Living and working in the Netherlands

19 Maj 2022

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 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 are the EU’s policy priorities for a European Green Deal, a digital future, an economy that works for people, promoting and strengthening European democracy. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU leaders have also agreed on a recovery plan that will lead the way out of the crisis and lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU’s long-term budget, coupled with NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost the recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe. 

The European Semester provides a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU. It allows Member States to discuss their economic and budget plans and monitor progress at specific times throughout the year. For 2022, the European Semester resumes it broad economic and employment policy coordination, while further adapting in line with the implementation requirements of  the Recovery and Resilience Facility. As part of this, Member States are encouraged to submit national reform programmes and stability/convergence programmes that will set out their economic and fiscal policy plans, as in previous Semester cycles. The main change in the 2022 cycle will be that the national reform programme will play a dual role. Besides its role for the European Semester, it will also fulfil one of the two bi-annual reporting requirements of Member States under the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

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, 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-survey, Living, 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. Five rounds of the survey have been carried out to date: in April 2020 when most Member States were in lockdown, in July 2020 when society and economies were slowly reopening, in March 2021 as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown and vaccine rollout, a panel survey in October/November 2021 to track developments since the start of the pandemic, and in March–May 2022, charting the latest developments and looking at how life has changed over the past two years. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, democracy and trust, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, the quality of public services, support measures and vaccinations during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are 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 the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 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

Wilm Geurts 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


  • Avtor: Robbert van het Kaar, Amber van der Graaf
  • Institution: Consortium AIAS University of Amsterdam (UvA)/TNO, Panteia
  • Published on: sreda, Avgust 11, 2021

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 2021

Highlights – Working life in 2021

Author: Thomas de Winter, Jacqueline Snijders
Institution: Panteia
Highlights updated on: 19 May 2022
Working paper: Netherlands: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2021

The year 2021 started and ended in lockdown. During the year, the general teleworking advice was to work from home if possible, with some exceptions after the summer (maximum 2 days a week at the office). The teleworking infrastructure was already in place before COVID-19 and almost 100% of the population has internet access. Teleworking did not lead to many complications. There was little discussion on vaccination requirements at work, as Parliament was not open to discuss it and the new government was not yet formed. The booster campaign started relatively late as the municipal health services (GGD), mostly relying on flexible workers, had to be organised again in combination with carrying out large amounts of COVID-tests. By the end of December, most people over 60 had received a booster and all people over the age of 18 had received an invitation to make an appointment. During 2021, demonstrations were organised, sometimes in combination with riots, against the COVID-19 measures in general and/or the closure of certain sectors. The focus in 2022 will be on encouraging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and people under 60 to get a booster.

Economic development in 2021 was very good and the prospects for 2022 are similar, although the labour market will have to deal with several problems: labour shortages caused by mobilising (young) flexible workers from the catering and retail sectors to delivery services and medical services, the large numbers of workers infected and/or in quarantine, and the lack of workers with the necessary skills. The COVID-19 support package is expected to be extended where needed.

In January 2022, the new government took office and the new coalition agreement will be the guideline for future policies. Despite the low unemployment rate, about 28% of the population is financially vulnerable. In addition, work is changing due to digitalisation, robotisation and globalisation. The coalition agreement includes a major restructuring of the labour market, improving the livelihoods of people with low and middle incomes and reducing taxes. The report of the Employment Regulation Committee (Borstlap Committee) and the chapter on ‘Labour market, income distribution and equal opportunities’ will be the guideline. The system of income allowances for citizens in need and the tax system will be simplified and measures will be taken to reduce the poverty trap. The minimum wage will increase on a step-by-step basis, bogus self-employment will be avoided, and a disability insurance for all self-employed will be introduced. The infrastructure to boost work-to-work and benefit-to-work transitions will be expanded through the development of retraining and upskilling tools and through learning rights. The measures will be developed in close cooperation with the social partners. Furthermore, policies will be introduced, for example, in relation to the position in the labour market of people with disabilities and in long-term welfare, and the employer’s payment during the second year of illness of employees. A major change will be that reimbursement of childcare costs for working parents will be increased to 95%. Further attention will be paid to gender equality and improving the share of women in leadership positions.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Netherlands




% (point) change 2012 –2019

% (point) change 2019 –2020










GDP per capita









Unemployment rate – total





-2.4 pp




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 2012–2020 (both based on sdg_08_10). Unemployment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–74 years, % active population) and youth (15–24 years) % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–64 years, unit % total population, employment indicator active population) % [lfsi_emp_a].



Economic and labour market context

From 2012 to 2019, GDP per capita in the Netherlands grew with 9.2%, compared to an 11.5% increase in average GDP across the EU27. Unemployment figures across all categories remained below EU averages at 3.4% for both men and women. For youth workers the unemployment rate was higher in the Netherlands at 6.7% in 2019, compared to the average EU youth unemployment rate of 15%. Employment for men and women increased between 2012 and 2019 by 1.2pp and 2.7pp respectively, while youth employment increased by 0.8pp. In 2020, the pandemic caused a 4.3% decrease in GDP per capita, while unemployment remained stable, with only 2.4 pp increase. The most notable change was an increase in youth unemployment of 2.4 pp., above the 1.8 pp increase in EU27.

While unemployment has been declining (3.5% in 2018) and is now below the unemployment level observed during the crisis, the Dutch labour market is not without challenges. Characterized by high percentages of flexible contracts on the one hand, and permanent contracts on the other, the labour market is said to lack dynamism.

An added features 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).

In 2018 a law was negotiated and consulted on regarding how to balance the labour market. This law, Wet Arbeidsmarkt in Balans or WAB (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. Since January of 2020, the various regulations and laws under the WAB started to be implemented.

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 exist and 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 partner 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 2019, pension reform accord was reached after over a decade of discussion and policy negotiations by national social partners and the government. Discussions with the cabinet, Rutte III, had progressed over several years to the point that an agreement was reached, with the current cabinet making more concessions than planned in its Coalition Agreement.

Long-term sickness has long been a theme in the Netherlands. Not only because employers must pay this for up to two years if an employee becomes ill but also due to government and social partner concerns that solo self-employed do not build up social security or protection to long-term sickness, leaving them vulnerable. Social partners all agree this system 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 cited to be happy with this agreement and this step forward, which also works to help balancing 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 indicate 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 but also consider economic realities of a given sector when considering sectoral social policy issues

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). Furthermore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate is also a key player in working life policy as it is involved in policy making for specific sectors. Sectoral realties must also be included in policy making and as such, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment also join in regular tripartite meetings with social partners.

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 which 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 representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

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

The landscape has been more or less stable over the past decades, apart from the establishment in 2017 of a new trade union in the primary education sector, POinactie. This trade union started as a Facebook group and within a short space of time had 45,000 teachers as supporters. 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 as 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, direct communication with members and their needs, including the use of social media.

Trade union membership and trade union density








Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)






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

Trade union membership in 1000






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union membership in 1000




(no data for 2018)


Statistics Netherlands. 25–65 years.

Source: CBS, (last updated May 2020), Leden van vakverenigingen; geslacht en leeftijd, available at: StatLine ; CBS, (updated February 2021), Arbeidsdeelname; kerncijfers [selections made for correct population range]

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 which negotiate and consult on policy related to employment and the labour market. These are the FNV, the CNV, and the 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 too is made up of a series of sectoral branches within its organisation. Furthermore, some trade unions (ANBO, Unie and UOV) have joined the VCP.

There have been no major changes in the trade unions in the Netherlands. There is a trend however, of de-unionization, 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 which 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 (2019)

Involved in collective bargaining?

Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging


1 014,100 (15 to over 65 years of age)

794,200 (25 to 65 years of age)


Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond


235,700 (15 to over 65 years of age)

187,500 (25 to 65 years of age)


Vakcentrale voor professionals







188,200 (15 to over 65 years of age)

161,400 (25 to 65 years of age)


Source: CBS, (update May 2020), Leden van vakverenigingen; geslacht en leeftijd, available at: StatLine.

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. There do not appear to have been any recent stand-alone analyses on employer organisation membership in recent years either.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density








Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments






European Company Survey (ECS) 2013/ 2019

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. The 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


Approximately 185,000 enterprises.


Yes (through members and member organisations)

Koninklijke Vereniging MKB-Nederland




Yes (through members and member organisations)

Land en Tuibouworganisatie Nederland




Yes (through members and member organisations)

Source: VNO-NCW, (2021); MKB Nederland (2021); LTO (2021).

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 Labour Foundation ( 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. The Labour Foundation, along with the SER and its members, were also involved in the development of the new pension accord in 2019.

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. These bodies represent workers in a company regarding internal, enterprise specific activities and policies being considered by the management levels within an organisation.

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). Worker representations within an enterprise do not usually engage in social dialogue or collective labour negotiations though there are of course exceptions across sectors.

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)

Law on Workers Councils

(Wet op de ondernemingsraden)


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


Source: Wet op Ondernemingssraden, (updated in 2020), available at

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 for the public sector as a whole. There are, however, 15 subsector agreements (covering areas such as central government, regional government, municipal government, defence, and police, etc.), which are collective agreements.

Many sector agreements are declared generally binding by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment for all firms in the . More and more, sector agreements can be considered as framework agreements, which are then further elaborated on and implemented at enterprise level (either by the unions or by the works council). As a rule, after the expiry of a collective labour 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 who signed the agreement. The agreement is however, no longer universally binding for the sector if it has expired and while enterprises are in principle free to deviate from agreements, it is unclear to what degree that happens in practice.

Since the Covid-19 crisis started in early 2020, many fewer collective labour agreements have been negotiated. Those agreements that were made and which came into force in 2020 had often been negotiated during 2019 to start in 2020. Some collective labour agreements were frozen for 2020, with unions and employers agreeing to maintain the provisions of the officially expired collective labour 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 from different sources


% (year)


All levels

75.6 (2019)

2021 – OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database

All levels

79 (2013)

2013 - ECS

All levels

67 (2019)

2019 – ECS

All levels

100 (2010)

2010 – SES

All levels

n.a. (2014)

2014 – SES

All levels

79 (2018)

2018 – SES

All levels

79 (2015)

Statistics Netherlands (2015)

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2019 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-SxO), single answer for each local unit: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement – online dataset codes: [EARN_SES10_01], [EARN_SES14_01], [EARN_SES18_01] (Percentage of employees working in local units where more than 50% of the employees are covered under a collective pay agreement against the total number of employees in the scope of the survey); OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021; 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, which is cited by social partners as being approximately 80% across sectors, in large part due to the universally binding mechanism. 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. Laws on working time and minimum wages exist and these 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.

Levels of collective bargaining 2019


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

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

When a collective labour agreement comes to an end and it was declared universally or generally binding, only the signatory parties still adhere to the clauses until a new agreement is made. Other workers and employers in the sector may, in principle, deviate from the provisions until la new agreement is developed.

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.

As a general rule regarding derogation from collective labour agreements, employers may deviate from the collective labour agreement if this is somehow more favourable for one or more employees. Deviations from collective labour agreements which disadvantage one or more employees are not considered valid, (De Unie, no date).

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 3 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 not strike 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 for those 32 strikes which took place, they took place during or outside of the term of a collective labour agreement. In 2018 and 2019 there were 28 and 26 sectoral strikes respectively, representing a decrease in the number of strikes compared to 2017. However, in 2019 the number of people involved and the number of workdays lost were much higher than in 2017. Where in 2017, 32 strikes amounted to 306,300 lost working days involving 146,900 workers, the 26 strikes of 2019 led to 391,000 working days lost and involved 318,700 workers (CBS Statline, 2020).

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 publicized strikes throughout 2017 and 2018 were held over work pressure and remuneration. In the public transport sector, for police, postal workers, and primary school teachers, work pressure compared to the pay was a main theme. This trend continued in 2019, leading to large scale strikes in the healthcare sector (specifically for nurse and care workers), and for teachers and trainers in primary and secondary education.

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 have historically been less 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 2012–2019







Working days lost (x 1000)






Number of strikes






Source: Statistics Netherlands, CBS.

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. Since then, due to a few high-profile strikes for very large sectors (the aforementioned health care sector for instance), despite less strikes taking place, the number of labour days lost due to strikes reached new peak levels in 2019.

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 go be taken to court. This tends to start at the regional level, in a sub-district court (“kantonrechter” in Dutch). 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, and 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 this is up to the parties to the conflict. A certification system exists for private mediators. There is no quantitative information, but mediation is rarely applied. As indicated above, in cases where employers and employees cannot agree (such as on collective action and strikes), as well as individual disputes, 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 does 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: CBS, (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- to 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 2 years or more.

With the entry into force of the Law on a Balanced Labour Market (Wet Arbeidsmarkt in Balans, or WAB), in January 2020 some of the rules for dismissing workers have eased. Now it is possible for employers to cite a combination of reasons for dismissing a worker; this means that the employer does not need to prove one single reason but rather can cite less evidence across a series of reasons instead. This has the goal of making it easier to dismiss workers. Furthermore, the WAB includes changes to the transition compensation which workers receive if an employer dismisses them. Whereas transition compensation was previously built up after a given number of years for workers on permanent contracts, all workers can receive transition compensation. This amount is proportionate to the time spent with an employer and varies per individual employment situation.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The most recent change, as of July 2020, gives partners the option to extend their leave to five weeks for which they receive compensation of 70% of their 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 the number of 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, January 1st 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.

As of July 2020, partners of a mother who just gave birth can 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

Partner leave and additional partner leave

Maximum duration

Partner leave (for a person whose partner has given birth), is based on their working week. A partner gets one times the weekly working hours as defined in their employment contract. For instance, if a person works 5 days a week, with 8 hours per day, this would amount to 40 hours of partner leave. This leave must be used within four weeks of the birth of the child.

For additional partner leave, partners can receive up to 5 weeks of leave (5 times their weekly working hours). This leave has to be used within 6 months of a person’s partner giving birth.


70% of the maximum daily wage

Who pays?

Employer, government, and the national PES, the UWV.

Legal basis

Wet invoering extra geboorteverlof (as of July 2020).

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 an agreement was reached to change this system as this approach led to requirements which were notably difficult for SMEs to comply with. New legislation is be expected for 2019 and 2020.

In 2020 the government presented some adjustments regarding sick-leave. As of September 2020, the assessment by the company physician (Bedrijfsarts, a medical professional who provides medical assessments for workers at companies), on a person’s capacity to work has become the main criteria based on which the UWV bases its overall assessment on a person’s capacity and re-integration trajectory. Enterprises retain the right to ask for a second opinon as well. The UWV then assesses to which degree the re-integration plan aligns with the health situation of the worker in question. The idea is that this new approach offers more flexibility.

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 66 years and 4 months years in 2020 and 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 2015 to 2019. It was not possible to present wages for full-time workers only as the number of hours has no breakdown by gender.

Average monthly basic wages (excl. overtime) per worker, annual average, 2015–2019 (provisional)






















Agriculture, forestry and fishing










Mining and quarrying




















Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply










Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities




















Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles










Transportation and storage










Accommodation and food service activities










Information and communication










Financial and insurance activities










Real estate activities










Professional, scientific and technical activities










Administrative and support service activities










Public administration and defence; compulsory social security




















Human health and social work activities










Arts, entertainment and recreation










Other service activities









Source: CBS, (2019) - values taken for January 2019.

Minimum wages

There is a statutory minimum wage for employees in the Netherlands which is adjusted twice a year, as of January 1 and July 1, based on a set formula which incorporates the average wage developments as agreed in collective labour agreements. As of July 2019, people of 21 years of age and older receive 100% of the minimum wage level. The minimum working age in the Netherlands is 15, and between 15 and 20 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.

The statutory minimum wage for younger workers is set at a lower rate than the general statutory minimum wage. 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)




2018 *





€ 1,594.20


* Staatscourant (2018) Regeling van de Minister van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid van 9 mei 2018, 2018-00000811666, tot aanpassing wettelijk minimumloon per 1 juli 2018

Minimum wages per month (1 January), youth rate and percentage of adult rate

Age (years)

2015 – 2017

2018 *



% of adult rate

% of adult rate

% of adult rate

















































* Staatscourant (2018) Regeling van de Minister van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid van 9 mei 2018, 2018-00000811666, tot aanpassing wettelijk minimumloon per 1 juli 2018

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 which 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 per sector and the level of pay which 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 information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, 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 baseline and framework for stipulating the exact working time, shift duration, breaks, and rest-breaks which 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. The government stipulates that a full-time work week is between 36 and 40 hours and that the precise work week varies per sector. Collective labour agreements for a sector establish what is understood as a full-time work week. On average, collective agreements contain a 37.5-hour working week for full-time employees. By international standards, the average working week in the Netherlands is relatively short. This can to a large extent be explained by the high incidence of part-time work. This type of work is exceptionally common in the Netherlands.

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

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

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. The Working Time Act does not distinguish between regular working time and overtime, the legal maximum is 60 hours. That being said, the law makes a number of sectoral exceptions given that some sectors demand different types of working habits and hours.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. In 2019, 73.8% of women worked part-time compared to 24.3% of men in the Netherlands. In 2019, some 46.8% of all employees worked on a part-time basis, well abov the EU27 average of 17.8%.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 EU27 (% of total employment)








Total (EU27)







Total (Netherlands)







Women (EU27)







Women (Netherlands)







Men (EU27)







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 EU27 (% of total part-time employment)








Total (EU27)







Total (Netherlands)







Women (EU27)







Women (Netherlands)







Men (EU27)







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.

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. There is an understanding of shift work (“ploegendiensten”), as taking place within a time frame of 24 hours. The Working Times Act makes several exceptions for sectors concerning the length of a work shift and the length of time of night shifts.

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. As is the case with shift work, sectoral collective labour agreements can build upon these legal provisions and offer more breaks. Similarly, there are some sectors which are legally exempt from the normal legal working times and rest breaks.

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.

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 (one of the government agencies affiliated with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment).

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






Percent 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 According to Statistics Netherlands, the numbers are as follows:

Number of accidents at work leading to four or more days of leave (15 to 75 years of age)







All accidents






Based on the data provided by Statistics Netherlands there is an increase in the number of accidents at work that led to leave 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 of EU-OSHA in 2016 to highlight the issue and to initiative more preventative practices within employers. Bullying at work has also become an increasingly important subject of policy discussion throughout 2018, with cases arising and being covered in the media. The same applied to exposure to dangerous materials and a study was conducted on this topic in 2018, in combination an exploration of compliance by employers with labour law provisions relating to occupational health and safety. The study showed that employers tend to be intrinsically motivated to prevent accidents at work, more so than due to legal obligations. A full policy evaluation of the Ministry’s policies on OSH commenced in 2020 and has not yet been published.

For more detailed information on health and well-being at work, please consult:

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 follow education and training via these funds which reimburse or finance different degrees of 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.

Beyond organising skills and training through collective labour agreements, the Netherlands has a special institute which actively seeks to connect education institutions with applied study programmes and enterprises, in order to compile which skills are needed on the labour market and to embed those in educational curricula. This organisation is called the SBB, Samenwerkingsorganisatie Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven, which translates roughly as Technical Education and Business Collaboration.

It should also be noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social partners and government have acknowledged the importance of lifelong learning and updating skills. The crisis brought to light vulnerabilities in sectors and their labour forces due, for instance, to work coming to a standstill. The government has encouraged employers and workers to engage in training and skills development during the lockdown and made this a requirement for employers using state support in the later months of the pandemic. Both sectoral and peak-level social partners have also been encouraging and trying to implement more work-related skills training for workers and entrepreneurs alike as a result of the pandemic.


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 made redundant or if unable to perform his or her job. Employers may be entitled to deduct training and development costs from the new obligation to pay a transition payment to redundant employees where those costs were incurred to assist an employee obtain alternative employment.

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.

For more detailed information on work organisation, please consult:

Some research from recent years, relevant to this topic include:

Lizet krabbenborg en Femke Daalhuizen, (2016), De geografie van het werken in Nederland verandert, available at:

FEPS, UNI Europa, University of Hertfordshire, (2017),Work in the European gig economy: Research results from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy , available at:

Schaufeli, W. B., (2015), Van burnout naar bevlogenheid: Werk en welbevinden in Nederland, available at:

WRR, (2017), Voor de zekerheid de toekomst van flexibel werkenden en de moderne organisatie van arbeid , available at:

TNO and CBS, (2019), Nationale Enquête Arbeidsomstandigheden 2019 - Resultaten in Vogelvlucht, available at:

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

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. On top of this, the Minister recognises that discrimination can take place sub-consciously, and is also discussing a policy programme to help address this aspect of discrimination.

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.

As part of 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 for this, the Job Agreement Act (Wet Banenafspraak) 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 quota regulation component of the Job Agreement Act, 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.

In 2019, discussions also took place regarding the number of women in higher professions such as board members of higher level managers, CEOs, etc. The government and social partners reflected on the likelihood of achieving the goal of having 30% of higher positions being covered by women. This issue has been on and off the policy agenda for several years, but discussions came to a head once more in 2019 after formal advice from the Social and Economic Council regarding a quota. Furthermore, not only the government but also social partners, from both worker and employer sides, cited their support for stricter measures to stimulate better participation and representation of women in higher positions (AD, 2019). The reason for this support is that having a goal (streefcijfer) of 30% was clearly not making enough difference and this was acknowledged across social partners and the government. In 2021, a legislative proposal was sent to Parliament to make a women’s quota a more concrete requirement and this was accepted (NOS, 2021).


Bibliography (2019), Waarom we in Nederland een vrouwenquotum nodig hebben, available at:

CBS, (2017), Ontslagen via rechter of UWV dalen met een kwart,

CBS, (2019), Werkgelegenheid; banen, lonen, SBI2008 per maand,,5-9,12-17,19-20,23-25,27-28&D4=144&HDR=T&STB=G1,G2,G3&VW=T

CBS Statline, (2020), Werkstakingen: geschillen, verloren arbeidsdagen, werknemers; bedrijfstak, available at: .

De Unie, (no date), Mag mijn werkgever afwijken van de cao? , available at:

Eurofound (2020a), Industrial relations: Developments 2015–2019 , Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurofound (2020b), Minimum Wages in 2020: Annual review , Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound (2020c), Collective agreements and bargaining coverage in the EU: A mapping of types, regulations and first findings from the European Company Survey 2019, working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2020d), Employee representation at establishment or company level: A mapping report ahead of the 4th European Company Survey, working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2021), Working conditions and sustainable work: An analysis using the job quality framework , Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound and Cedefop (2020), European Company Survey 2019: Workplace practices unlocking employee potentia l , European Company Survey 2019 series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurostat, LFS ad-hoc modules: 2019. Work organisation and working time arrangements . Eurostat database.

Eurostat, Part-time employment and temporary contracts - quarterly data [lfsi_pt_q]. Eurostat database.

Eurostat (2011), GDP per capita varied by more than six to one across the EU in 2010 Statistics in focus, 64/2011, Luxembourg.

Eurostat (2015), GDP per capita, consumption per capita and price level indices , Statistics Explained, 16 June.

LTO, (2021), LTO Nederland, available at:

MKB Nederland (2021), Over het lidmaatschap, available at:,ruim%20170.000%20leden%20is%20sectoroverschrijdend

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

NOS, (2021), 'Wet voor meer vrouwen in de bedrijfstop had beperkt effect', available at: .

OECD (2021), OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database , version: 17 Feb 2021, Paris

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.

Staatcourant (2018) Regeling van de Minister van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid van 9 mei 2018, 2018-00000811666, tot aanpassing wettelijk minimumloon per 1 juli 2018,

VNO-NCW, (2021), Wie zijn we en wat doet VNO-NCW, available at:

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