Named, shamed, and fined: the Dutch crackdown on employment discrimination

Employers and employment agencies may soon have to pay a fine of 4500 euros if they are found to be discriminating against applicants. A study by the Ministry of Social Affairs shows that people with a migration background have a lower chance of being hired. 

This is stated in a bill introduced by the State Secretary of Social Affairs Tamara van Ark. Van Ark wants employers to record in writing the ways they avoided discriminating against potential employees on the basis of background, age or gender. This would apply to both internal and external vacancies.

If the employer cannot provide this, the Ministry of Social Affairs inspection can intervene by giving a warning, and then a fine, if no changes are made. Their misconduct will also be made public, according to NOS.

An applicant with a migration background has a lower chance of being hired

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs shows that employers do still discriminate. For example, applicants with a migration background still have less chance of being invited to an interview than other applicants. Employers discriminate significantly less than in 2015, though.

The study placed 707 CVs of men and women of different backgrounds and ages on the internet, and examined how many calls and emails they generated.

On the positive side, this revealed that there is no discrimination at this stage on the basis of gender or age. This was not the case in 2015, when the survey was last conducted. However, a migration background still has a negative effect on an applicant’s prospects.

Discrimination lessened because of lower labour supply

With companies in the Netherlands complaining that they cannot find highly qualified applicants for advanced roles, discrimination may be reduced.

This situation has already benefitted older people, and seems to also slightly benefit those with a migration background. This sounds good on the surface, but Van Ark is worried that if supply goes up again, so will discrimination.

Employment agencies most at fault

Temporary employment agencies are most often at fault when it comes to discrimination, reports de Volkskrant. According to another study by the Ministry, 40 percent of the discriminatory requests from potential clients are being honoured.

Researchers visited employment agencies and posed as potential customers looking for workers – but they requested people without a migration background. Only one third of agencies said this request was against the law.

Discrimination in the Netherlands

Although the Netherlands has a reputation as a land of tolerance and inclusion, discrimination in the Netherlands is still present, especially during the employment process. A study published last year showed that employers engaged in name discrimination during the selection process. Applicants with non-Dutch sounding names got interviews 9 percent less of the time.

In general, when it comes to things like police checks and micro-aggressions, racism is very much alive and well in the Netherlands. Last year the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights received a record number of discrimination complains from disabled people and pregnant women.

From bill to law

From this week until 4 November, the bill is available online for citizens to examine and give feedback on. Afterwards, it will go to the Council of State for a response, and finally it will be submitted to the House of Representatives.

Have you ever felt discriminated against in the Netherlands? And what do you think of this new fine system? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature image: 089photoshootings/Pixabay

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


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