October, the Dutch parliament voted to change the length of parental leave for partners of women who have just had a baby. Currently, partners receive two days of leave, regardless of whether they work full time or part time. The employer pays this leave, though different conditions may apply to the leave depending on the sectoral collective labour agreement in place.

With the new law, the length of leave for partners will increase to five days after the birth of a child from 1 January 2019 and up to five weeks from 1 July 2020. If an employee wishes to use this leave, they are also entitled to receive 70% of their salary for that period. The aim behind this new law is to ensure that parental leave is longer, as well as more regulated for mothers and their partners (male or female). [1]

Growing economy not reflected in jobs for people with disabilities

The economy has picked up and is growing in the Netherlands, benefiting both the labour market and jobseekers. Some sectors and their companies even face the situation of having too many vacancies to fill and being unable to find suitable candidates. Around 96% of Dutch households are expected to see an increase in their purchasing power in 2019 [2], although some social groups remain more vulnerable and require support from policymakers. These include the elderly, migrants and people with disabilities.[3]

People with disabilities have been the subject of policy debate at a political level for the better part of 2018. Despite the introduction of the Participation Act (Participatiewet), which was put into effect in 2015 to make the provision of social security and employment subsidies and allowances easier, it has become apparent that there are still high levels of administrative complexity and skewed incentives when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

Around half of those people with disabilities who are willing to work did not have a job as of September 2018. To address this, State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment Tamara van Ark presented a new series of measures that the government will be working towards in the coming years to improve access to employment for people with disabilities.

These measures include more support for job matching between employers and employees, simpler rules for companies surrounding the number of jobs they must provide for people with disabilities, more logical and straightforward rules for young people with disabilities who want to work or study, and a more profitable and logical approach to subsidising employers who hire people with disabilities. [4] These measures have been developed based on consultations with social partners, client organisations, local municipalities and other experts in order to better support the target group. [5]

Some specific measures have been developed for young people with disabilities. Currently they (and older people) lose their disability subsidy if they start working or studying. The proposed measures include allowing young people to benefit financially if they chose to work or study, ensuring they receive their disability subsidy for a longer period of time if they lose their job, providing better support to help them find a job to being with, and allowing them to keep their disability subsidy should they want to enter tertiary education.[6]

A summer of strikes

The summer of 2018 was characterised by a number of large-scale strikes from public transport workers, postal service workers, primary school teachers, police staff and pilots. While the exact reasons for the strikes varied per sector, the overarching complaints were that the pressure of work exceeded the level of compensation, and that this pressure meant working conditions were being compromised. Employees demanded a review of the working conditions specified in their respective labour market agreements.

Commentary

The third quarter in the Netherlands was characterised by political and policy-related discussions regarding people with disabilities and employment. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment proposed a series of measures to make it easier and more profitable for both employers and people with disabilities – particularly young people – to work. The coming months will reveal which of these measures receive enough support from social partners, stakeholders, public authorities and politicians to come into force.

Another feature of third quarter was the high number of strikes across sectors, particularly in the public sector. Barring any significant changes to the level of working pressure within these professions, or financial injections, it seems unlikely that these labour disputes will be resolved in the near future.

 

[1] Rijksoverheid (2018), Koolmees: meer verlof voor partner bij geboorte baby , 2 October.

[2] Rijksoverheid (2018), In 2019 profiteert vrijwel iedereen van bloeiende economie , 18 September.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rijksoverheid (2018), Offensief voor werk voor mensen met arbeidsbeperking , 7 July.

[6] Rijksoverheid (2018), Stimulans Wajongers die willen werken of studeren , 10 July.

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