Key points

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.

This post was reviewed and updated on 24 September 2020

Dutch labour law overview

Labour (employment) law varies per country, and while the differences may seem small, they can significantly affect your rights with regard to trial periods, vacation days, notice and dismissal, the minimum wage, health and safety and equal treatment. Godelijn Boonman, international employment law expert, details some of the key points to consider in Dutch employment law:

Does Dutch law apply to my employment?

Yes, if you work in the Netherlands, Dutch labour law is partly and often fully applicable to your employment, even if the law of another country is declared applicable in your contract of employment.

Maximum number of contracts

The number of succeeding employment contracts for a fixed term is limited to three, but can also not exceed a limit of three years for the total duration of fixed-term contracts. If the duration of the contracts or the number of fixed contracts exceeds either legal limit, the contract of employment will automatically become a permanent contract for an unlimited term. An interval of six months between contracts, however, breaks the chain of consecutive temporary contracts.

Trial periods

If the contract is for fewer than two years, the trial period cannot be longer than one month. The maximum duration of a trial period is two months. Trial periods in an employment contract for fewer than six months are invalid. During the trial period, both employer and employee are allowed to terminate the employment contract with immediate effect.

Notice periods

The notice period for the employee is usually one month. If the notice period for the employee to end a contract of employment is extended, the notice period for the employer should be double the notice period of the employee.


The Dutch labour law system for dismissal is particularly unusual, as it is very protective of employees. In most cases, the employer needs permission from the labour office (UWV) or the court to fire you.

A permanent contract with an unlimited term can only be terminated by the employer with the consent of the employee, UWV or the court. The court and labour offices assess whether there are grounds for a valid termination. If an employer gives notice of termination without obtaining prior approval, the employee could nullify the termination.

This rule is not applicable in the case of summary dismissal (such as fraud or theft by the employee). Courts are, however, very reluctant about accepting summary dismissals under Dutch labour law. It is therefore very important to contact an employment lawyer immediately if you are fired on the spot.

Vacation days

The legal minimum number of holidays per year is four times the weekly working time. This means 20 holidays in the case of full-time employees working five-day weeks, although it is common practice for full-time employees to be granted 25 holiday days per year, on top of Dutch national holidays.

In the Netherlands’ employment law, there is an expiration date of six months for taking the legal minimum number of holidays. Employees therefore must take all their holidays within six months after the year in which the holidays were accrued. Should the employee not take the holidays on time, the holidays will lapse without any compensation or payment. The expiration date of six months is not applicable to holidays that the employee is entitled to on top of the legal minimum number of holidays. These extra holidays will not lapse until after a period of five years.

Vacation money

It is mandatory in the Netherlands to get extra wages (usually 8 percent of your yearly salary) as a ‘holiday allowance’ (normally paid in May).

Employment contracts under Collective Labour Agreements

A CAO (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst) is a written agreement covering working conditions and benefits, which is drawn up by employers, employers’ organisations and employee organisations (such as unions). A CAO operates at company or industry sector level and the provisions (number of holidays, for example) are often more generous than statutory requirements. It should state in your contract of employment whether a CAO is applicable. You don’t have to be a member of a union to benefit. If no CAO applies then you will need to negotiate your own terms and conditions.

Changing jobs vs. residence permits

Any changes in your work or partnership status must be reported to the IND within four weeks. You or your ‘sponsor’ (such as an employer) can be penalised by the IND if changes aren’t reported, including contributions to repatriation costs.

If you change jobs, you don’t necessarily need a new residence permit, but the same rules will apply as for the first permit you were granted. So if you worked with a separate work permit, your new employer needs a new work permit, too.

If you worked as a highly skilled migrant, your new employer needs to be eligible to apply under the highly skilled migrant scheme, and will need to prove to the IND that you still meet the requirements of the highly skilled migrant scheme, for example, sending in your contract of employment to show you earn the required salary.

If you are applying to extend a residence or work permit, your circumstances will be assessed again in reference to the original application. The main exception is that after five years working on any given residence permit that allowed you to work (such as a partner’s permit or employee single permit), you no longer need a separate work permit to sign a contract of employment.

Highly skilled migrants can also change their purpose of stay into ‘labour’ after five years, which allows them to work without a work permit and without meeting the requirements for the highly skilled migrant scheme.

Unemployment benefits (WW) Netherlands

Typically all working residents in the Netherlands must first pay Dutch social security contributions in order to receive any benefits. Your employment history determines the amount and duration of unemployment benefit payments. For the first two months, you will receive 75 percent of your last earned salary, and thereafter 70 percent. You must have worked 26 out of the previous 36 weeks before the first day of terminating your contract of employment (or fewer for those not in regular employment), although benefits can be restricted if other benefits are in operation.

Learn more about Dutch employment law

Get further information, guidance and tips in the new white paper by Godelijn Boonman.

Do  you need advice?

Would you like to discuss your employment contract or learn more about your legal rights in the Netherlands? Contact one of our expat lawyers or send us your question online.