Work Hours and Conditions
All businesses and organisations in the Netherlands must comply with statutory regulations regarding working hours, rest times, and holiday entitlements.
The average working week is 36-40 hours, but part-time employment is widespread. About 15% of men and more than 50% of women in the work force work 32 hours per week or fewer. Many Dutch companies are organized in such a way that they allow flexible hours, either from home or from another location. In general, work-life balance is rated high to very high.
At many companies, your lunch break time is not an actual part of your official working hours and is unpaid. If so, you are expected to be present between 8.5 and 9 hours during an 8-hour work day, depending on your breaks. Some companies do allow for a small morning or afternoon coffee break on company time.
The maximum number of hours you are allowed to work is 12 per day, or 60 per week in case of shift work; however, during a period of 16 weeks, you must not work more than an average of 48 hours per week.
Employee rights and working conditions
Legally, the minimum annual leave is four times the number of working days per week. If your full-time job is 40 hours per week, you have at least 20 vacation days a year (4×5). Sometimes, agreements between a specific sector or employer and a labor union make it possible to receive more days. For example, Dutch civil servants have an average of 33 per year, and teachers as many as 60!
Sick leave, leave of absence, and retirement are mostly well taken care of. All employee rights and primary and secondary working conditions are specified in your employment contract and must correspond to certain minimum levels.
Collective labor agreements (CAO)
Most companies and organizations participate in a collective labor agreement (CAO – Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst). This is a written agreement between one or more employers and one or more trade unions about the labor conditions for all employees, such as wages, payment of extra work, working hours, probation period, pension, education, and child care.
The agreements in a CAO are often better than those prescribed by law but they may never contradict the law. If there is no CAO, you have to make an individual agreement with your employer about the labor conditions, preferably in writing. The legal rules are the basis for this agreement.
Employment of minors and young adults
In the Netherlands, special rules apply to the employment of young people regarding the kind of work and their working hours and rest times. These rules differ per age category.
Children between the ages of 13 and 16 are allowed to work outside school hours and in the holidays, but only under certain conditions. From the age of 16, young people are free to do any kind of work. Young people from 15 to 20 receive the minimum youth wage. Children under 13 are not allowed to work. The ban on children’s labour applies to all children under 13 in the Netherlands, also to children of a different nationality.
More information about the rules and conditions regarding work as a minor can be found on the business.gov.nl website.