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Employment law information for partners of expats

If you’re thinking about taking up paid work in the Netherlands, here are some aspects of Dutch employment law to consider.

Aspects of Dutch employment law

If you move to the Netherlands with a partner or spouse who is working here, you might also decide to take up some paid work. Dutch employment laws are different to those in other countries, and it’s good to know your rights before entering into a contract with an employer in the Netherlands. So take a look below at some important aspects of Dutch employment law that could be applicable to your situation. 

Termination of employment by the employee

Under Dutch law, an employee can give notice to terminate his/her employment contract with observance of a notice period. This notice period is one month, unless a different notice period has been agreed in the employment contract. The maximum notice period for the employee is 6 months. However, if you have agreed on a fixed-term contract, e.g. for one year, it is in principle not possible to give notice before the expiration date of the contract, unless the contract explicitly stipulates the right to give notice prematurely. If you need to be flexible and able to move abroad on short notice, you should take this information into consideration when you sign your employment contract.

Termination of employment by the employer

Under Dutch law, an employer is in principle not able to terminate an employment contract with an employee before the termination date of the contract, without ‘prior approval’. The same applies to employment contracts for an indefinite (permanent) term. The prior approval can be given by the employee by means of a settlement agreement regarding termination. If no settlement can be reached, the employer needs the prior approval of the court or the governmental body ‘UWV’ in order to terminate the employment contract. The termination will only be approved if a valid termination ground exists.

You may be entitled to a termination compensation (‘severance’) in case of termination of your employment contract. The amount of the severance depends on the circumstances of the case. The basic rule is that an employee is entitled to a severance of 1/3 monthly salary for every year of service.

After termination, you may be eligible to receive Dutch unemployment benefits. In some circumstances, you may even stay entitled to these benefits if you move to another EU-state in order to find a new job. More information about unemployment benefits is available on the website of UWV (in Dutch).

Non-competition clause

Under Dutch law, employers are allowed to affect the employee’s labour market position after termination of the employment contract in order to protect its business interests, by agreeing on a non-competition clause in the employment contract.

Such a clause could stipulate that the employee is not allowed to work for a competitor of the employer and/or work for clients of the employer after termination of the employment. The scope of such clauses are not limited to the Netherlands, but can also cover the whole of Europe.

Usually the restraints last for about 6-24 months following termination of the employment. Non-competition clauses in ‘fixed-term’ employment contracts are not valid, unless the employer has severe business interests to protect and has stipulated these interests in writing in the employment contract. It is recommended to check whether your employment contract contains a non-competition clause before you sign it.

Parental leave

Parental leave makes it possible for an employee to temporarily work less in order to care for his or her child or children. Both parents are entitled to parental leave. You may apply for parental leave for children up to the age of eight. Parental leave can be applied for separately for each child. To be eligible, however, you must have been employed for at least one year.

You are entitled to parental leave of, at most, 26 times the length of the working week. For example, if you work 40 hours per week, you are entitled to a total of 40 x 26 = 1040 hours of parental leave. The parental leave is unpaid, unless agreed otherwise in the personnel regulations and/or collective labour agreement applicable to the company.  

The parental leave scheme is in principle based on the assumption that you will continue working for half of the working week during one year. If this does not suit your particular situation, you may opt to take additional or fewer parental leave hours per week for a correspondingly shorter or longer period of time. You may also opt to split your leave entitlement into several periods. The maximum number of periods is six and each period must be for at least one month. Please note that you require the permission of your employer to spread or split your parental leave.

Parental leave is unpaid, unless a different arrangement applies within your company. This changes on 2 August 2022. As of that date, you are entitled to a social security benefit equal to 50% of your wage during the first nine weeks of parental leave, under the condition that parental leave is taken during the first year after birth of your child.

Application for parental leave must be submitted to your employer in writing at least two months before the intended starting date. The application should mention the period of the leave, the number of hours of leave per week and the distribution of the leave hours across the week. Parental leave as such can only be refused in exceptional circumstances which involve severe disturbance of the business operations.