The Dutch government has announced plans for several changes in employment law. These plans are an outcome of conversations between the government, employers’ organisations, trade unions, and other stakeholders. They are therefore expected to be approved by Parliament, as soon as legislation has been drafted. The expected date of entry is 1 January 2025, but the legislation itself still has to be drafted.
The government’s intention is to create more balance between (income) security for employees and agility for employers. We have summarised the main points from the plans below.
Adjustment of the chain-of-contract scheme (series of fixed-term employment contracts)
Under the current regulation, three contracts may be concluded in three years, with an interruption of more than 6 months triggering a new chain. This period of interruption becomes a 5-year lapse! The regulation does not apply to schoolchildren, the regulation remains unchanged for students (i.e. 6 months). The scheme for seasonal work also remains.
On-call contracts will largely be abolished
Zero hours and min-max contracts will no longer be possible, with an exception for pupils and students. They will be allowed to work a maximum of 16 hours per week on an annual basis. This number of hours is not yet fixed. We lobby that at least it will not be fewer hours.
The on-call contract will be replaced by a basic contract with a maximum bandwidth of 130% (similar to the arrangement in our collective labour agreement) with a maximum duration of one quarter. What is new compared to the ruling in our collective labour agreement, however, is that of the 130% maximum availability, the times at which that can happen must be determined in advance. If the duration of the contract exceeds one month, the obligation to pay a constant monthly salary applies. The annual hours standard as we know it in our collective agreement remains possible. However, employees will be given the right to indicate a percentage of non-availability or to designate unavailable days.
We are participating in the working group that is elaborating on these arrangements and will work towards a workable approach for employers.
Reintegration efforts during illness
For small (up to 25 employees) and medium-sized companies (up to 100 employees), there will be more clarity on reintegration after the first year of illness. Employer and employee can agree -if conditions are met- that only track 2 (reintegration outside the company) will be followed in the second year of illness. This allows an employer to find a permanent replacement for the sick employee in an earlier stage. If the employee does not want to cooperate, the employer can involve the UWV. It will then assess whether or not the employee will recover for own (adapted) work within 13 weeks.
After two years, the UWV assesses whether sufficient efforts have been made in the second year in track 2. An employee can be dismissed if the own workplace is no longer vacant or coming up. In the case of a medium-sized entrepreneur, it is also assessed whether suitable vacancies are or will become available.
The obligation to continue paying wages remains 2 years. For large employers, nothing will change. We think it is a positive development that it is regulated for smaller companies but would like to see it apply to large companies as well.
The basic open-ended contract (see above) falls under the low WW premium. In the case of a permanent contract with regular overtime (up to 30%), the low premium also applies. If more than 30% overtime is worked, the low WW premium also applies if the full-time employment contract is at least 30 hours per week (now 35 hours).
In case of uninsurable entrepreneurial risks (such as Covid), this scheme can be invoked to retain staff. The condition is that an entrepreneur has at least 20% less work.
The legislative changes are expected to be implemented on 1 January 2025, in modified or unmodified form. We will keep you posted.