ACCESS NL > Dual careers in the Netherlands > Working in the Netherlands > Employment contracts > What is a CAO (collective labour agreement)?
Does Dutch employment law apply to me?
Dutch employment law applies to you fully or partially, even if you have moved to The Netherlands with an expatriate employment contract governed by the law of your home country or if you are working for an international organisation.
What is a CAO (collective labour agreement)?
Most companies and organisations participate in a collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst – CAO (collective labour agreement). This is a written agreement between one or more employers and one or more trade unions about the labour conditions for all employees, such as wages, payment for extra work, working hours, probation period, pension, education and childcare.
The provisions in a CAO are often more favourable than those prescribed by law, but they may not contradict the law.
If there is no CAO, you need an individual agreement with your employer about the work conditions, preferably in writing. The rules set out in the law are the basis for this agreement, that is, the employment contract.
How do I know that my contract is in accordance with Dutch law?
You can contact the UWV with questions about your employment contract. You can also use the free legal services of ‘Het Juridischloket’, www.hetjuridischloket.nl.
Which information is usually included in an employment contract?
Any employment contract should include:
- Name and address of employer and employee and where you will be working
- Job title and job description
- Start/end dates. Contracts can be of fixed length (will include start and end dates) or indeterminate length (contract end with notice)
- Trial period – proeftijd (if any). If the contract is for more than six months but less than two years, the trial period is generally one month (unless agreed otherwise in the CAO). The maximum is two months
- Number of hours of work
- Overtime expectations
- Salary and compensation
- Holiday leave
- Pension contributions
- Social security contributions
- Coverage of additional expenses (e.g. public transport)
- Notice for termination for both you and your employer
It is important to carefully check all the conditions of your employment contract before signing.
I want to know whether or not the employers in the Netherlands are obliged to pay a majority of the employee’s travel to work expenses, and if they're not, is there a way I can claim it back in taxes?
It is not compulsory, but most companies in The Netherlands reimburse employee’s costs for commuting to work. In the collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst – CAO (collective labour agreement), company regulations or in your work contract you can find the applicable rules.
If you take your own car or bicycle to work, your employer can reimburse €0.19 cents per kilometre. These costs are not deductible from your income for tax purposes.
Travel costs are tax deductible if you receive insufficient or no reimbursement from your employer under the following conditions:
- you use public transport to and from work with both addresses being in the Netherlands
- you travel more than 10 km one way
- you have a declaration from the transportation provider (openbaar vervoer verklaring – OV-verklaring) or from your employer (reisverklaring) as proof that you have used public transport. Bear in mind that you should keep any paper tickets that you have used to travel to and from work
You can find an overview of all your trips and the costs at ov-chipkaart.nl (you can change the language to English at the top right of the website). This overview is kept for 18 months.
If you are unsure of what situation applies to you, visit the Belastingdienst website for more information on where to apply for the openbaarvervoerverklaring or reisverklaring. This will depend on the ticket you use (in Dutch only):
Please note that you cannot claim a deduction if the employer bought the tickets for you. If your travel expenses have partially been covered by your employer, you can only claim the part that has not been covered.
What are my legal rights and obligations when I have a temporary employment contract?
A temporary contract has a start date and an end date. The contract will end on the agreed date, though the employer is required to inform you in writing if the contract will be renewed at least one month before the end date. We strongly advise you to make sure that you get a contract in writing, although a verbal agreement is also valid in the Netherlands. The employer is obliged to inform you in writing of the main items covered in the contract within one month after the start of the contract. Within legal limits, both employers and employees are free to decide what will be covered by the contract.
Proeftijd (trial period)
A trial period is a common part of a temporary contract with an employer. The trial period applies for both parties and must be agreed in writing. If the duration of the temporary contract is less than two years, the maximum trial period is one month. Exceptions can only be made when a Collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst – CAO (collective labour agreement) applies. The legal maximum trial period for a permanent contract or a temporary contract of two or more years is two months, with no possibility of extension. Temporary contracts of six months or less cannot have trial periods. Also, a trial period is not valid if the employee is carrying out work that he or she has previously done elsewhere in the company. You can be dismissed during your trial period. Your employer does not need to give a reason. You also have the right to quit your job without notice or explanation during the trial period, since the trial period goes both ways.
An employer is not allowed to include a non-compete clause in a temporary contract. A rare exception can be made if the employer can prove a compelling business interest. This reason should be explicitly mentioned in the contract, along with a statement on the context in which the non-compete clause would apply.
Term of notice
A temporary labour contract will end automatically and legally on the date agreed. For temporary contracts of six months or more, the employer must notify the employee in writing whether the contract will be renewed, and under what terms and conditions, at least one month before the temporary contract is set to end. The situation changes if one party wants to end the contract before the agreed date. In this case, the option for termination of the contract before the final date must be part of the contract. If the employer wants to end the contract before the date agreed, he or she needs to follow a legal dismissal procedure. You should contact the UWV Werkbedrijf for further information.
Repeated contracts with the same employer
When you have had three consecutive contracts with the same employer, the fourth contract is automatically a permanent contract, unless there has been a period of at least six months between the three contracts. If you have had a chain of temporary contracts, with less than six months between them, from an employer for 24 months or more, your contract automatically converts into a permanent one.
What are my legal rights and obligations when I have a permanent employment contract?
The most important difference between a temporary and a permanent contract is that a permanent contract has no end date. This means there is no indication of any intention to limit the duration of the contract, such as “for the duration of the project”. Hence, and unlike temporary contracts, there is no mention of an end date in a permanent contract. Also the “term of notice” will be different for a permanent contract, since your legal position is different. The differences for terminating a permanent labour contract are explained below:
- A permanent employment contract can be ended by one of the parties. The legal terms of notice need to be respected.
- The rules are different for employers and employees. The employee has the legal right to end the contract without a procedure but he or she must respect the legal and agreed period, which is usually a minimum of one month’s notice.
- Both employer and employee have the right to go to court and ask to end the permanent labour contract.
What are my legal rights and obligations when I have an employment contract with an employment agency?
The contract with an uitzendbureau (employment agency) differs fundamentally from a contract with an employer. The employment agency is your legal employer while you work in a company that hires you from the employment agency. In particular, your protection against dismissal during a certain temporary period is not regulated. On the other hand, both you and the company you are working for can terminate your employment at any given time during the agreed employment period. Uitzendbureaus have their own CAO (Collective Labour Agreement).
There is a Wet allocatie arbeidskrachten door intermediairs (Allocation of Workers by Intermediaries Act) that regulates issues related to uitzendbureaus. For example:
- Uitzendbureaus are prohibited from deducting any amount from an employee’s salary for the service of providing temporary work
- Uitzendbureaus must inform temporary workers in writing about the working conditions at the place of work in advance
Please note that a werving- en selectiebureau (employment/recruitment agency) is not the same as an uitzendbureau. If a placement is via an uitzendbureau, then the person works via the agency for the duration of the assignment, whereas with recruitment, you work for the company straight away and the agency receives a fee.
What are my legal rights and obligations when I have an on-call contract?
An oproepkracht (on-call employee) only comes to work when called upon to do so. The rules that apply depend on the type of contract. For instance, there are rules with on payment when no work is available, minimum hours guarantee or minimum wages for hours worked.
Types of on-call contracts:
- On a nulurencontract (Zero-hour contract) the oproepkracht is required to work when called upon and is paid for the actual hours worked, but must be paid for a minimum of three hours
- On a min-maxcontract (minimum- and maximum-hour contract) you have guaranteed working hours. The employee is required to work at least a minimum number of hours, weekly, monthly or annually. During peak periods, employers and employees may agree upon extra hours. Guaranteed hours, even if there is no work, are always paid
On-call employees are entitled to continued pay during sickness as well as when their employer temporarily cannot offer work. How much and for how long depends on their type of contact.
Employers can exclude the right to continued pay for a maximum of six months when they cannot provide their on-call employees with work. The CAO may state otherwise. Find more information about on-call employees at: business.gov.nl/regulation/on-call-employees.
I have some legal issues with my employment contract. Where can I get a legal assistance?
If you cannot clarify any legal issues you may have regarding your contract with your employer, you can seek information and advice at het Juridisch Loket (the legal advice office) free of charge. If they conclude that you need professional legal assistance, they may be able to give you some suggestions. Het Juridisch Loket has offices in 30 locations throughout the country. The list is on their website as well as the contact details. It is possible to send an email by filling in the online form (in Dutch only).
It is good to know that individual labour disputes in the private sector are generally dealt with by a single District court judge. Individual labour disputes in the public sector are regulated by administrative law and dealt with by an administrative court. Labour law is an intricate and complex field subject to changes. Dutch labour law is protective of the employee’s rights. It is advisable to consult legal professionals when issues or disputes arise.
What are the rules for dismissal?
A temporary employment contract ends on an agreed date or during a trial period. In both cases, there is no dismissal procedure.
An employer must have good reasons to dismiss you when you have a permanent contract. You can be dismissed:
- For (business) economic reasons, such as when a reorganisation takes place or a company closes down or relocates. This could include part of the company’s activities being closed down
- If you do not perform well or are no longer suitable for the job. However, you cannot be dismissed if this is the result of illness. Note: your employer must have repeatedly pointed out that you are not performing or have performed insufficiently, preferably in an appraisal or performance interview. You must be given time to improve your performance
- If there is a conflict with your employer and the relation between you and your employer is beyond repair
- If you have serious conscientious objections to your duties and your employer is not able to offer you a different job or suitable work
- If you are long-term occupationally disabled
- For improper conduct, for example, if you forge certificates, threaten colleagues, endanger yourself or others or if you do not observe the duty of confidentiality
- If you steal, commit fraud, refuse work without good reason or come to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs (summary termination)
- If you and your employer mutually agree to the dismissal
There are a number of restrictions for dismissal. You cannot be dismissed on the grounds of your gender or when you are pregnant. Your employer can only dismiss you:
- When he has a dismissal permit from the UWV Werkbedrijf.
- If he goes to court to dissolve your employment contract.
- In case of summary termination.
- During your trial period, or
- With your consent.
The employer needs permission for dismissal and has two options depending on the reasons for dismissal: via a district or cantonal court, if the working relationship is damaged, or the UWV, in case of economic reasons or illness. However, in case of summary termination, the employment contract ends with immediate effect. Your employer does not need permission from the UWV Werkbedrijf. He or she must immediately tell you why you have been dismissed.
If you have been dismissed, your employer must observe a period of notice, so you should be told in advance that you will be dismissed. The period of notice is often mentioned in your contract or CAO. If not, the following periods of notice should be observed:
- If you were working with the employer less than five years: one month
- If you were working with the employer between five and ten years: two months
- If you were working with the employer between 10 and 15 years: three months
- If you were working with the employer 15 years or more: four months
You can also agree with your employer that you will stop work immediately. You must both consent to this. If you resign, you must observe a notice period of one month. Your employment contract may state otherwise, provided it is in writing.
What are the official public holiday in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands has very few public holidays. Whether you are free from work on these days depends on the agreements made between employers and employees in the CAO (collaborative labour agreement) or those in your employment contract.
The Netherlands has one national holiday:
- Koningsdag (King’s Birthday)
In addition, there are a number of generally-observed public holidays:
- Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day)
- Tweede paasdag (Easter Monday)
- Hemelvaartsdag (Ascension Day)
- Pinksteren (Whit Monday)
- Eerste kerstdag (Christmas Day)
- Tweede kerstdag (Boxing Day)
What vacations am I entitled to in the Netherlands?
Every employee in the Netherlands is entitled to vacation with full pay. The right to vacation days is built up during the course of a year. The minimum number of vacation days to which you are entitled after one year is four times the agreed number of days you work each week (usually 4 x 5 = 20 days). If you have not yet been employed for one year by an employer, your vacation days will be calculated proportionately.
You will receive full pay during your vacation. In addition, you are entitled to a minimum vacation allowance. The vacation allowance is payable by your employer and is paid at least once a year (usually in May). Your employer must specify the amount of your vacation allowance on payment. The vacation allowance amounts to 8% of your income in money (basic wage, bonuses and allowances).
The CAO (collaborative labour agreement) might include other agreements about the number of vacation days, the payment and the amount of the vacation allowance.
Legal vacation entitlements can be saved up to six months. Any extra vacation entitlements (e.g. if you are entitled to more than the minimum number of vacation days) can be saved up to 5 years. It is also possible for an employee to exchange vacation days for money from the employer, but neither the employer nor the employee can force the other into such an arrangement.
Which possibilities are available for special leave?
Employees in the Netherlands are not only entitled to fully-paid vacation days, but also to several kinds of special leave such as:
- Emergency leave
- Parental leave
- Adoption leave
- Paternity leave
- Pregnancy and maternity leave
- Extraordinary leave
- Short-term compassionate leave
- Long-term compassionate leave
The sections below describe the legal regulations. A CAO may well have better regulations. Some types of special leave are fully-paid, while some others are unpaid.
Calamiteitenverlof (emergency leave )
You can take emergency leave when you suddenly and unexpectedly need to take time off, for example when the water mains in your house burst or your child becomes ill. The period should be reasonable, so the length depends on why it is needed. In some cases, a few hours will be enough; in other cases you might need a few days. During the emergency leave, your employer will continue to pay your salary.
Ouderschapsverlof (parental leave)
You are entitled to parental leave when you have been working for the same employer for at least one year and are caring for a child who is younger than eight. Both parents are entitled to parental leave. If you have more children, you may take parental leave for each child separately. You are also entitled to parental leave for your adopted children, foster children or stepchildren, provided the child is living with you. You can take up to 26 weeks parental leave up to your child’s 8th birthday. It is compulsory to take 9 weeks in the first year. These 9 weeks are paid for maximum 70% up to a maximum amount. The remaining weeks will be unpaid.
Adoptieverlof (adoption leave)
You are entitled to adoption leave when you adopt a child. Both parents can take adoption leave. When you adopt more than one child at the same time, you can only take adoption leave once. When you foster children, you can also take adoption leave.
You may take adoption leave between two weeks before and sixteen weeks after the adoption. The maximum leave is four weeks, in which you will receive an allowance that matches your salary, up to the maximum amount.
Kraamverlof or vaderschapsverlof (paternity leave)
After your partner has given birth, you are entitled to two days of paternity leave and since 1 January 2015 you are also entitled to extra 3 days leave to support your partner. This leave is paid.
Zwangerschaps en bevallingsverlof (pregnancy and maternity leave )
Pregnant employees are entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave for at least sixteen weeks. The period of leave depends on the due date and on the date the baby is actually born. You can take pregnancy leave from six weeks before the date the baby is due but it should start no later than four weeks before the baby is due. After giving birth you are always entitled to at least ten weeks of maternity leave, even if the baby is born later than it was due. A few examples:
- You stopped work six weeks before the baby was due. The baby is born one week early. You will then have five weeks of pregnancy leave and eleven weeks of maternity leave, totalling sixteen weeks of leave
- You stopped work six weeks before the baby was due. The baby is born two weeks after it was due. You are then entitled to eight weeks of leave before giving birth and ten weeks thereafter, totalling eighteen weeks of leave
- You stopped work four weeks before the baby was due. The baby is born two weeks after it was due. You are then entitled to six weeks of leave before giving birth and twelve weeks thereafter, totalling eighteen weeks of leave.
During your leave, you will receive an allowance which matches your salary up to a maximum amount.
Buitengewoon verlof (extraordinary leave) – not covered by labour law
In some situations, you can request paid leave for special circumstances that are not covered in labour law. Although this category of leave is not part of labour law, it is often part of a CAO, work contract, or company regulations. Ask HR or your employer what the possibilities are to take the following extraordinary leave.
- Marriage – When you get married, you have the right to paid leave for two to four days. The number of days depends on your CAO. The four days of leave can be split when you are having a civil wedding and a church wedding on different dates. When you register for ondertrouw (marriage license), you are usually entitled to a paid leave day. Again, this is dependent on your CAO. You have the right to one paid leave day for the marriage of a member of your immediate family. This also applies for extended family members.
- Major Wedding Anniversary – You have the right to one paid leave day for your own wedding anniversary as well as for the wedding anniversary of your parents, parents-in-law, and adoptive parents. This only applies to the 25th, 40th, 50th, and 60th wedding anniversaries.
- Moving – You generally get two paid leave days to move, but this can vary according to your CAO.
Kortdurend zorgverlof (short-term compassionate leave )
You are entitled to short-term compassionate leave if you have to look after a parent, a sick child who lives at home or your partner, but only if you are the only person who is able to provide the care at that time. Unlike your partner and child, it is not necessary for your parent or parents to be registered at your address. You are also entitled to short-term compassionate leave to look after your adopted child, your step child or foster child if he or she is ill, providing he or she lives with you and a foster care contract has been signed.
Every twelve months, you are entitled to no more than twice the number of hours you work in one week. For example, if you work 36 hours a week, you can take up to 72 hours short-term compassionate leave every twelve months. During any short-term compassionate leave that you take, you will continue to receive at least seventy per cent of your salary from your employer.
Langdurig zorgverlof (long-term compassionate leave )
You are entitled to long-term compassionate leave when you are employed and you are caring for your partner, child or parent who has a life-threatening illness. Life-threatening means that the life of the person concerned is, in the short term, at serious risk. Every year you are entitled to long-term compassionate leave for a period of up to twelve weeks, during which you are allowed to reduce the number of hours you work to at most half of your usual working hours. You will not receive wages for the number of hours that you are taking as long-term compassionate leave.