Working in the Netherlands

Working in the Netherlands and want to know what your rights are? Then you’ve come to the right place! Here’s all you need to know about vacations, free time and working hours in the Netherlands. That way you can know if you’ve been unpaid and underappreciated (tut, tut).

Before we begin, I’ll briefly explain some important pointers to you, to get you started on your rights when working in the Netherlands. If you’re working over here, then the law applies to you, even if another law is present in your employment. Always remember that folks!

Firstly, when you start working in the Netherlands, you will be given a fixed-term contract. You may be used to be automatically permanently employed – but it doesn’t work like that here. You will have a contract and then they will choose whether to extend it when the time comes – you can have no more than 3 contracts, you must either be let go or employed permanently. It’s incredibly difficult to get rid of an employee if they are employed on a permanent contract, so they need to be sure that you’re going to be good to them. It’s also important to note that if you have more than a 6-month gap, the contracts restart again (how annoying)!

Lost your job? Don’t worry we have that covered in a completely other article. 😉

Holiday and vacation days in the Netherlands

Everyone is in need of a vacation every now and then! Want to work out how much you’re entitled to? Well, the legal minimum is 4 x the weekly working days. So it all depends on working hours in the Netherlands. So if you work 4 full days a week, 4 x 4 = 16 days holiday. However, there is a tendency for full-time workers to get 25 days holiday in the Netherlands (you’ve cashed in there!), alongside the usual Dutch national holidays.

Note: If you’re wanting to save it back, you have 6 months after the year in which it was accumulated. So say you were working in 2018 and want to save a bit back for next year – it must be used within 6 months. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t just take all this holiday off in one go. You can usually take up to 3 weeks consecutively and anything more than that, you must ask your employer.


What about if you’ve accumulated lots of holiday hours, yet you’re quitting your job? Then you should try and use up these hours before you officially quit your job. If this is not possible, then speak to your employer, because they may be able to sort the hours being paid out to you on your final pay day. This is only possible if it exceeds 20 days though – so bear that in mind!

holidays in the netherlands
Saved your working hours in the Netherlands up? Time to plan!


Working hours in the Netherlands


If you are a full-time worker, that means that you work between 36 – 40 hours per week (if you aren’t then you’re working too much or not enough to call yourself a full-timer!). The average full-time Dutch worker works 38 hours. This usually means that you will have a 30 minute break during your shift that is unpaid (with a shift of over 5.5 hours).


If you work more than 12 hours, but less than the 36, then you are considered a part-time worker. This is extremely common in the Netherlands, especially with women, so don’t feel embarrassed to take the back seat and work a little less. It means that your work-life balance may be a lot more manageable than with your home country! You an also be more flexible with your working hours too – don’t forget to discuss this with your manager if you are wanting to do this as it may be possible.

Working hours in the Netherlands: How much can I work in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, it is illegal to work over 12 hours per shift and over 60 hours per week. This is only applicable if it for a short period of time or a one-off. If this is a regular thing, then it is not allowed. In a 4-week period, you must not work anything over 55 hours per week, which lowers to 48 hours per week over a 16-week period. I know like in the UK, full-time work and long hours is a common, yet yukky thing. It’s also not very common to do lots of overtime in the Netherlands too. It can be done, but it may not be as common as you’re used to. Part-time work is incredibly common here!

Like I said earlier, you are entitled to an unpaid break of 30 mins, if you work over 5.5 hours. This can also be broken up into two 15 minute breaks if wanted.


Maternity and paternity leave in the Netherlands

DutchReview have covered this in the past, so I’ll touch on it and recap.

Before you even take leave, you need to tell your boss that you’re pregnant. This legally needs to be done 3 weeks before you are due to take the maternity leave (and the belly may give it away too). This is why it’s usually done much earlier as they are in their second trimester. You should not have your contract stopped just because you’re pregnant.

If you are working in the Netherlands and then you become pregnant, then you should get at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. This usually begins 4 weeks before the due date and then 10ish weeks after (depending on how much you have left).

For fathers, you get 2 days paid paternity leave and 3 days unpaid. There’s no need to take leave right away either! You can take parental leave until your child reaches the age of 8. You can usually take longer unpaid leave if it discussed with the employer before though.

working hours in the netherlands
Inaccurate representation of fatherhood (the baby is probably screaming)!

What about sick leave?

No quite a ‘vacation’, but still important. If you fall ill and you’re meant to be at work, then you need to call your employer ASAP. It’s important that you inform their HR department, so then they can arrange cover (if applicable) and you can claim sick leave. If you are on vacation and fall sick, it is possible to swap this for sick leave, if you inform them beforehand.

If a family member or close friend falls ill and they are within your care, then it is also possible to take short-term care leave. This can only be possible if you can prove that you are the only person to provide the care to that person if they are out of hospital care. Of course, this must be done ASAP, so everything can be sorted. You’re then entitled to take care leave time, which is twice your weekly working hours. You’ll then get a 70% payment (some employers may be kind and give you your full wages). The long-term max is 6 x your weekly working hours and you may not be paid at all!

After all that work, after all the little battles with earning money, you can work your way towards the housing market in the Netherlands.

So, there you have it – just some important info on working hours in the Netherlands and taking a vacation. If you’ve spotted anything fishy, then raise it with your employer! 

While you’re here, don’t forget to join our Facebook group! 😉 


  1. Hi Emma,
    Thanks for all the useful info. Do you also know the dutch government regulations for long leave (1 or 2 years) without pay? Meaning if you are working for a dutch government department and would like to take a long leave to work abroad for some international organization for two years and then come back.


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