Minimum Working Conditions
The Working Conditions Act (in Dutch: Arbeidsomstandighedenwet) contains the most general provisions and requirements regarding working conditions and stipulates that an employer and employee are jointly liable in supporting health, safety and wellness in the work place. The employer has to set up a working conditions policy within the company. The employer must, among other things, prevent sickness and any danger to the health of employees and make an effort to reintegrate sick employees in the working process. The employer is required to use the services of a working-conditions service, an institution that assists the employer in the overview and evaluation of the risks, assists sick employees, advises the employer on reintegration of sick employees, and more.
In principle, employer and employee are free to agree to the wages to which an employee shall be entitled. However, the Act on Minimum Wages and Minimum Holiday Allowances (in Dutch: Wet minimumloon en minimumvakantiebijslag) contains certain minimum wages and minimum holiday allowances, which are normally adjusted each year. A collective labour agreement, if applicable, may also contain salary scales that are binding on individual employees.
Maximum Working Week
The legislation on working hours and working conditions is based on the Working Hours Act (in Dutch: Arbeidstijdenwet). The number of working hours depends upon the sector of industry and the kind of labour performed. In general, an employee is only allowed to work a maximum of 12 hours per day, for a maximum of 60 hours per week. Over a period of 4 weeks the maximum number of working hours is 55 per week. Over a period of 16 weeks the maximum number of working hours is 48 hours per week. The arrangements on working hours included in an individual employment contract, which are not in conformity with the Working Hours Act, can be declared null and void. The Working Hours Decree (in Dutch: Arbeidstijdenbesluit) provides exceptions and additional measures for certain industries (inter alia the care sector).
There is no specific Dutch legislation on compensation for working overtime. Whether overtime will have to be compensated should follow from what was agreed to in the employment contract, supplemented by the employee handbook or established in a Collective Labour Agreement (if applicable). Even supposing that these prescribed sources are altogether silent with regards to compensating employees for overtime services rendered, it is still possible that the employer is obliged to do so. Especially considering the high probability that in a labour dispute, the Courts are likely to decide that the employer should compensate an employee for working overtime, because this is what may be expected from a “good employer” in the same circumstances. When working overtime, the Working Hours Act must be observed. Overtime pay can be provided in the form of either cash compensation or additional time off. However, the actual hourly wage in a pay period may never be less than the statutory minimum hourly wage, except if a collective bargaining agreement provides so. The actual hourly wage is calculated by dividing the pay per period by the number of hours actually worked in that particular pay period.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
Following the Working Conditions Act, the employer is obliged to provide a healthy and safe work environment for its employees. The specific rules for employer and employee to ensure a healthy and safe workplace are further laid down in the Working Conditions Decree (in Dutch: Arbeidsomstandighedenbesluit).
Employers are obliged to make a Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E), which mentions all the risks in the working environment, and the preventive measures that are taken, or will be taken, to minimize those risks. This also includes an RI&E concerning sexual harassment. Employers are also obliged to enter into a service agreement with a certified occupational health and safety service agency.
In principle, employees should first discuss any complaints with their employer. Employers are advised to have a proper complaint procedure in place. In case the company has a works council, employees may also report health and safety related matters to the works council. In addition, employees have the right to address health and safety related matters with the company’s occupational health and safety service agency. Employers have the obligation to inform their employees about that possibility. In the last instance, employees may report violations of health and safety regulations with the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate.
The Netherlands is actively engaged in developing new legislation concerning sexual harassment, as it is a much discussed and important topic. For example, the House of Representatives is currently discussing a legislative proposal for the Sexual Crime Act (in Dutch: Wet seksuele misdrijven). Additionally, a guide on how to report and process incidents of sexual harassment was issued on May 17, 2023. It provides a step-by-step explanation of the process and suggests appropriate actions to take in such situations. It is important to note that this guide is not legislation.