international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Netherlands: Revised Guide on Combating Sexual Harassment: Cultural Change in the Workplace

On 13 March, Government Commissioner Mariëtte Hamer released the “Guide on Workplace Culture Change” for organizations dealing with sexual misconduct in the workplace. This guide is a follow-up to the earlier prototype, “Guide on Sexual Misconduct,” published last year. Commissioner Mariëtte Hamer aims to focus on workplace culture change in the updated guide to prevent and address sexual misconduct in the workplace.


Guide to Workplace Culture Change

The revised version of the guide builds upon the previous guide, “Guide on Sexual Misconduct.” This updated version places even greater emphasis than its predecessor on prevention and creating lasting cultural change in the workplace.


Three pillars of cultural change

The guide identifies three essential pillars of cultural change. These pillars, which are closely related to addressing sexual misconduct, together form the foundation for developing a socially safe culture within the organization. The three pillars of culture change include: (1) Social interaction culture—the set of behaviors, norms, values, and images shared within a particular group; (2) Organizational culture—the way the organization is structured and other arrangements or practices that create risk factors for sexual misconduct within the organization; and (3) Supportive system—the set of measures designed to prevent and address sexual misconduct, such as the proper handling of reports.


Strategy for prevention and management

The guide provides a structured approach to prevent and address sexual misconduct in the workplace. It emphasizes a thorough risk analysis based on the three pillars mentioned above. It highlights the necessity of clearly defining responsibilities within roles and tasks. Crafting a comprehensive action plan is crucial, followed by ensuring effective communication of this plan throughout the organization.


Managing reports

Chapter 6 of the guide outlines a structured 5-step approach for organizations to address reports, emphasizing the imperative nature of action over inaction:

  • Assess both the report and its contextual nuances.
  • Inform the accused party and consider temporary measures.
  • Explore follow-up actions and develop a comprehensive plan.
  • Ensure effective communication with all relevant stakeholders.
  • Emphasize action over inaction throughout the entire process.



The decision-making panel, responsible for handling the complaint as described in the guide, may determine that additional information and clarity are necessary to prevent and address sexual misconduct. In such cases, the organization may conduct a fact-finding inquiry to thoroughly investigate the report. In addition, the organization could investigate social dynamics and support structures through a cultural or systemic investigation.



In conclusion, Commissioner Mariëtte Hamer’s updated guide, “Guide on Workplace Culture Change,” is a useful tool in addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace. Emphasizing prevention and culture change, it provides a structured framework based on three key pillars: social interaction culture, organizational culture, and supportive systems. By providing clear strategies for risk assessment, reporting, and investigation, the guide enables organizations to foster transparent communication and accountability. Ultimately, it empowers workplaces to promote safety and inclusivity and provides valuable guidance to employers.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel:

  • Ensure effective execution of strategies for addressing sexual misconduct by utilizing the updated guide on workplace culture change.
  • Conduct a thorough risk analysis based on the three pillars to gain clear insights into potential risks.
  • Ensure that reports are appropriately addressed and managed, adhering to established procedures to handle each case effectively and responsibly.
  • If needed, initiate further investigation to gather additional information and insight.