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Lost your job in the Netherlands? What you need to know about Dutch employment law [2021]

Image: Anna Shvets/Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/stressed-woman-looking-at-a-laptop-4226218/

Lost your job in the Netherlands? What a bummer! With bills to pay and work-life ruined, try not to panic! DutchReview is here to help you get on the right path.

Here is everything you need to know regarding Dutch employment law, so you don’t get caught out!

Dutch employment law

Okay, so let us start with Dutch employment law. You need to know your rights if you’ve lost your job in the Netherlands. And, it’s worth noting that if you are an EEA foreign national or a foreign temp, you are subject to the same working conditions as the Dutch.

If you have been dismissed, no matter what your contract is, there is still some form of notice period (even if it is just one day). It will be in your contract!

Probation in the Netherlands: proefperiode

Okay, so when you first get a job in the Netherlands, you are on probation. This means that your contract is not permanent. This period is sort of like a trial, to see how you go. It’s also because it’s really hard to sack you once you’re on a permanent contract. However, in the probation period, you CAN be sacked — easily — with immediate effect. This period should always be known to you and in your job contract. Check!

Important to know: If you’re on a temporary contract (a least six months) and your employer fails to tell you if it will be extended in time, then you are eligible to receive one month salary as compensation.

Notice period

When you have an indefinite/permanent contract, you must have a notice period of between one and four months. If it is less, then this is against the law. However, if it has been ordered by a court, then this does not apply. With any other contract, such as a temp contract, the notice period can be as little as a day or less.

Notice periods should be discussed and be within your contract. The basic rule is, if you agree with your employer that you will give a month notice, then they have to provide double that if they want to dismiss you. So if you agree on one month, they should provide two. This can all be discussed beforehand though and it can be equal. It’s important to know that the maximum notice period that an employee can have is six months.

If for whatever reason there is no notice period on your contract, then by law, a notice period of one month is assumed. Then, if you have not been given adequate notice, you are entitled to compensation (what you would have earned with the correct notice period applied). If you were dismissed for bad conduct, no notice period is needed (you should have behaved!!!)

Try not to worry about money if you’ve lost your job in the Netherlands… you got this! Image: martaposemuckel/Pixabay

Indefinite contracts in the Netherlands

It’s important that you understand that just because your contract may say that it is for a fixed period, it may actually be deemed an indefinite contract. A fixed contract is a contract which has an end date. HOWEVER, if the time between contracts does not go beyond three months (if it does then this will be seen as a new contract and not indefinite) OR if all of your contract put together is over three years continuously (not exceeding the three to six month gap), then this is considered an indefinite period, even if it says otherwise.

Why is this important? Well your employer can’t just fire you. It either has to go through court or with permission from the UWV WERKbedrijf.

This is all subject to a notice period — which was discussed in the paragraph above. This must be adhered to. This is all dependent on how long you have worked for the company too, it should all be stated in your contract or should have been discussed with your employer beforehand.

Getting “fired” in the Netherlands — termination aka ontslag

There is no way of your employer terminating your contract legally without dealing with it in two different steps. When your employer terminates your permanent contract, they can do so in one of two ways.

  1. Approval to terminate you, from the UWV WERKbedrijf
  2. Take it to court and leave them to terminate you (poor performance, bad conduct)

If they take it to the UWV WERKbedrijf then they must say why. It needs to be for a good reason like a long-term illness or terrible performance. You can defend yourself by writing to the UWV WERKbedrijf and it gets reviewed. If you don’t get the result you want, you can still take the employer to court yourself. All of this process takes a lot of time — literally months.

If they take it to court then it needs to be for an urgent reason, with the contract ending with immediate effect. This process still takes a while though, but is faster than the alternative. If you don’t get the decision you want, this time you cannot appeal it!

Unemployment benefit in the Netherlands: money, money, money

When you lose your job in the Netherlands, or anywhere else for that matter, money is a massive issue. So what can you do and what are you entitled to?

So if you have been fired, you are usually entitled to unemployment benefit. This is only not possible if you were fired for an urgent reason or you decided to leave from your own free-will. If you had a short contract, you may also be exempt. If you had a short contract, this can also affect the right to claim. For more information, go to the government website, or here, to learn more about if you can claim.

If court was involved, sometimes you will be illegible for a severance payment. This is basically a form of compensation for cutting ties with your employer. This can only be decided by the court though and may not even lead to any payment at all. These will be given to you in either instalments or as a lump sum. Again, this all dependent by the court and they will inform you of this.

Still short on money? Well, a loan might help you out 😉 (click here)

Unemployed due to coronavirus: In 2021, employment law in the Netherlands has had to adapt a little bit. Here’s what you need to know about losing your job due to coronavirus:
  • If you lose your job as a result of coronavirus, you’re still eligible for the same unemployment benefits that you would be under any other circumstances.
  • If you’re self-employed (ZZP) and aren’t getting as much work as usual as a result of coronavirus, then you might be eligible for government aid. If what you earn falls below the social assistance level, you can apply for a TOZO (temporary bridging scheme for independent entrepreneurs) until March 31, 2021 (and possibly for longer, as the crisis continues).
  • Businesses that are affected by the coronavirus crisis will receive money from NOW for the purpose of paying employee salaries. The company is not allowed to let people go while they are receiving this aid — its purpose is to prevent unemployment. A company is eligible for this if they expect a 20% decrease in revenue (or more) over the months of October 2020 to March 2021. NOW covers 90% of the loss of turnover: if a business loses 50% of its turnover, NOW covers 45% of wages.

The effect of the 30% ruling

This is important to know and a lot of people don’t know about this, or even think about it. If you’ve lost your job in the Netherlands, you must find another employer within three months and still meet all of the requirements to be able to apply for your 30% ruling again.

If you successfully do this, then you have no worries, your 30% ruling won’t be affected and it will continue. This may add added stress to losing your job, but as long as you can do this within the time frame, then everything will be golden again.

Time to de-stress…

Okay, so you’ve lost your job in the Netherlands… let’s try not to fret about it any more. All the information you need is right here (and refer to government websites if necessary). Just make sure that you stay well-informed and sort the things you need to sort ASAP if there is a time frame.

Good luck with your next job search, we’re sure you’ll ace it! 😉

Ended up unemployed in the Netherlands? Tell us your story in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Anna Shvets/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2018, and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure. 


  1. Hi, I’m wondering about the probation period and unemployment benefit. So imagining you have a permanent contract in a job and you’ve been working there for 2 years already and you decide to change jobs so you quit and right away you start working your new job. In your new job you have a 7 month contract with 1 month trial period. In the very last day of your trial period this new company lets you know that they can’t pay another employee and they fire you. Are you entitled to unemployment benefit in this case?


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