Flexibility and security bill adopted by First Chamber of Parliament

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In May 1998 the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament adopted the "flexibility and security" bill, which will fundamentally amend Dutch dismissals law when it comes into force at the beginning of 1999. The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment is also in agreement with the First Chamber's wish to set up a committee to advise the Government about the future of dismissals law.

The Government's bill on "flexibility and security" (flexibiliteit en zekerheid) was debated in the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on 28 April 1998. All parties except the Social Democrats (PvdA) felt that the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment had not been generous enough in relation to some of the provisions of the new legislation. In addition, some groups in the First Chamber voiced their disappointment about the Minister's lack of interest in setting up an independent committee of specialists - drawn from a wide range of political parties - to advise the Government on reforming the current legislation on dismissal. The goal is to arrive at a modern, transparent and effective set of rules to correspond with current international developments. However, when it finally became clear to the Minister that the First Chamber would postpone the debate on the bill, he gave in to the demand to set up a committee, to report in 2000. The bill was adopted by the First Chamber on 12 May 1998.

Since its publication in March 1997 (NL9706116F), the "flexicurity" bill has come under heavy attack from legal practitioners and theorists due to its alleged vagueness, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Nevertheless, by the end of 1997, a majority in the Second Chamber was willing to adopt the law once the Minister had addressed some technical problems.

The bill is the result of an agreement between the social partners and a recommendation from the Labour Foundation (Stichting van de Arbeid, STAR). It aims to strike a balance between a flexible labour market on the one hand and job security on the other. To this end, it proposes several changes to existing dismissals law. The most important of these include:

  • shortening notice periods;
  • introducing a clear system of bans on dismissal;
  • differentiating maximum probationary periods by the type of employment contract;
  • identifying the contract between a temporary employment agency and the temporary worker as an employment contract; and
  • easing regulations for terminating fixed-term contracts. Fixed-term contracts can now be renewed twice without a notice period up to a maximum of three years.

The adoption of the bill by the First Chamber before the formation of the new Government (which is currently taking place) was crucial to the Minister. He called it "the most groundbreaking effort of my time". The flexibility and security law will come into force on 1 January 1999.

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