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The Netherlands (Holland) - Employment

The Labour Market and Business Culture

The Netherlands has a labour force of about 7.5 million (2006 estimate), with just over 6 million of these being employees. Almost four fifths of the labour force work in services, with a further fifth employed in industry; just 2% are in agriculture. About 4.5 million people work full-time. In May 2007 the Netherlands had the lowest unemployment rate of all EU countries, at 3.2%. Netherlands has one of the most highly educated labour forces in the world: it has been estimated that 8.5% has at least a bachelor's degree and 17% hold professional qualifications. The Netherlands economy is very internationally focused, being based largely on foreign trade. A large number of international and international companies are based there, and English as well as Dutch is widely used in business. The Randstad area, which includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, has the highest concentration of businesses.

Although typical gross salaries in the Netherlands are lower than in some other western European countries, the many tax deductible expenses that employees are eligible for in the Netherlands mean that their net salaries are very similar to those that can be earned elsewhere in the EU. The average gross monthly salary is EUR2,269, but typical monthly salaries vary from EUR2,035 in the trade sector to EUR2,614 in the education sector. Employees also receive additional payments at Christmas and as vacation money in the summer, which usually amounts to least 8% of their gross annual salary.

Egalitarianism is one of the key principles underlying Dutch society, and this extends to the workplace and business relationships. There is little formal hierarchy, people at all levels of an organisation are likely to be on first name terms, and will expect to be involved in decision-making, while managers and supervisors typically discuss work with their staff rather than just giving orders or instructions. Working practices usually include many meetings, called "overleg", which means consultation. These meetings are chaired, with papers and an agenda distributed in advance. Everyone who is invited to an overleg is expected to attend and to contribute their views and suggestions on the issues being discussed; the goal is for participants to compromise as necessary until a decision is reached that everyone is content with.

This consensual approach to decision making also characterises management/labour relations in the Netherlands, and has been institutionalized in the form of works councils which all companies employing more than 35 people are required to have under Dutch law. Worker representatives sit on these councils and are consulted by management regarding any issues likely to affect the employees of the company. As a result, the Netherlands has historically had a low rate of industrial action compared with other European countries.

Although equality is seen as very important in Dutch society, this has not so far been manifested in the gender distribution of employment. The percentage of women who are in employment has been increasing in recent years and is now around 55%; however, very few women can be found in the most senior or most highly-paid jobs.

Finding Employment in the Netherlands

In general, the prospects for finding employment in the Netherlands are good, since the economy is strong and the unemployment rate is low. EU/EEA/Swiss nationals are allowed to seek and take up employment in the Netherlands on the same basis as Dutch nationals (they have the same rights with regard to pay, working conditions, access to housing, vocational training, social security and trade union membership - also, families and immediate dependants are entitled to join them and have similar rights), but it can be much more difficult for non-EU/EEA nationals, particularly if they do not speak fluent English or Dutch, to find a job and obtain a work permit. In the case of non-EU nationals and citizens of the new EU member states (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) an employer must have a valid work permit before the employee enters the country. Please check the IND website http://www.ind.nl/EN/index.asp for further details.

Since English is the working language of many commercial organisations in the Netherlands, including most of the international and multi-national companies based there, it is often more important to be able to speak fluent English than to speak Dutch when seeking employment there. For native speakers of English and other languages seeking low-skilled work, there are also many employment opportunities in the many international call centres located in the main cities of the Netherlands.

There are various ways to find a job in the Netherlands, which include checking the job vacancies sections of the national or regional press, looking on internet jobsites, applying direct to employers, or using employment or recruitment agencies. However, over 60% of all job vacancies are filled reportedly filled by informal methods, so a good network of contacts in the Netherlands might be the most valuable source of information on jobs in your area of expertise. You can also join business networking associations such as network-club.com, a web-based English-speaking club which holds regularly meetings throughout the Netherlands.

Many jobs are advertised in English in the Saturday editions of the national press, with different newspapers specialising in particular types of vacancies. For example, NRC Handelsblad is a useful source of information on management-level posts, De Volkskrant specialises in public sector, academic and medical vacancies, De Telegraaf and the Algemeen Dagblad advertise many administrative and technical jobs, and Het Financieele Dagblad has adverts for jobs in the financial sector. Additionally, the free magazines Metro and Spits, which can be found on weekdays in rail and bus stations, carry many job advertisements, as do several classifieds papers which are on sale weekly and include Via Via, De Partikulier and Intermediair.

There are also many online jobsites advertising vacancies in the Netherlands, and many of these allow jobseekers to post their own CVs for perusal by prospective employers. Useful online sources of information on jobs in Holland include EURES, the European employment services website for jobseekers and employers throughout Europe, the website of the Centre for Work and Income (CWI) at https://www.werk.nl, Holland's public employment services, and the websites of private employment agencies. In the Netherlands, employment agencies generally deal with vacancies for non-specialized areas of work, while recruitment agencies assist people with various types of specialist or senior level jobs. A word of warning on the use of agencies: any legal job in The Netherlands requires a work permit, whether it is obtained through an employer or through the CWI. Without a work permit hiring a foreign national is illegal. Another stumbling block may be that most jobs advertised through agencies require a command of Dutch.

It is also very common for jobseekers in the Netherlands to approach companies direct to enquire about employment opportunities, or to apply for vacancies advertised on their websites.

Around 4% of all employees in the Netherlands work via recruitment agencies which post them on a temporary basis to other organisations. If you are allowed to work in the Netherlands without a work permit you might be able to find temporary work through agencies such as Randstadt, Manpower and Start.

When applying for jobs in the Netherlands, you should send your Curriculum Vitae (CV), along with a covering letter explaining why you are interested in the post and why you feel that the company should employ you. Unless applying to a large multinational organisation, your covering letter should preferably be in Dutch and should be no longer than one page; your CV should be tailored to the post you are applying for, and should ideally not exceed two pages. It should include details of your work experience, followed by your education, arranged in chronological order. Application forms are also sometimes used by larger organisations, or for online applications.

Useful Links


Employment Protection and Benefits

Everyone who works in the Netherlands benefits from a high degree of statutory employment protection from dismissal and unfair treatment, even if their contract of employment was arranged under the laws of a different country. Even verbal contracts of employment are legally binding, although it is preferable to have a written contract. Contractual arrangements are regarded as either temporary or permanent, depending on the duration of the employment; it is common practice for an initial six-month or year-long temporary contract to be used for many jobs.

Under Dutch Law, people are only allowed to work up to 9 hours a day or 45 hours per week, up to a maximum number of 2080 hours per year. There is also a requirement for employers to give their workers one day off every week, normally Sunday, and at least 20 days holiday per year. Casual workers who are paid on an hourly basis must be paid for at least three hours work per week, even if they actually work less hours.

Most larger Dutch companies have Collective Bargaining Agreements (CAOs) arranged between their management and unions, under which their workers enjoy even more favourable terms and conditions of employment, including additional paid holidays for example.

There are also legal regulations regarding length of probation periods, during which either party can terminate the arrangement without giving notice and there is no liability on the part of the employer to make severance payments. If the agreed duration of a job is less than 26 weeks, no probation period can be applied and either the employer or employee can terminate the arrangement without giving notice. For temporary employment contracts of less than two years, up to a month's probation is allowed, and up to two months for permanent contracts. The probation period must be confirmed in writing.

Employees on permanent contracts are required under Dutch employment law to give one month's notice of termination of the contract, unless a longer notice period has been agreed with their employer. The notice periods which an employer is required to give to their employees depend on the length of time they have worked for the organisation, and range from one month for employment durations of up to five years, to four months for anyone employed for more than fifteen years.

If an employer wishes to terminate a permanent employment contract, they are required to obtain approval to do so from the Center for Work and Income (CWI) or arrange dissolution of the contract by the District Court, unless the employee is in agreement with the termination in which case no formal approval is required. Any decision to dismiss an employee must be strongly justified on the basic of poor performance or economic grounds such as restructuring and redundancy.

The many employment agencies in the Netherlands that directly employ workers and post them on a temporary basis to other organisations are required to meet the requirements of Dutch employment law in the same way as other companies. They are also required to adhere to the arrangements set by the Temporary Workers Unions collective labour agreement, even if the individual agency does not belong to a union.

Useful Contacts

Centrale organisatie werk en inkomen
Bureau Juridische Zaken
Afdeling tewerkstellingsvergunningen
Postbus 883
Tel: 079-3712903

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