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

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.

This 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!

Work contracts in the Netherlands

Firstly, when you start working in the Netherlands, you will be given a fixed-term contract. You may be used to being automatically permanently employed — but it doesn’t work like that in this country.

You will be given the contract and then your employer will choose whether to extend it when the time comes.

You can have no more than three fixed-term contracts, after this, you must either be let go or employed permanently.

READ MORE: Lost your job in the Netherlands? What you need to know about Dutch employment law

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 six-month gap in your employment with the company, the contracts restart again (how annoying)!

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 four times the weekly working days. So it all depends on working hours in the Netherlands.

So if you work four 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 your holidays back, you have 6 months after the year in which it was accumulated. So say you were working in 2018 and want to save them 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.

Before you take off on that well-deserved vacation, remember these facts! Image: Freepik

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!

Working hours in the Netherlands

What do working hours look like in the Netherlands? Let’s run through them.


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).

READ MORE | Is the 9-5 dead in the Netherlands?


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 in the Netherlands may be a lot more manageable than in your home country!

You can also be more flexible with your working hours — don’t forget to discuss this with your manager if you are wanting to do this as it may be possible.

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 acceptable if it is for a short period of time or a one-off. If this is a regular thing, then it is not allowed.

Watch out for those burnouts! Image: Freepik

In a four-week period, you must not work anything over 55 hours per week, which lowers to 48 hours per week over a 16-week period.

It’s not very common to do lots of overtime in the Netherlands. Instead, 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

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).

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about maternity leave in the Netherlands

This is why it’s usually done much earlier once you are in your second trimester. You should not have your contract stopped just because you’re pregnant.

Take that time off as a new mom! Image: Pexels

If you are working in the Netherlands and 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).

READ MORE: Becoming a father? Here’s everything you need to know about paternity leave in the Netherlands

For fathers, paternity leave is not as long. You get five weeks of leave however not all of this is paid!

You can take parental leave until your child reaches the age of 8, however,  you can usually take longer unpaid leave if it discussed with the employer before though.

Sick leave in the Netherlands

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.

READ MORE | Sick leave in the Netherlands: what you need to know

If you are on vacation and fall sick, it is possible to swap this for sick leave, if you inform them beforehand.

Take care of yourself and get that rest! Image: Freepik

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 six times your weekly working hours and you may not be paid at all!

So, there you have it — just some important info on working hours in the Netherlands and taking a vacation.

How have you found working in the Netherlands? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! 
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018 and was fully updated in January 2023 for your reading pleasure. 

Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.


  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.

  2. In my contract is 8 hours.per week but I work more than that let say 13.5 hours per many my aantal verlofuren?

  3. I have worked for a dutch flagged ship now for the past 13 years. I have decided to end my job with the ship and work ashore. Now that I am leaving the company says I owe them 42 working days which i took leave 10 years ago to be there for my daughters birth, they want to take this from my last two months of salary. so my question is, is this allowed and if not what can i do?

  4. Everything sounds good but I think there is a mistake with the parenatal leave, Due to that rule change. In this moment father also have rigth to 16 weeks paid


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