Bring your pensions abroad! New EU Court cases!

Many employees who want to move to another EU member State want to bring their pensions with them. Even a lump sum should be possible. However, the Dutch State made this practically impossible.

This week the EU Court found that this is a violation of the EU Treaty, the free movement of workers. This will have serious implications for those who want to move their pensions abroad.

The case

It should be recalled that the social protection of workers is one of the imperative requirements in the general interest which may justify a restriction on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms recognised by the EU Treaty.

The need to guarantee lifelong pension benefits as required by the Netherlands –  can therefore be invoked to justify a restriction on the free movement of workers.

However, in order to satisfy the requirements of EU law, the national legislation must be suitable for achieving the objective pursued and must not go beyond what is necessary for that purpose.

By imposing certain obligations on the pension institution established in a Member State other than the Netherlands to which a worker who takes up employment in that other Member State wishes to transfer the value of his pension rights, the national legislation at issue cannot, of itself, prevent the risk that the worker will opt to receive his pension in a lump sum and cannot guarantee that the worker will receive his supplementary pension regularly during his retirement.

Beyond what is necessary

Moreover, the legislation in question goes beyond what is necessary to achieve that objective. As soon as workers leave the Netherlands to take up employment in another Member State and transfer the value of their pension rights to that State, it is for that other State to decide whether or not to allow all or part of the pension to be paid to those workers in the form of a lump sum.

If that amount is lost or spent in full, it is for that State to bear the financial burden of that loss, if any. In this case, the value of the pension rights after the transfer would no longer be income from Dutch sources, but income from the new country of residence.

Consequently, the restriction on freedom of movement for workers in question is not justified.


The Dutch Pension legislation is in many respects not EU proof. There are several cases and complaints pending. The above judgements of the EU court strengthen these complaints.

More information

For questions please contact our lawyer and professor EU Pension Law Hans van Meerten.

Claiming extra termination compensation as a highly skilled migrant

As a highly skilled migrant (in Dutch: “kennismigrant”) your position as an employee is less strong than the position of a regular employee. First of all, your right to stay in the Netherlands depends on your temporary residence permit to live and work here as a highly skilled migrant. That type of permit is linked to having paid work. If you lose your job as a highly skilled migrant, there is a great chance that you will also have to leave the Netherlands. As a highly skilled migrant, you can use this threat to your advantage in case of an impending dismissal. We will explain this further in this article based on a recent decision of the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal.

Vulnerable position upon termination of employment contract

If you are a highly skilled migrant and are no longer employed, you will be given a three-month search period to find another place of employment with a so-called sponsor employer (in Dutch: “erkend referent”). If you do not succeed in finding a new job as a highly skilled migrant during this search period – with the conditions that go with the residence permit to work as a highly skilled migrant – you will have to leave the Netherlands. This also applies to your family members, because their right to stay in the Netherlands depends on the highly skilled migrant’s right of residence.

Additional termination compensation of € 60,000 for a highly skilled migrant

An employer must take such a vulnerable position into account when considering possible dismissal. This is what the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal ruled on September 4, 2023. The employer in that case had failed to do so. A few months after the start of the employment contract, that employer (a so-called sponsor employer, of course) had announced its wish to terminate the employment contract of the highly skilled migrant. To enforce that wish, the employer filed a request for dissolution of the employment contract with the court. The employment contract was dissolved by the judge, also because – due to the employer’s behavior – the highly skilled migrant no longer had confidence in continuing the employment contract.

However, the judge did find that there was so-called “serious culpability” on the part of the employer. A factor in that conclusion was that the employer had not taken into account the employee’s vulnerable position as a highly skilled migrant worker when he wanted to terminate the employment contract quickly. In the event of seriously culpable conduct, an employee is entitled to fair compensation. In this case, the court of appeal awarded fair compensation of €60,000 gross, after a short employment period of less than a year.

The negotiation position of a highly skilled migrant

A court therefore expects the employer of a highly skilled migrant to take into account the possible very drastic consequences that come with the residence status of a highly skilled migrant. As a highly skilled migrant, you can benefit from this in the event of impending dismissal. By negotiating a possible amicable termination of the employment contract through a settlement agreement, you can ask for a higher compensation because of this risk of losing your right of residence. Compared to a regular employee you, as a highly skilled migrant, therefore have an additional interest in a higher compensation or in keeping your job: namely, the interest of you and your family to be allowed to stay in the Netherlands.

More information

Do you have any questions? Or would you like more advice about your rights as a highly skilled migrant in the event of a dismissal? Then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Working from home: right or privilege?

Before the Pandemic, working from home was not facilitated by all employers. During the Pandemic, we proved altogether that (long-term) working from home and/or working at a different location than the office can work very well. It also had many positive consequences. For example, people could live further away from work if they did not have to come to the office every day and not having to commute every day reduces the pressure on the environment. Therefore, some companies kept (one or more) standard ‘working from home’ days and other employers even offered as an employment benefit the opportunity to work from a different – sometimes foreign – location. But what are your rights if your employer does obligate you to come to the office (again)? Working from home: right or privilege?

Employment condition and working from home request

In your employment contract or the collective labour agreement (CLA or in Dutch ‘CAO’) a right to working from home can be included. In that case, your employer cannot change this right unilaterally without cause. Only if your employer has an overriding interest in revocation of your right to work from home, he might be allowed to do so. Always consult a lawyer if your employer wants to change your employment conditions unilaterally.

If your employment contract or CLA lacks a right to working from home, you can file a request for working from home. You have to meet the following conditions:

  • On the desired starting date of working from home you are working for your employer for at least six months;
  • The company you work for consists of at least ten employees;
  • Your request is in written form;
  • Your request is done at least two months before the desired starting date.

In exceptional cases, such as a child or partner that suddenly gets long-term ill, the condition of doing the request at least two months before the desired starting date and having been employed for at least six months is not applicable.

Your employer can only deny your request if he has a good reason for this. For example, when serious problems occur in the working schedule due to you working from home. The denial must be made known to you in writing within one month of your request. Without a written refusal within one month of your request, your request is deemed to be accepted and you are allowed to work from home.

Working from home safely and allowance

As in the office, it is the employer’s obligation to ensure a safe workplace. One of the ways to ensure this, is to offer you ergonomically sound work equipment, such as a desk and office chair, (ergonomic) mouse and keyboard etc. Your employer can also give instructions on how to work safely. Of course, it is also your responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, taking enough breaks and adopting the proper working posture.

To help reimbursing the costs that would not occur when working in the office, such as extra costs for water and electricity at home, the government allowed the employer to provide a working from home allowance of up to €2,15 per day.

More information

Do you have any questions? Or would you advice about dismissal in the event of reorganisation? Then please do not hesitate to contact us.

The non-compete clause: is there something you can do?

Most permanent employment contracts include a non-compete clause. This clause determines that you are not allowed to work for a competing company for a certain period of time within a certain region. The wording of a non-compete clause is often very broad. This means there is a high chance that a non-compete clause will be a problem when you want to apply for a job with a new employer. Especially if you work in a small and specialised industry.

In this article, I will explain what you can do if you want to work for another employer that falls under the scope of your non-compete.

1. Is the clause legally valid?

Dutch law lists the requirements that a non-compete clause must meet to be legally valid: it must be in writing and the employee must be over the age of 18.

2. Legal action

It is possible to take legal action and ask the court to terminate the non-compete clause. The court can then dismiss the non-compete and set it aside completely or partially. In the case of partial termination, for example, the term for which the non-competition agreement was agreed upon can be shortened.

The judge will determine whether you can be held to the non-compete clause. The court will assess whether you would be unfairly disadvantaged by the non-competition clause in relation to your employer’s interest to be protected. The retention of employees may not in itself be part of your employers’ interest to be protected. The non-compete clause  is designed to protect the employer’s business assets from impairments The mere fact that an employee goes to a competitor does not automatically mean that business assets are also affected.

When determining whether the non-compete clauses should be (partly) waived, the judge weighs the interests of you and your employer. The judge will look at all the circumstances of the situation, for example:

  • the degree of attachment to the industry;
  • the possibility of a position improvement for you;
  • your personal circumstances (family/living conditions/affiliation to region);
  • the investments that your employer has made in you;
  • the question of who initiated the termination;
  • whether your new position involves a lot of competition-sensitive knowledge.

Besides this, the judge also looks at how broadly the non-compete clause is worded. In the case of a very broadly worded non-competition clause, the judge will more quickly rule that it must be annulled.

3. Advice

My advice is not to violate the non-compete clause without your employer’s consent. Especially considering that there is probably a penalty clause applicable. And do note that the penalty is due as soon as you breach the non-compete.

It is good to talk to your employer first. In practice, we often see that an employer is willing to (partly) waive the clause. You can then also refer to your interests. If this doesn’t work, you could start court proceedings and ask a judge to waive the non-compete clause.

More information

Would you like to discuss anon-compete clause or do you have another legal question? Please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Performance Improvement Plan: 5 key points to consider

Termination of the employment agreement due to unsatisfactory performance is possible under Dutch employment law. You can only be dismissed for unsatisfactory performance if your employer has given you sufficient opportunity to improve your performance. This is also known as a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).

Below are 5 key points you need to know before starting a PIP.

Are you obliged to cooperate with a PIP?

In general, yes. An employer has the right to assess the performance of employees and provide instructions on how to do develop and improve. That being said, the employer must be able to demonstrate that improvement is required. Usually, one or more negative performance evaluations precede the start of a process of improvement.

What exactly does a PIP look like?

The law does not describe what a good improvement plan should look like, but from the many rulings of judges on this point, you can say that a proper PIP meets the following requirements:

    • The PIP must be in writing and so must the interim evaluations;
    • It must contain concrete and measurable improvement areas;
    • The improvement areas must also be realistic and achievable;
    • The employer should actively support the employee during the PIP. What this support entails varies from case to case and may consist of ‘training on the job’ but also of offering training or a course. Involving a coach or mentor is also not unusual;
    • The PIP should be evaluated periodically in between. It is then discussed what went well or not (yet) well in the past period.

What is the duration of a PIP?

The law does not specify what the duration of a PIP should be. In case law, improvement processes of 3 months to 1 year are considered acceptable. The important thing is that the PIP is at least long enough to allow the employee to actually improve.

The following factors play a role in the length of a PIP:

  • The content and level of the position;
  • The employee’s level of education;
  • The nature and degree of the underperformance;
  • The duration of the employment;
  • Previous efforts made to improve performance;
  • The extent to which the employee is open to criticism and willing to engage during the PIP.

What can you do if you disagree with the progress of the PIP?

Record this, for example with an e-mail message. Let your employer know in the interim that you do not agree with the way the PIP is going and why.

Can you be dismissed if the PIP is not successfully completed?

This is indeed possible. However, it must then be clear that your employer has given you a realistic and serious chance to improve. You can also expect that your employer has offered the necessary support to make the improvement process a success. Moreover, your employer is obliged to investigate whether you can be redeployed to another suitable position within the company.

More information

Do you want more information about a Performance Improvement Plan? Or do you have any other legal question? Then please contact us directly. Our expert are happy to help you.

Changes in Dutch employment law

A lot changed in Dutch employment law in January 2015. There was a new law that had major implications for employment contracts. Since then, there have been a number of changes again. Since 1 January 2020, a number of new rules apply.

Changes in employment law

  • Obligation of notification of termination. One month before the termination of a definite contract of 6 months or longer, an employer must notify the employee whether the employment agreement will be extended. If the employer does not notify the employee, he has the right to claim salary during the period in which the employer is too late. He can claim up to a maximum of one month’s salary.
  •  Prohibition of a trial period in fixed term contracts of 6 months or less. This prohibition is applicable to contracts that commence after January 1st 2015;
  • Prohibition of a non-competition clause in fixed term contracts (unless the contract specifies the necessity of such a clause in light of severe company interests). Applicable to all contracts that are entered into after January 1st 2015;
  •  The stipulation, “no labour, no salary”: an employee is not entitled to salary when not performing activities, has changed. The new rule is “no labour, still salary, unless the non-performance is seen as at the risk of the employee”. This change  secures a deviation of the burden of proof in favour of the employee. It is still possible to exclude applicability of this clause for the first 6 months of the contract. However, the exclusion can no longer be extended indefinitely by collective labour agreement.

New rules

The old regulation (which applied from January 1st 2015) stipulated that an organisation could offer employees 3 fixed term contracts  and/or for a maximum period of 2 years. For employment contracts that ended on or after 1 January 2020, a new chain rule applies. An employment agreement for an indefinite period is established when:

  • a maximum of three contracts is exceeded;
  • the maximum time frame of 3 years is exceeded;
  • and in both of the abovementioned situations there is a period of no more than 6 months and 1 day in between two following contracts.

To summarize : the amount of temporary contracts remains the same. However, the period that those contracts comprise, cannot be more than 3 years. Furthermore, the employer needs a “time-out” of at least 6 months and 1 day to cancel the chain. For example, as of July 1st 2015 it is possible to get a fixed contract of 6 months which is then extended with another 6 months, to end with a contract of 1 year. A chain of consecutive 1-year-contracts will however result in an agreement for an indefinite period after 3 contracts ( and/or  after 3 years).


Termination of employment agreement

There are various routes for termination of employment agreements, depending on the cause of termination. Termination based on extensive incapability or economic reasons, must be executed through UWV. Termination based on “personal” reasons, like malfunctioning, disturbed relationship, must be addressed by the Cantonal Judge. Please note this change has left the possibility of an amicable settlement unaffected.

Also, as of 2015, the employer does not need consent of UWV or the Cantonal Judge in order to terminate the employment agreement once the employee has reached the AOW eligible age.

Irrespective of the termination-route (UWV of Cantonal Judge) the employer has to pay a “transition compensation” (transitievergoeding). This compensation replaces the severance payment (ontslagvergoeding) and is calculated differently.

The transition compensation is calculated as follows: You will receive 1/3 monthly salary per whole year of service from your first day of employment. The transition compensation over the remaining part of the employment contract is calculated according to the formula: (gross salary received over remaining part of employment contract / gross monthly salary) x (1/3 gross monthly salary /12 ).  In 2023, in total a maximum of € 89.000,- applies, unless the employee’s yearly salary exceeds that amount (in which case this higher amount counts as maximum).

Rules transition compensation explained

The transition compensation is not due in case of severe fault of the employee. For example in case of termination due to an urgent cause. Temporary employees are also eligible for the transition compensation.  Since 1 January 2020, an employee can receive a transition allowance from the first working day.

  • In case of severe culpability of the employer, a Judge may grant the employee an additional “reasonable” compensation;
  • Given the above, the sub-district Judge formula no longer applies in procedures that are entered into after July 1st 2015. In negotiations on amicable terminations, the transition and possible additional compensation are leading;
  •  The procedure of “manifestly unreasonable dismissal” no longer exists;
  • In case of amicable termination (mutual consent, settlement agreement), a reconsideration period of 14 days has been introduced on behalf of the employee. Within those 14 days, the employee may withdraw his consent. Which leads to continuation of the employment agreement or reopens negotiations. The withdrawal of the consent has to be in writing. The employer is obliged to inform the employee about that possibility. The deadline is three weeks if the employer has not explicitly referred to this option of dissolution in the settlement agreement;
  • Obligation to provide education. This stipulation is especially of importance in cases concerning malfunctioning.
  • All termination decisions (Cantonal Judge, as well as UWV) can be appealed in front of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
  • The Extraordinary Labour Relations Decree 1945 (BBA 1945), is extinguished.

Of course we will keep you informed of developments. Such as on transitional law and the relationship between the changes and ongoing collective agreements.


If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Employment law: awarding a bonus

These days, a bonus is almost a standard component of an employee’s terms of employment. Employees view a bonus in the same light as a pension and compensation for healthcare costs. However, a bonus is different from holiday pay, which is a permanent and non-negotiable salary component.

Read more

‘It’s my way or the highway’ approach costs employer small fortune

In the unlikely event you are faced with the dissolution of your employment contract because of (alleged) malfunctioning, it is good to know that judges might grant ample compensation when your employer lacks a complete personnel file of malfunctioning and has not given enough opportunity to improve yourself. Read further to learn why the ‘It’s my way or the highway’ approach will cost employers a small fortune.

Read more

Preventing harmful behaviour in the workplace

Harmful behaviour in the workplace can occur at any level and at any moment – be it by co-workers, supervisors, employers or clients. Going to court is often the last resort. However, a lot can be done to prevent this from taking place in the first place.

Read more

The employer’s duty of care

An employer has a duty of care. For instance, the employer has an obligation to protect the safety and health of his employees. In order to prevent employees from suffering damage during the performance of their duties, the employer must take measures. These measures include implementing a policy and giving safety instructions to employees.

With the advent of the #MeToo movement and anti-discrimination measures, the home-working policy during the Covid-19 pandemic and the growth of long COVID patients infected in the workplace, attention to the employer’s duty of care has increased. Employers are even more expected to ensure a safe working environment and atmosphere to prevent employees from suffering damages during work.

Seliz Demirci, employment lawyer at GMW lawyers discusses the content and scope of the employer’s duty of care in light of current topics.

Legal basis

Employers must prevent employees from suffering damage in the performance of their duties. Therefore, Dutch law stipulates that an employer must take the necessary measures. The concept of damage includes both physical and psychological damage. Psychological damage is particularly relevant in the context of sexual harassment. Does an employer breaches his duty of care? Then it is up to the employee to prove the existence of damage. He also has to prove that this damage arose in the performance of their duties. Did proven damage occur? Then the employer needs to prove their liability. The employer’s liability lapses if they demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care. Is the employer not able to prove that they have taken the required measures for a safe working environment? Then they are liable. The bar for liability is therefore low.

(Sexual) harassment and discrimination

The law does not set specific conditions for fulfilling the duty of care. Whether the employer has fulfilled their duty of care will be judged on a case-by-case basis. The prevention of (sexual) harassment and discrimination in the workplace is important. Therefore, an employer may in any case be expected to appoint an (external) confidential advisor. He might also need to provide a complaints procedure. Not only does this enable the employer to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care, but the parties involved also know how to deal with a complaint. In addition, taking these measures can have both a repressive and a preventive effect.

The employer has not automatically fulfilled their duty of care merely by drawing up a complaints procedure and appointing a confidential adviser; more is expected of them. For instance, an employer has the obligation to respond adequately and in a timely manner to a complaint regarding sexual harassment or discrimination. He must take a complaint seriously and investigate it properly.

Working from home

The duty of care also extends to the home workplace, although the employer’s obligations are then more limited than those that apply within an office or factory. The employer must ensure that the employee has an ergonomically equipped workplace. This means providing a good and large enough desk, an adjustable desk chair, a properly adjusted monitor and associated aids. ‘Taking care of’ does not mean that the employer must purchase everything (new) for the employee, if the employee already has an ergonomically well-equipped workplace. The point is that the employer must establish whether and to what extent the employee has a good workplace at home.

Preventing burn-out

The employer also has the obligation to implement a policy that prevents the pressure of work from becoming too high and the employee from suffering burnout. Limiting the workload is part of this. This obligation also applies – and perhaps even more so – when working from home. Therefore, as an employer, ensure regular (team) consultation about work pressure and provide information about monitoring the balance between work and private life. It is also important for employees to raise the alarm in good time with their employer when the work pressure becomes too high.


When an employer has not fulfilled their duty of care towards their employees, they can be held liable. If that liability is established, the employee may claim compensation for material and immaterial damage suffered. An employment lawyer can explain your rights, risks and obligations, allowing you to make the best possible decisions.

More information on the employer’s duty of care

If you need to take legal action, our team of employment law experts can help you to work it out. Call us on 070 361 5048 or contact us via our easy online form.

Performance problems and PIPs

All companies aim to optimise performance, including the effectiveness of their employees. Godelijn Boonman of GMW lawyers explains more about performance problems and PIPs. What happens when employee performance becomes a problem and what does a PIP mean in practice?

When is performance a “problem”?

Simply put, a performance problem can occur whenever an employee repeatedly under-performs in their role. As soon as an employer informs an employee that there is a performance problem, such as poor performance, the problem exists.

While performance problems often negatively affect an employment relationship, a performance problem on its own does not automatically lead to dismissal. What happens thereafter is key.

In the Netherlands, both employer and employee are expected to try to solve issues such as performance problems together before the situation reaches the point where termination of employment becomes justified.

What is a PIP?

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is often but not necessarily a formal document that defines recurring performance problems, specific improvement goals that an employee needs to achieve, a time scale for doing so and the consequences when not achieved. An employer can choose to implement a PIP on any employee who has a performance problem, except for an employee who has already been declared sick.  An employer will need to wait for the employee to get better first.

What does a PIP mean in practice?

We can view the implementation of a PIP in two ways:

1 – As an opportunity for the employee to improve, and/or

2 – As a signal that the employment is at risk.

By going through a PIP, an employer can give a poorly functioning employee the chance to succeed and perform well.

However, you can use a PIP to build a case for demotion or dismissal. As such, it should be a red flag signal to the employee; there is a significant problem.

PIP process

Once you implement a PIP, both employer and employee have obligations they must fulfill.

The employer has an obligation to help the employee turn their performance around by providing additional assistance, supervision or training. They must also document the PIP process.

The employee has an obligation to cooperate and actively participate in the PIP process. If the employee adopts a passive attitude, refuses to cooperate, or obstructs the PIP, then the employer can hold this against them.

Don’t get PIPped to the post

In practice, performance issues can quickly derail an employment relationship. If the implementation of the PIP does not lead to satisfactory performance, then it may be time to end the employment.

If you have an under-performing employee, or if your employer presents you with a PIP, it would be wise to seek legal advice. An employment lawyer can explain your rights, risks and obligations, allowing you to make the best possible decisions. Contact us now for all your questions related to performance problems and PIPs.

Top tips: Dutch employment contract 2022

So you’ve been offered a new job in the Netherlands in 2022. The position sounds good, the terms sound reasonable, and you’re excited to accept. Now you need to check the contract before you sign it. The only challenge is that you may not know much about Dutch employment law – making it tough to understand what each clause means for your rights.

Expat employment law expert Godelijn Boonman of GMW lawyers shares her tips for assessing and understanding a new employment agreement.


Know your contract type, know your rights

The first thing you need to ascertain is whether you are entering a contract for a fixed period (temporary) or for an indefinite term (permanent). This determines which rules will apply to your employment – and therefore determines your rights.

If your contract has an end date, it is a temporary contract. The maximum length of a temporary contract is generally 3 years.


Start well: probation period

If your contract includes a probation period (trial period), then you or your new employer can terminate the employment during the trial period without giving any reason. A probation period must be agreed in writing.

Temporary contracts of less than 6 months may not include a probation period. Temporary contracts for longer than 6 months may include a probation period of maximum 1 month. Indefinite contracts may include a probation period of maximum 2 months.


In between: conditions and changes

Your contract, together with any applicable general terms and conditions or Collective Labour Agreement, stipulates the conditions under which you agree to work. This includes key information such as the location of your workplace, your salary, hours, job title and the payment schedule.

In the Netherlands, you also want to check for:

Annual leave – full-time employees must receive a minimum of 20 vacation days per year, excluding national holidays.

Vakantiegeld – 8% of your annual salary is reserved as “holiday money”. This amount may be paid annually or otherwise – but it should always be mentioned.

Unilateral changes clause – if your employment terms contain a unilateral changes clause, then your employer can change the conditions of your employment without your prior consent. As this may include topics such as changing the location of your workplace, or a company requirement for corona vaccination, it is very relevant. Do note that an employer can not easily do this. Even though the contract has this clause, the employer needs to meet strict conditions before it can unilaterally change your contract.


End well: notice, termination and transition

Notice periods – unless otherwise agreed, an employee’s notice period is 1 calendar month. If you have been an employee for less than 5 years, then your employer’s standard notice period will also be 1 month. Note that you can agree upon different notice periods, but the employer’s notice period must be double that of the employee’s and a maximum of 6 months.

Termination – Temporary employment contracts terminate on the date they end. In the case of an indefinite contract, you can only terminate it: by the employee resigning, through a mutual termination agreement, via a UWV/court dismissal, or by summary dismissal (fired on the spot).

Restraint of trade – If your employment agreement includes non-competition, business relation or partner relation clauses, try to negotiate these upfront; they could limit your future options.

Transition – if your employer wants to terminate the employment, then they will need to pay you a transitional allowance. This comprises 1/3 of your monthly salary per year of employment.


GMW lawyers – experts in expat employment law

If you need help assessing your new employment agreement, contact our team of English-speaking employment lawyers for assistance. Call us 070 361 5048 or submit your question online.



Performance plans, illness and employment disputes

When an employee has performance issues or long-term illness, this can lead to disputes in the workplace. It could even lead to termination of employment. Both employee and employer have certain rights and obligations. What each party can do depends on the exact details of the situation. Expat employment law expert Godelijn Boonman shares key considerations.

Poor performance

When an employee is not performing well in their role, then an employer can take certain steps to address this. The employer may begin with an intervention such as a conversation about performance levels and what they need for the employee to improve. However, the employer may choose instead to create a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) for the employee. A PIP is a formal document and is far more serious than a discussion.

Once an employer implements a PIP on their employee, both employer and employee must fulfil their obligations in the process. Both parties should try to remedy the situation before it reaches the point where termination of employment becomes justified.

The employer is obliged to try and help the employee improve their performance, for instance by providing the necessary assistance, supervision or training. The employer must document the entire PIP process.

The employee has the obligation to actively participate in their performance improvement process. The obligation is also on the employee to ensure that the employer is fulfilling their obligations in the process. If the employee adopts a passive attitude towards the planned performance improvement, refuses to cooperate in the process, or otherwise obstructs the implementation of their PIP, then the employer can hold this against them.

While a PIP can be used to help an employee succeed, it can also be used to build a case for demotion or dismissal. As such, it is a signal that your employment may be at risk.

But what happens if the poor performance of the employee occurs during long-term illness?

When the employee is declared sick

The moment that an employee is declared unable to work due to illness, whether physical or mental, their status becomes that of a “sick employee” – and both parties’ rights change. A company doctor (bedrijfarts) is the only person who can make this determination.

The employer has the obligation to pay the sick employee’s salary during the first two years of illness, regardless of how much work the employee can perform (in other words: regardless of their performance).

The employer cannot implement a PIP on an employee who was already sick.

Employers cannot dismiss a sick employee during the first two years of their illness on commercial grounds such as reorganisation. (Note that an employee – even a sick one – can always be fired on the spot if the strict criteria for summary dismissal are met.)

Under guidance from the company doctor, both the employer and the employee must work together to create a plan for reintegrating the employee into the organisation as they recover from their illness. This may entail the employee resuming their original duties, but if this is not possible, the employer may provide other “suitable work” for the employee to do instead.

If either party refuses to engage in discussions or to fulfill their obligations then this can lead to a dispute. It can sometimes even become grounds for terminating the employment relationship.

A dispute arises

Sick or under-performing? Truly sick, or just sick of the dispute? Questions like these can lead to an employment dispute.

Illness, performance issues and disputes are separate topics, but they often go hand in hand, and for good reason.

Is an employee’s performance questioned while they are already declared sick? Then the employee may feel that the employer is working against their recovery. When an employer informs an employee that they need to improve their performance, the employee could respond by reporting sick. The employer may then feel that the employee is working against their performance improvement.

In practice, performance issues, illness and especially disputes will often negatively affect the employment relationship.

If an employee calls in sick after a dispute has occurred, this is often qualified as inability to work due to situational inability. A company doctor can then assess if the employee’s inability to work is also due to sickness.

There are only 2 options

By the time a situation escalates to a dispute, it leaves you with only two options: you can either solve it together or solve it apart.

Option 1 – Solve it together

The employer and the employee can come to an agreement together. For instance through mediation, on how to resolve the dispute and thereby improve the employment relationship to the point where it can continue. If this happens, then the employee can maintain the employment.

Unfortunately, once the situation has escalated past a certain point, repairing the relationship is often not a practical or mutually acceptable solution.

Option 2 – Solve it apart

Can the employer and the employee not agree on how to proceed together? Then it is necessary to terminate the employment relationship so that they can part ways.

Due to the time and costs involved in dismissal via the courts/UWV, and because sick employees have protection from dismissal, the termination of employment frequently occurs by means of a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a written offer by your employer to give up your job and leave the company voluntarily. This happens often in exchange for a certain set of conditions.

Learn more about settlement agreements in this feature by Legal Expat Desk: Settlement agreements – what you need to know

Don’t wait – get advice

If a problem develops at work, don’t wait to address it. Time alone rarely solves a dispute, and it can escalate fast. If you are uncertain of your rights, getting good advice at the beginning can help you to make better decisions. Situations sometimes reach a point where it would be wise to seek legal advice. For example, when they implement a PIP, an employment dispute occurs, or when you need to terminate an employment relationship.

If you need help with an employment issue, our team of English-speaking lawyers can advise you. We can help you understand your obligations and avoid pitfalls. We can also ensure that the agreements you are making cover all the essential topics.

Contact us using our easy online form or call us on 070 361 5048 to start a conversation.

Corona vaccination at work – legal FAQ

The employment law experts at GMW lawyers share insights on your rights in the workplace regarding corona vaccination, and when it is worth contacting a lawyer.

Read more

Why call a lawyer?

Many people hesitate before getting legal advice – not because they are unsure if they need it, but because they are uncertain if they ought to involve a lawyer. Legal Expat Desk explains why calling a lawyer can be the right thing to do.

Read more

How to lose your job in the Netherlands 2021

There are not many ways to lose your job in the Netherlands – but each of them follows a different process and has different implications for your rights. Here’s what you need to know in 2021, and when to take action.

Read more

Voluntary departures, forced redundancy & settlement agreements 2021

The global impact of the pandemic continues as more and more companies cut their workforce. Whether you have been offered voluntary departure or a settlement agreement, or you have been forced into redundancy in 2021, here’s what you need to know.

Read more

The new normal – legally speaking

So much has changed in our day-to-day lives since “corona” became part of our vocabulary that it’s easy to believe that everything is different. So has this crisis fundamentally changed your legal rights in the Netherlands? Our legal experts summarise what you need to know.

Read more

Settlement agreements – what you need to know

As more and more companies move towards reorganisations and redundancies, voluntary leave programmes and settlement agreements are becoming a common topic of conversation. So what should you do if you are offered a settlement agreement? Is it worthwhile accepting, and what are the consequences? Here are some essential considerations.

Read more

8 Myths about Dutch law – busted

Truth or fiction? Our legal experts dispel some common misunderstandings about Dutch law.

Read more

Reorganisation and redundancy in the Netherlands

Employees in the Netherlands enjoy strong legal rights. They can only be dismissed for a limited number of reasons (grounds). One such reason for dismissal is redundancy for business economic reasons, for example during a company reorganisation. This article explains the process employers must follow and why a settlement agreement can be easier than dismissal via UWV procedure.

Read more

Losing your job in 2020 – key considerations

There’s not much worse than facing dismissal, except perhaps for losing your job now in the current crisis. Companies are failing, jobs are scarcer, and just getting to an interview is more complicated. As an expat, the threat to residence makes this an even bigger issue. So, if the worst happens, here’s what you need to know about your legal rights and options.

Read more

Dismissal law in the Netherlands 2020

Dutch employment law has changed in 2020. With the introduction of a new act, the grounds for dismissal in the Netherlands have expanded. Here’s what you need to know.

Read more

6 FAQ about coronavirus and work, home and business

The media is dominated by so much information about the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) that it’s hard to keep track of what it means in practice. Here are some clear answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus and employment, property and business according to Dutch law.

Read more

Say goodbye to shorter working hours – the WTV is discontinued

On 17 March 2020, the Dutch cabinet announced that the WTV scheme for shorter working hours has been discontinued. Instead, employers affected by the coronavirus can apply for a new temporary measure designed to support employers, employees and entrepreneurs.

Read more

New job? Do the 5 point check

Being offered a new job is exciting, especially when it provides the next step to your career. You may want to sign the new contract immediately to secure the deal – but before you do, take a moment to quickly check these 5 points. They are key to your future rights at work.

Read more

Changing employment conditions

When an employer and employee sign an employment contract, both are bound by this contract, including the terms and conditions of employment. So what happens when an employer wants to change the employment conditions that were agreed?

Read more

When to call a lawyer about work

As an employee, you may be confronted with an unpleasant situation at work, such as a conflict, demotion or change in your employment conditions. In such circumstances, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Read more

The seven things you need to check in your new employment contract

You’ve just got a new job, or perhaps you’re extending an existing position. You’ve just received a new employment contract. Before you sign your employment contract, there are some key clauses to which you should pay attention.

Read more

Employee stock option rights and termination

Have you been granted employee stock options, and are you now facing termination of your employment? Discover 5 key points to consider that will help you understand your rights regarding your stock options.

Read more

9 Ways to lose your job in Holland

As an expat, the most common reason to move to a new land is work – but which country will protect your rights in the workplace when you are there? Expat employment specialist Godelijn Boonman explains what makes the Netherlands a great choice for international workers.

Read more

Why written notice is indispensable for employers

In a time when we accept VOIP calls, sound bites and instant messaging as standard work tools, it can be tempting to believe that a verbal discussion is sufficient – but this is not always true. In the case of ending a fixed term employment contract, written notice remains essential.

Read more

Things to consider when confronted with dismissal

Even though the Dutch economy is growing again, many companies are still dismissing employees. Godelijn Boonman highlights the top 8 things to consider when confronted with dismissal.

Read more

The non-competition or business relations clause

Many employment agreements contain a non-competition clause or business relations clause. Employees would usually prefer to not agree to such a clause but they want the job and don’t want to annoy their new employer, so they sign.

Read more

Can your employer enforce a salary cut?

Can your employer enforce a salary cut? The good news is that, as a matter of fact, an employer cannot easily enforce such a measure.

Read more

Employment contract: non-competition clause

The non-competition, or non-compete clause is a clause that can be included in an employment contract between employer and employee. This clause states that the employee is forbidden, both during his period of employment and thereafter, to be employed by or associated with a company that performs work or provides similar services to the business of the employer, and that therefore could be in competition with the business of the employer.

Read more

Employee rights: more clarity on fair compensation

Since July 1 2015, under certain circumstances, employees have been entitled to fair compensation. A judgment by the Supreme Court in 2017 provided more clarity on how this compensation is calculated. This blog explains the situation in more detail.

Read more

The Hague: international city of peace & justice

With the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace the international allure of The Hague is very well visible. Besides the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague has another 200 international organisations, and 111 embassies and consulates.

Read more

Dutch labour law and your contract of employment

Your employment contract may determine specific payment and work conditions, but Dutch law determines your rights as an employee in the Netherlands. There are a great many Dutch laws that apply, but some are especially relevant to international workers. Here are some expert tips on evaluating your employment contract under Dutch law.

Read more

The do’s and don’ts of holidays

Are you trying to figure out how much time you can take off for Christmas? Or how to spend those final few vacation days you have left at the end of the year? Or, maybe you’re lucky, and you’ll have more holiday days then you need this year.

Read more

Redeployment after a termination

In the Netherlands, employers must make an effort to reassign employees before they terminate them. But if you work for a large, multinational corporation, is your employer obligated to find a position for you anywhere in the world?

Read more

Notice periods

 Any employment contract in the Netherlands must stipulate a notice period for ending the contract. That is the amount of time an employee must give an employer before leaving a position. Employees can be penalised for failing to adhere to the notice period requirements, so here’s what you need to know.

Read more

Employee or contractor? Recent changes in the Dutch business climate

For companies who are deciding to establish an office in the Netherlands, the legal form of the business is important. Equally important are the people who are going to work for the company: does the company want to hire employees or contractors? These two are very different.

Read more

Terminating an employee

Do you have an employee you would like to dismiss? In the Netherlands, an employer cannot unilaterally end an employment agreement unless both parties have agreed upon a temporary contract which ends by operation of law.

Read more

Bonuses in severance pay

Are you an employee whose contract is being terminated and are you offered transitional severance pay? Then you might wonder how the amount of severance pay is calculated. An issue that has recently been brought into question is whether or not bonuses are included when calculating transitional severance pay.

Read more

The proportionality principle in Dutch employment law

Dutch employment law strongly protects employees against dismissal. However, there are times when a termination is unavoidable. When a company reaches a point of economic deficiency where it is no longer possible to retain the same amount of employees, terminations will occur. There are a number of regulations covering the ways an employee can be terminated, one of which being the proportionality principle.

Read more

Place of work determines applicable law

Which national law is applicable when it comes to international employment contracts? Is this the country of the employer, employee, or the country where the organisation is located?

Read more

Further increase of the state pension age in the Netherlands

The state pension age, the age at which someone is entitled to the old-age pension facilitated by the state when you meet the requirements, is currently (in 2016) 65 years and 6 months. This age increases yearly, based on the increased life expectancy.

Read more

The choice of law in the employment agreement

When parties conclude an employment agreement, they can agree that this agreement shall be governed by a law chosen by them. Such choice of law applies when the employment agreement is international in nature. When all connecting factors point to one country, the obligatory provisions of that country are not set aside by the choice of law in the contract.

Explicit and implicit choice of law

Usually, a choice of law is explicitly taken up in a clause in the international employment agreement. Nevertheless, a tacit choice of law is also possible. This must be clearly demonstrated by the terms of the contract or the circumstances of the case. Examples of such indications are: a jurisdiction or forum clause, and references to a section of law of a country.

The impact of the choice of law

When the international employment agreement contains a valid choice of law, this does not mean this law actually governs the whole contract.

First of all, the application of overriding mandatory provisions of the law of a country cannot be restricted. Important sections of Dutch law which are considered overriding mandatory provisions are provisions regarding working conditions, working hours, and minimum wage. These provisions apply irrespective of a possible choice of law when the situation falls within the scope of Dutch law.

Second, a choice of law may not deprive the employee of the protection afforded to him by obligatory provisions under the law that would have been applicable to the contract without the choice of law. Most of Dutch labour law consists of obligatory provisions, and, most important, Dutch dismissal law is fully mandatory. This means that even when the law of another country is chosen by the parties in the employment agreement, it is possible that (parts of) Dutch law applies as well.

In conclusion

When no choice of law clause is taken up in the contract, this does not necessarily mean no choice of law has been made. Furthermore, when a choice of law is agreed upon, this does not always exclude the applicability of (parts of) the law of another country.

Not sure about which law applies to the employment agreement? Contact us for advice.

Immunity of international organisations in labour disputes

Various international organisations are based in the Netherlands. These organisations enjoy a degree of immunity in order that they may remain independent and function without impediments.

Read more