Working in the Netherlands
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Find out how to get a job and work in the Netherlands
Our guide to working in the Netherlands includes a general economic overview, information on the job search, labor laws, the social security system, and business etiquette. We have all the info you need for your assignment abroad. Welcome to the Netherlands and its thriving business world!
Employment in the Netherlands
At a Glance:
- Thousands of new jobs have been created in the Netherlands due to huge foreign investment, particularly in services and trade.
- A good level of Dutch and fluency in English is essential when looking for a job.
- Employees in financial services and the chemical industry tend to have the best salaries.
- The national insurance system offers basic services and is available to all residents of the Netherlands.
- Punctuality is greatly appreciated in business dealings.
The most important economic sector in the Netherlands is agriculture. In fact, the country is one of the most significant exporters of agricultural products. Germany and the UK in particular purchase fresh produce from the Netherlands on a regular basis. Other areas, such as the automobile industry and sustainable energy, are gaining considerable importance as well.
In July 2017, the unemployment rate in the Netherlands was 4.8%. You will, however, find that there are huge regional differences for employees working in the Netherlands. During 2017, there was a 40% increase in the number of vacancies in Zeeland. However, while Utrecht and Zeeland are known for their high employment rate, Flevoland has the highest number of people without a job.
If you are interested in starting a job in the Netherlands, you should also be aware of some legal issues: EU/EEA citizens, for instance, don’t require a work permit. People of other nationalities, however, will need one before they can start working in the Netherlands.
Finding a Job: Ask for Help or Look in the Newspapers
In recent years, new jobs have been created in different economic sectors all over the Netherlands, such as logistics, services and trade, or information and telecommunication. Huge foreign investment in the Netherlands by over 300 companies such as Tesla and easyJet has created thousands of jobs since 2015. You might also want to brush up your Dutch if you consider working in the Netherlands. Fluency in English is indispensable, too.
The Dutch Labor Administration (UWV Werkbedrijf) can help you find a job if you are an EU/EEA citizen interested in working in the Netherlands. To sign up, you need to provide proof of your EU citizenship and your income tax number.
European employment services and private employment agencies are another alternative. There is a difference between Uitzendbureaus and Bemiddelingsbureaus, though. The former do not only search staff for their clients, they also function as employers themselves. The latter merely refer employees to companies. Alternatively, you can check local newspapers such as De Telegraaf, De Volkskrant, or Algemeen Dagblad (AD).
Your salary for working in the Netherlands will vary depending on your sector of employment. The highest salaries can be found in financial services, chemicals, and law. However, if you should be employed in the Netherlands’ textile industry or agriculture, chances are you will be earning a lot less.
A law on the minimum wage for working in the Netherlands regulates the income of employees aged between 23 and 65. The legal minimum wage is adjusted every six months. In January 2017, the minimum wage for people over 23 working in the Netherlands was 1,551.60 EUR (gross income per month).
Working Hours and Vacation Days
The Dutch labor law establishes the framework for all aspects of working in the Netherlands. General requirements and conditions are laid out as follows:
- The maximum number of working hours should not exceed 12 hours per day and 60 hours per week.
- Nightshifts should not exceed 10 hours.
- After five hours, employees are entitled to a break.
Most employees are granted between 20 and 25 days of vacation per year. This is more than labor law specifies. Vacation days have to be four times the number of weekly work days. Thus, five work days per week would result in 20 days of vacation per year.
The Commission for Equality of Treatment was appointed to assure equal rights for all people working in the Netherlands. In this way, nobody should be discriminated against when it comes to reviewing applications, salaries, or promotions of employees.
Doing Business in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a maternity protection law which applies to female employees in case of pregnancy. According to this law, they are not obligated to inform their employer of their pregnancy and enjoy an extended dismissal protection until one year after giving birth. During the last few months of their pregnancy, they are not supposed to do physically straining tasks or to work overtime and in shifts.
Pregnant employees are entitled to additional breaks during the work day and receive 16 weeks of maternity leave. At least four of these weeks should be taken before giving birth and at least 10 weeks should be taken afterwards. The maternity allowance during this time has to be consistent with the previous salary. Mothers and fathers can reduce their working hours for up to six months after birth to take care of their newborn child.
The National Insurance System
The Netherlands has a social security agreement with all other EU/EEA countries. However, many benefits also apply to non-EU citizens. The national insurance system, for example, is open to all residents of the Netherlands, regardless of citizenship or income. It offers basic services and is financed by contributions paid to the revenue office along with the income tax (Loonheffing). The national insurances system is regulated by the following laws:
- general law for surviving dependents’ benefits (Anw)
- general law for child allowance (AKW)
- general law on long-term care (Wlz)
- general law for retirement (AOW)
- work and employment support for disabled youth (Wajong)
- health insurance act (Zvw)
All employees are automatically insured through their employer. Employee insurance is subject to the authority of inter-trade organizations (Bedrijfsverenigingen) and must adhere to the following regulations:
- law on continuation of payment in case of illness (Wulbz)
- law on sickness benefits (ZW)
- law on unemployment insurance (WW)
- law on insurance for accidents at the work place (WAO)
- law on the correspondence of work and wage to the ability to work (WIA)
Starting a Business in the Netherlands
Members of the EU/EEA can start a business in the Netherlands without having to apply for a work permit or residence visa. However, the usual red tape still has to be taken care of. Since 2008, you can register with the Commercial Registry (Kamer van Koophandel or KvK) and the Dutch tax office (Belastingdienst) at the same time. You should contact your local Kamer van Koophandel (KvK) if you want to start:
- an independent operation (Eenmanszaak)
- a partnership under common firm (Vennootschap onder Firma)
- a limited partnership (Commanditaire Vennootschap).
The KvK registers all relevant data of your business. If you are planning to start an independent operation, you will receive your KvK number and your sales tax identification number right away. Otherwise, it will take a while to process the paperwork.
Dutch Business Etiquette: Straightforward
Dutch people are known to be straightforward, and this also applies to their business culture. In a meeting, expect business negotiations to start straight away after the introductory round. Meetings often follow a stringent agenda, which should be adhered to. There is not much room on it for late arrivals or general conversation and punctuality is highly valued. If you disagree, you are expected to say so, and you should not be offended if your Dutch business associate does the same.
Always address business partners and colleagues by their last name until you are invited to do otherwise. Business gifts are not expected to be given or received. However, if you want to present your business partners with something, make sure that it is not too expensive to avoid making them feel uncomfortable or even be suspected of bribery. The Dutch do protect their reputation of honesty in international trade. When invited to a private home, on the other hand, it is considered good manners to give a small present to the host or hostess, like flowers or chocolate.