Coronavirus guidelines for employers in the Amsterdam Area
In May, we published a comprehensive overview of the available resources – both financial and otherwise – that the Dutch government and the City of Amsterdam is offering to support businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
More recently, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) published an English-language article for employers titled Employer during the corona crisis: what you can and must do, which summarises the latest policies and advice around dealing with employees in the face of the coronavirus.
The Dutch-language version has more details and presents the information on a sector-by-sector basis. In addition, as the Netherlands’ largest organisation for employers, the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (known as VNO-NCW), provides invaluable updates and advice – albeit only in Dutch.
We’ve used these and other resources to give an overview of some of the best – and worst – practices for employers as they confront the continued impact of the crisis.
Do encourage your employees to work from home
Unless you work in a ‘crucial’ sector, the easiest way to maintain social distancing is to have your employees work from home, though you are not legally required to do so. If this is not possible, you can consider alternatives such as shift work.
But remember that 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 require any employees with symptoms to stay at home, and in the event of a positive diagnosis, take immediate action
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 and follow the RIVM guidelines. In case of a positive diagnosis, employers are required to help to initiate the source and contact investigation.
Do consider wearing masks in the workplace
Contact-based professionals like hairdressers, beauticians and pedicure technicians do not have to wear non-medical face masks. However, you and your employees can decide for yourselves if you want to wear face masks anyway.
Do keep an eye on any shifts in immigration and naturalisation processes
What are the rules about hiring international talent during the pandemic? And what should you do if you are required to bring an employee back to the Netherlands? In addition, visa rules and processing times, and the 30% ruling, have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.
For these and other questions, you can contact IN Amsterdam, the city’s one-stop-shop service for international newcomers and their employers. You can also find the latest information in the employer section of the Netherlands Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) website, which also features a useful FAQ on the effect of COVID-19 on their services.
Do look into all the alternatives if there’s not enough work
As an employer, you can apply for the Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure for Continued Employment NOW, which can provide compensation to pay employee wages. And while you cannot force employees to take leave days, you can discuss the possibility with them.
There are also special programmes you can apply for. For example, you can loan out employees via the government exchange programme NLWerktDoor! (link in Dutch), which will connect you with businesses seeking temporary workers. Additionally, you can look into NL Leert Door (link in Dutch), a temporary support scheme which offers free online retraining courses and advice on career development.
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 carefully to see if you are following the proper regulations. Transparent communication is key.
Coronavirus guidelines in the Amsterdam Area: what employers should not do
During the outbreak, it's also important to know what you shouldn't do when making decisions regarding employees, so make sure to stay current with the latest information.
Don’t ask if an employee has symptoms of the coronavirus if they call in sick
Only the company doctor or the health and safety agency have the legal right to process medical data.
Don’t let your employee return to the workplace if their housemate falls ill
Unless they have a crucial profession, your employee must stay at home if one of their housemates develops common cold symptoms or a fever. 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
You cannot withhold or delay paying holiday allowance, but you may be able to come to a signed arrangement as part of a larger plan of keeping the company afloat.
Don’t let your employee return to the workplace if they come back from a high-risk location
If an employee has recently travelled to a country classified as code red or orange, have them self-quarantine for ten days. If they were there for work reasons and cannot work from home, you must continue to pay their wages. However, if an employee plans to travel for non-work reasons to one of these countries, please advise them that it will be their responsibility, in terms of time and costs, to self-quarantine on their return.
Don’t forget that 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. If you don’t speak Dutch, consider assigning a Dutch-speaking employee to the task. For official guidance and news in English, see the RIVM website, business.gov.nl, the City of Amsterdam’s website and the IND website.
To help your employees, you can share this IN Amsterdam article which offers a wealth of resources for employees whose work, life and long-term plans might be affected by the coronavirus crisis.