A high level outline of working time obligations that apply to the Netherlands.
The main law is the Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet). The Act sets out certain statutory minimum standards and maxima governing working time and rest in order to protect the wellbeing of workers and to enable them to combine work and care responsibilities.
The Act covers nearly all sectors of economic activity. The Working Hours Decree (Arbeidstijdenbesluit) contains several regulations regarding applicability and exceptions for several forms of specific work. Generally, the Working Hours Act does not apply to managers/directors and senior staff, whose salary is more than three times the statutory minimum wage (including holiday allowance).
Workers and working time
The law applies to workers. There is no definition of working time in the Act, nor in the Decree. Special rules apply to on call duty (aanwezigheidsdienst). On call duty may not last longer than 24 hours per shift. For these employees the maximum hours of work is an average of 48 hours per week, over a 26 week period and employees are allowed to work a maximum of 52 on call duties in a period of 26 weeks. The 48 hour limit may be extended to 60 with the explicit written consent of the employee.
A night worker is an employee who works a shift of which more than one hour falls between 24:00 and 06:00. A shift is a period in which work is performed between two rest periods of at least eight hours.
Minimum and maximum working time
No minimum limits apply to a worker’s working time. There is a minimum working time of half an hour which applies to cases of on call duty. The maximum number of hours which a worker can work per shift is 12 and the maximum number per week is 60. No more than an average of 48 hours per week may be worked within a period of 16 weeks and no more than an average of 55 hours per week may be worked within a period of four weeks. A collective scheme may agree otherwise on this average.
The maximum length of night work is 10 hours. No more than an average of 40 hours may be worked per week over a period of 16 weeks if night work was performed for at least 16 times during this period. The rest period following night work ending later than 02:00 must be at least 14 hours. The rest period can be reduced to eight hours once in a period of seven days. The maximum number of nights worked later than 02:00 may not exceed 36 in a period of 16 weeks. This may be extended by a collective scheme to a maximum of night duties of 140 within a period of 52 weeks.
A night worker has the right to transfer to suitable day work if a physician advises the employer that the worker is suffering from health problems (connected with the fact that the worker performs night work) and if it is possible for the employer to transfer the worker to work to which the worker is suited and which is not night work.
Rest periods and breaks
In each 24 hour period workers must have a daily rest period of 11 hours. For every seven days there must be a weekly rest period of 36 hours. If a worker works for longer than 5.5 hours he/she must have a break of at least 30 minutes. If work is carried out for more than ten hours, the break must be at least 45 minutes. Breaks can be divided in periods of at least 15 minutes.
Examples of excluded employees are people who, on an annual basis, earn at least three times the minimum wage (in total €61,982.50 gross per year, as per July 2018), unless the employees work on night duty, carry out high risk work or if they have a non-supervisory position in the mining industry. Certain categories of work are also excluded (in part or in full) from the scope of the Act, the most important of which being voluntary workers, members of the clergy, resident domestic personnel, professional sports persons, scientific researchers and medical or dental specialists.
Special rules apply to women in relating to pregnancy and motherhood. Work given to pregnant women and women who have recently given birth must be organised in a way that takes her specific circumstances into account. During the first nine months after giving birth, women may interrupt their work in order to breast feed or to express milk as often and for as long as is necessary, up to a maximum of one quarter of their working time. Special rules apply to children (below the age of 16) and juveniles (16 and 17 year olds).
Sunday is basically a non-working day unless the worker has expressly agreed to work Sundays and the nature of the work makes it necessary to do so.
Employers must record the hours worked by their employees. They must do this in such way that Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate (Inspectie SZW) can check that the Act has been complied with. Employees themselves must make sure that the requirements are observed and employers cannot require employees to work outside these requirements. The Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate can make random inspections to check whether the law is being complied with. If not, the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate can punish the offender by imposing a fine up to a maximum of €45,000. If the breach constitutes an offence the matter will be referred to the Public Prosecutor.
The employer must inform the employees in time of any change in the organisation of working time.
Health and safety at work
Employers must draw up a list of the risks involved in their work processes and an action plan on how to reduce those risks. In this process working hours must be considered.
Welfare of the employee
In determining work hours employers must (so far as can reasonably be required) take into account the wellbeing of employees.
Work life balance
The Flexible Working Act (Wet flexibel werken) deals with work and family life balance. This Act allows employees employed for a period of 26 weeks or longer to make a request to their employer to increase or reduce their agreed working time and/or to alter their place of work and/or working hours (days and/or time).
Further information on working time in the Netherlands is available from our International Employment Issues microsite here.
This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.