Right now, it’s especially important to remember employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees – even when working remotely.
Things can change fast, so if you don’t speak Dutch, consider asking a Dutch-speaking employee to follow the latest developments.
Useful English-language resources are:
- Business.gov.nl for continually updated information for companies
- It also has a specific page on what employers can and must do for employees (Dutch-language version presents the information on a sector-by-sector basis)
- RIVM website, for updates on the pandemic in the Netherlands
- City of Amsterdam’s website, for more local information
- IND website, for issues around immigration.
We’ve used these and other resources to give a run down some of the best practices for employers.
Working from home
The government has scrapped advice to work from home unless absolutely necessary. Employers can now arrange with their employees to work from the office for a maximum of 50% of their hours. Consider staggering working hours across teams. Employees must stay 1.5 metres distance apart and ventilate the workspace if possible.
Face masks are no longer required in places where you can keep 1.5 metres distance. Indoor venues may allow one visitor per 5 m2 to make sure there's enough space. Face masks are required on public transport and at airports.
Remember the basic precautions
As always, wash your hands, keep 1.5 metres distance and test regularly (self tests can be bought at pharmacies and supermarkets).
Do’s and don’ts for employers
Do provide a comfortable and healthy workplace, wherever it is
No matter where your employees are working, you are responsible for providing them with a healthy workplace – so consider, for example, allowing them to take their office desks and chairs home with them. You can find more tips on helping employees stay fit and healthy while working at home on the Dutch-language SZW website Arboportaal.
Do take immediate action if an employee has coronavirus symptoms or tests positive
If an employee has a nasal cold, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, elevated temperature or sudden loss of smell or taste, they should stay at home. In case of a positive diagnosis, employers are required to initiate source and contact tracing.
Do keep an eye on any changes in immigration and naturalisation processes
International employees may have chosen to return home and work from there, or maybe an employee cannot return to the Netherlands due to travel restrictions. This could affect their visa status, residents’ permit or 30% ruling eligibility in the Netherlands. The IND website has an FAQ on consequences employers should consider and what changes should be reported to IND.
For more advice, contact IN Amsterdam, the city’s one-stop service for international newcomers and their employers.
Do look into all the alternatives if there’s not enough work
If there isn’t enough work, you cannot force employees to take leave days, but you can discuss the possibility with them.
Alternatively, you can loan out employees via the government exchange programme NLWerktDoor! (link in Dutch), which will connect you with businesses seeking temporary workers.
Do check the legalities around dismissing an employee
You may not want to, or be able to, renew an employee’s contract. Regardless of the reason, check the regulations carefully. Transparent communication is key.
What you shouldn’t do
Don’t ask if an employee has symptoms of coronavirus if they call in sick
Your employee is not obliged to share medical details with you. For reasons of privacy, you are not allowed to ask, but you may ask your employee when they think they will be coming back to work.
Don’t let your employee return to the workplace if a household member falls ill
Your employee must stay at home if a member of their household develops common cold symptoms or a fever. They must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they develop symptoms then they must isolate until they are symptom-free. If your employee cannot work from home, you must continue to pay them their wages. You cannot deduct leave hours unless you both agree to this.
Don’t withhold holiday allowance
Don’t let your employee return to the workplace as soon as they come back from a high-risk country
If an employee has recently travelled to a country not on the safe list, they must quarantine for ten days, regardless of a negative test declaration. They may reduce their time in self-quarantine by getting tested on day 5 after returning home (if the result is negative). A person can check what they need prepare before they travel (back) to the Netherlands using this handy tool.
If your employee was abroad for work reasons and cannot work from home during quarantine, you must continue to pay their wages. However, if an employee plans to travel for non-work reasons to a higher risk country, advise them it will be their responsibility, in terms of time and costs, to be tested and quarantine on their return.
Don’t forget you are responsible for the health and safety of your employees, so follow all the latest developments
Things can change fast, so stay on top of all the latest news. To help your employees, you can share this IN Amsterdam article which offers a wealth of resources for international employees whose work, life and long-term plans might be affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The Dutch government and City of Amsterdam are offering a range of financial support packages to companies, including entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals, affected by the pandemic restrictions. Read about them here.