What an exciting time! Are you going to become a father soon, or hoping on doing so in the near future? Here’s our guide to paternity leave (vaderschapsverlof) in the Netherlands: what your rights are, how much time you get, and whether it’s paid or not.
First things first, how much time off can you take? Well, in the Netherlands, paternity leave (or partner leave, both of which are referred to by the Dutch government as geboorteverlof) is weirdly short.
You are entitled to five weeks of paternity leave (vaderschapsverlof), for which you get 70% of your regular pay. You could get full pay if your employer is willing to supplement it. You need to start taking this time within six months of the baby’s birth, but it doesn’t need to be right after they are born. You could, for example, decide to take your five weeks of leave after the maternity carer leaves. Something else to bear in mind is that these weeks don’t need to be consecutive, so long as your employer agrees with that arrangement.
New amount of paternity leave in the Netherlands still not in line with recommendations from SER
When the change was announced last year, Minister Koolmees emphasised the importance of this time for the new family. “When you have a child, everything changes from one day to the next, you are immediately in the rush hour of life, and then, of course, it is good to have extra time with each other to be able to get used to life with a baby, which creates a better start for mother, partner and child. The tasks in and around the house and the work are thus distributed better and fairer from the outset, and later on, the fruits are reaped.”
Despite Koolmees’s apparent understanding of the idea that fathers are parents too, the new allowance of paternity leave was far less than recommended by either common sense or the Social Economic Council (SER).
Other options for taking paternity leave in the Netherlands: paid holiday leave
There are other options for fathers and partners who want more than five weeks’ leave: some will arrange with their employer to take paid holiday leave after the child is born. Of course, that’s also not likely to be a lot of time, but in combination with the five weeks at 70% of your regular pay, it might be enough to make the difference.
Some companies extend paternity leave in the Netherlands
Although these government regulations are pretty minimal in terms of what they require companies to provide, there is a growing trend in the Netherlands in which individual companies decide to give their employees extended leave when they become parents.
For example, ING gives fathers one month of leave and an additional two months unpaid. The Hague municipality allows its employees to have 6.5 weeks off with full pay when they become parents and Microsoft Netherlands provide six weeks paid paternity leave.
After paternity leave in the Netherlands: parental leave
What about after paternity leave is over? Well, then you can take parental leave. Parents with children under eight years old are entitled to 26 times their usual working week of unpaid leave from their employer, so that they can spend more time with their children. Some employers will cover some of the salary the parent would have earned without that leave, but they are not obligated to do so under Dutch labour law. On the bright side, at least you have an excuse for not helping them with maths homework.
Paternity leave in the Netherlands as a self-employed person
What happens if you’re self employed? While maternity-leave takers who are self-employed have the right to 16 weeks of paid leave, their partners are completely out of luck. There is no provision for leave for self-employed parents. That means that you will need to have your own savings if you want to take any leave at all to be with your partner and new baby.
Paternity leave in the Netherlands: why most men don’t take it
Last year, we wrote about the ways workplace culture can interfere with men taking paternity leave and spending time with their families.
Only 11% of fathers took their paternity leave, a study by NOS showed. Rutgers hypothesised that the reason behind this was pure societal expectation: women are expected to take leave when they give birth, but men are not — which makes it all the more difficult for those who want to take leave to do so. There is a big ‘take it or leave it’ culture among potential paternity leave takers, and some men are also afraid to ask their bosses for fear of being seen as awkward.
What are your experiences with the Dutch paternity leave system? Let us know in the comments below.
Feature Image: J carter/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2020, and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.