The easy guide to understanding your Dutch employment contract

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Woohoo! If you’re reading this article it’s because you’ve scored a very valuable Dutch employment contract — so first things first, congratulations! 👏

Now let’s get down to business. What do all those weird phrases on your employment contract mean? Isn’t proeftijd a type of alcohol? And voltijd a type of power outlet? Not to mention, how are you meant to understand zwangerschapsverlof if you can’t even pronounce it? 

A Dutch employment contract can be a little tricky to understand, so we’re breaking down all those weird phrases so you can read, negotiate, and sign your work contract with ease.

We teamed up with the experts at Undutchables to write this guide. Undutchables have helped thousands of internationals snag a job in the Netherlands, so they were the easy choice when we wanted to learn about Dutch employment contracts!  

Haven’t landed a Dutch job yet? Find out how to get a work visa for the Netherlands!

Types of employment contracts in the Netherlands

You’ve applied, nailed the interview, impressed HR, and been handed a job — now it’s just a matter of riding it out until retirement, right? Well, in the Netherlands, not quite. 

If you’ve landed a Dutch job, it’s likely that you’ll only receive a temporary contract (tijdelijk contract) in the beginning. You’ll have to work your way through up to three temporary contracts before getting a permanent contract (vast contract). So what’s the difference? 

Temporary employment contracts (tijdelijk contract)

A temporary employment contract is an agreement that you and your employer will work together for a set period. Typically, that period is around six months or one year at a time. 

Once you reach the agreed end date your employer can either: 

  • Offer you an additional temporary contract
  • Offer you a permanent contract
  • Offer no new contract

So can an employer just keep you dangling on a temporary employment contract forever? Negative! After three consecutive temporary contracts or temporary contracts that last up to three years your employer must offer a permanent contract unless your CAO (collective bargaining agreement) says otherwise. 

Permanent employment contracts (vast contract)

If you’ve been lucky enough to be offered a permanent contract (vast contract), congratulations! A permanent contract means that you will work indefinitely for the same company until either: 

  • You resign (in accordance with your contract conditions) or, 
  • Your employer finds a reason to let you go or fire you. 

The great thing about a permanent contract is that you have a stable income — and that counts for a lot, especially if you want to buy a house in the Netherlands.

Recruitment agency contracts (uitzendcontract)

It’s also possible to sign a work contract in the Netherlands with a recruitment agency. Here, three parties are involved: you (the worker), the hirer (the company where the work will be performed) and the lender (the recruitment agency). 

You’ll sign your contract with the recruitment agency who will then “lend” you out to the hiring company to complete the work. 

Zero-hour contracts (nul uren contract)

A zero-hour contract is when you perform casual work for a company. You generally won’t have set hours or workdays and will go to work when your employer tells you that you are needed. Your employer will pay you for the hours that you work, and you must be paid for a minimum of three hours for each shift, even if you work less. 

This means that you have less stability than in a permanent or temporary contract, but all is not lost: you can still be eligible for sick leave and holiday leave.

Freelancer contract (DBA modelovereenkomst)

If you’re a freelancer you’re also required to have a contract with the company you’re performing work for — even though you’re not officially employed by them. 

The DBA act (‘Deregulering Beoordeling Arbeidsrelaties’ or ‘Declaration of Employment Relationships’) exists to clarify the relationship between the freelancer and the place of work and ensure it can’t be viewed as salaried employment. 

A Dutch work contract can be a little tricky to understand. Image: Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels

Salaries in the Netherlands (salaris)

Likely the most important thing you’ll look at in your new Dutch employment contract is your salary (salaris). 

In the Netherlands, most salaries are paid monthly. During negotiations and in your work contract, employers will discuss gross salary (bruto). When you receive your first payslip you’ll see your net salary (netto) which is the amount you’ll actually receive in your bank account. 

Trial periods (proeftijd) in Dutch jobs

Your Dutch work contract may include a trial period (proeftijd). During this time both you or your employer can choose to terminate the contract for any reason. Trial periods are generally pretty standard, but do need to fulfil some conditions:

  • The original employment contract is for at least six months
  • The trial period was agreed to in writing in the employment contract unless trial periods are a part of the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) for the industry.
  • The contract wasn’t an extension of a previous contract (unless the duties or obligations of the employee changed) 
  • The employee wasn’t previously a temporary employee switching into a permanent employee (also without any changes to duties or obligations).

Workplace agreements: CAOs

Some Dutch work contracts are subject to collective labour agreements (Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst, CAO). This means that your workplace or industry has an agreement in place with your trade union or representatives about payment of wages, holiday rights, overtime, termination of contracts, and more. 

If a CAO is in place, this must be mentioned in your Dutch employment contract. A CAO generally overrides any unfair conditions in your employment contract. And good news: a Dutch employer can’t change the conditions in a CAO unless they benefit the employee

Working hours in the Netherlands: full-time, part-time, and more

Your working hours will also be included in your Dutch employment contract. Your employment might be: 

  • Full-time (voltijd) — between 36 and 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (deeltijd) — between 12 and 36 hours per week

Make sure you understand your working hours and any breaks that you’re entitled to. There are minimum standards that are detailed in the Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet). 

READ MORE | Vacation, free time and working hours in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Time off in the Netherlands

We’re sure you’re psyched to get started at your new Dutch job — but don’t forget it’s still work, and all work deserves a break now and then! Check your employment contract carefully to find out what kind of time off you’re entitled to. Look for these sections: 

Holiday and vacation leave (vakantiedagen)

Ready to relax on a Spanish beach? Don’t forget to schedule some vacation days (vakantiedagen) first! Luckily, there’s a minimum amount of vacation days your employer must give you in the Netherlands and it’s simple: four times the amount of hours you work per week (or four weeks per year)

You can use a simple formula to calculate how many yearly hours that is: 

4 x (number of hours worked per week) = (number of vacation hours per year)

Check your employment contract carefully to know how many vacation days you’ll receive per year — it might be even more than the minimum!

Sick leave (ziekteverlof)

Sick leave (ziekteverlof) in the Netherlands is also mandated by law. If you become ill your employer needs to pay at least 70% of your last earned wages for up to two years. However, it’s not uncommon for Dutch employers to offer more sick leave than the minimum, so check your Dutch employment contract carefully. 

Your contract will generally include information about what to do if you fall sick, who to report to, and what the process is. 

TIP: Fallen sick while on vacation? Contact your employer! It’s often possible to mark these days as sick days instead of vacation days. 

Pregnancy and paternity leave

If you already have the pitter-patter of little feet in your home or are expecting it one day, it’s important to carefully understand your leave entitlements around pregnancy, parental, and paternity leave in your Dutch work contract. 

Your CAO or contract may detail different amounts of leave, but in general, women can expect: 

  • 6 weeks of pregnancy leave (for the pregnant person)
  • 10 weeks maternity leave (zwangerschapsverlof) after childbirth

If the partner of an employee gives birth, the employee has the right to one week of paid partner/paternity leave (geboorteverlof/vaderschapsverlof) anytime in the first four weeks of the child’s birth. They also have the right to up to five weeks of unpaid leave in the first six months of the child’s birth. 

Need to give your children some extra attention after birth? Until your children are eight years old you can take unpaid parental leave (ouderschapsverlof) at any time. Whether you’re paid depends on the conditions in your contract, so read it carefully!

Public holidays (officiële feestdagen) in the Netherlands

Unlike other countries, the Netherlands government doesn’t require companies to give their employees public holidays off — weird, right? 

Whether you get those days off is typically included in your Dutch employment contract or CAO. Public holidays include: 

  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Easter Monday
  • King’s Day (April 27)
  • Liberation Day (May 5)
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Sunday
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

Your employer may also have a rule that you get a day off on Liberation or King’s Day — but only every five years. Read your contract carefully to understand whether you’ll be hard at work and resting and relaxing on the above days. 

Secondary benefits when working in Holland

Your salary isn’t the only great thing about having a job — your work contract may also mention secondary benefits (secundaire arbeidsvoorwaarden). In addition to your salary, your Dutch employment contract may mention (among others): 

  • A travel allowance (reiskostenvergoeding)
  • A thirteenth month (dertiende maand)
  • Training and study costs (opleidingens kosten)
  • Flexible working time (flexibele werktijden)
  • Relocation costs (verhuisvergoeding)

Before signing the contract for your Dutch employer, make sure you truly understand the conditions of secondary benefits. For example, if you resign from your job within a certain period of time you may be required to pay back relocation or education costs. 

READ NEXT | Do I need to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands?

You may even be able to use a travel allowance from your Dutch employment contract for a bike to get to work! Image: TRAVELBLOG/Pexels

Notice periods (opzegtermijn) when working in the Netherlands

The time may come when you want to leave your Dutch job — so make sure you understand your required notice period (opzegtermijn). 

The standard notice period for employees in the Netherlands is one month, but can be shorter or longer (maximum six months) by agreement and when explicitly stated in your contract. 

Notice periods also go the other way: if an employer decides not to continue your employment they need to give you a certain amount of notice. This is decided by the length of your employment contract but can be no more than four months (unless it is during your trial period or if you are being fired due to gross misconduct).

Being fired (ontslagen zijn): what happens if I’m terminated while working for a Dutch employer?

If you have a temporary contract and your employer decides not to renew it beyond the end date, there’s not much you can do. 

However, if you hold a permanent contract, your employer can only fire you (ontslagen zijn) in certain cases. Your employment contract will state how much notice your employer must give you depending on the scenario. 

Non-compete clauses (concurrentiebeding) in Holland

You’re leaving your Dutch workplace, ready to take on the Netherlands in a (hopefully) bigger and better job — but wait a second, can you even go work elsewhere? 

It’s important to check if a non-compete clause (concurrentiebeding) is included in your Dutch employment contract. If there is, you could be stopped from working at a competitor for a specified duration of time. This kind of clause protects your employer’s interests but can make it difficult for you. 

Non-compete clauses can only be included in permanent contracts — unless the employer can explicitly state why it would be necessary in a temporary contract.

How do Dutch pensions (pensioen) work? 

Are you saving for your retirement? Maybe not! While most employers in the Netherlands include a pension (pensioen) scheme, it’s not a legal requirement. Whether your new employer offers a pension scheme should be clearly outlined in your work contract. If in doubt, just ask!

READ NEXT | 7 ways a Dutch job is different

Glossary of Dutch employment contract terms

That’s a lot to take in! Here’s a handy list of all the terms we discussed in this article to reference when you’re looking at your Dutch employment contract: 

ArbeidscontractEmployment contract
Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst (CAO)Collective labour agreement
ConcurrentiebedingNon-compete clause
DBA modelovereenkomstFreelancer contract
Dertiende maandThirteenth month
Flexibele werktijdenFlexible working time
GeboorteverlofBirth leave (for partners)
Nul uren contractZero-hour contract (Casual contract)
Officiële feestdagenPublic holidays
Ontslagen zijnBeing fired
Opleidingens kostenTraining and study costs
OpzegtermijnNotice period
OuderschapsverlofParental leave
ProeftijdTrial period
ReiskostenvergoedingTravel allowance
Secundaire arbeidsvoorwaardenSecondary benefits (fringe benefits)
Tijdelijk contractTemporary contract
UitzendcontractRecruitment agency contract
VaderschapsverlofPaternity leave
VakantiedagenVacation days
Vast contractPermanent contract
VerhuisvergoedingRelocation costs
ZiekteverlofSick leave

Don’t have a Dutch employment contract just yet? No stress! Head on over to Undutchables to check out their vacancies

What was the biggest surprise for you when reading your Dutch employment contract? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Ono Kosuki/Pexels

Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam has over six years experience writing about life in the Netherlands and leads the content team at DutchReview. She originally came to the Netherlands to study in 2016 and now holds a BA (Hons.) in Arts, a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and (almost) a Masters in Teaching. She loves to write about settling into life in the Netherlands, her city of Utrecht, learning Dutch, and jobs in the Netherlands — and she still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike (she's learning!).

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