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The Netherlands (Holland) - Maternity Rights and Childcare
Under the Work and Care Act, there are a whole range of provisions in the Netherlands to protect the health and safety of pregnant women and to help ensure that families with children can enjoy a good work-life balance.
While pregnant, women have a wide range of workplace-related rights. For example, if applying for a job, they are not required to notify prospective employers of their pregnancy, and they cannot be turned down for a job because they are pregnant. Employees cannot be dismissed while pregnant or within three months of giving birth, and if they are employed on a contract which ends during this time, they are entitled to receive unemployment and sickness benefits. Employers must also take measures to ensure that the health and safety of their pregnant employees and their unborn babies are protected, for example by exempting them from potentially dangerous work and by providing the employee with time and a suitable place to rest during working hours. There is no obligation on the employee to work overtime or on night shifts, up until 6 months after the birth of their child. Breastfeeding mothers must also be provided with suitable facilities, and a time allowance of up to ¼ of normal working, for feeding their baby in the workplace.
Pregnant women must notify their employer, or social security office if they are self-employed, of the date when they plan to commence their maternity leave, at least three weeks in advance, providing a zwangerschapsverklaring from their gynaecologist or midwife which confirms their due date. They are then eligible for 16 weeks maternity leave during which they receive a benefit equivalent to 100% of their normal earnings, which is paid from the General Unemployment Fund (Awf). Pregnancy leave (zwangerschapsverlof) must commence at least four weeks and up to six weeks before the expected date of delivery, and the remaining time can be taken as childbirth leave (bevallingsverlof) after the birth of the baby, with a full ten weeks paid leave allowed if the baby was born later than the expected delivery date.
Women who have to leave work earlier in their pregnancy for medical reasons are also entitled to 100% of normal earnings while not working, whilst women who are unable to return to work after the birth for pregnancy-related medical reasons, can receive 100% of their income for up to a year. Those who opt to take more than the statutory 16 weeks maternity leave must apply to their local social security office for Voluntary Sickness Benefits Insurance. Mothers are entitled under Dutch law to temporarily reduce their working hours by taking parental leave (ouderschapsverlof).
Fathers have a right to paid paternity leave to attend the birth of their child and for two days leave which can be taken at any time within the following four weeks. They are also allowed paid time off to register the birth of the baby. Both mothers and fathers who have worked for their current employer for at least a year are entitled to take a specified amount of non-paid parental leave (ouderschapsverlof) to care for each of their own children or adopted or foster children, within a six month period at any time during the first eight years of the child’s life. The amount of leave that can be taken depends on the number of hours usually worked and the duration of employment, and can usually be taken as up to 50% of normal working hours until the leave allowance is used up. Employers must agree to a request for parental leave which is made at least two months in advance, but the specific arrangements and amount of weekly leave to be taken must be agreed between the employee and employer. Some employers pay up to 75% of normal income for parental leave, but this is discretionary. All employees are also entitled to up to 10 days leave (pro rata for part-time employees) to care for a sick child, parent or partner, and receive payment during this time of up to 70% of normal earnings.
Under the General Child Benefit Act (Algemene Kinderbijslagwet – AKW) a regular benefit is paid to the parents of all children (including adopted or foster children) aged below 18, as a contribution to the costs of raising them. The payments are made on a quarterly basis direct to a registered bank account, and are based on the age of the child and the number of children in the family. The 2007 rates are €186.91 for each child aged 0-5 and €226.97 for those aged 6 to 11, while specific rates apply to children of each individual age between 11 and 18, depending on the family size.
Although the Dutch government is encouraging the expansion of childcare facilities through incentive schemes and other policies, so that mothers can return to employment after childbirth, the provision is currently inadequate to meet demand and there are typically long waiting lists for most forms of day-care. Some childcare places are subsidized by municipalities, with parents paying an income-related contribution (ouderbijdrage), others are provided by or reserved by employers for the children of their staff, and joint-funded by the employer and employee. Some parents arrange for private childcare and cover the cost of this themselves, although payments may sometimes be set against tax.
Day-care is heavily regulated in the Netherlands, where municipalities are responsible for ensuring that all childcare meets minimum requirements regarding safety, cleanliness, insurance and numbers of babies or children allowed per carer.
There are a variety of forms of childcare (Kinderopvang) available, with the most popular being the 3,500 or so public day-care centres (Kinderdagverblijf) throughout the country, which offer places for babies and children between the ages of six weeks and four years. These usually open for a full day, five days a week, from around 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with various arrangements possible in terms of the numbers of days or half days that children spend in the centre each week. They are heavily over-subscribed in terms of applicants, and waiting times of up to 18 months for a place are not uncommon. The charges to parents are dependent on family income, with families contributing a percentage of the cost of the subsidised care.
In addition to these public day-care centres, there are some private facilities in the main cities of the Netherlands which stay open round the clock, seven days a week and provide flexible child-care arrangements, but at significantly higher cost.
An alternative for young children not requiring full-time care is available in the form of pre-school groups (peuterspeelzalen), which are usually open in the mornings and provide a range of activities for 2-4 year olds, who usually attend once or twice a week. Typical costs for this type of facility range from €50 to €140 for two sessions per week.
Some day-care centres provide after-school and holiday care for older children, usually up to age 12. This is also provided by the Buitenschoolseopvang (BSO) and the Naschoolse opvang, with similar fees to those charged by the Kinderdagverblijf.
Childminders (gastouder or “host parent”) are also commonly used for daycare in the Netherlands. These typically look after up to 3 children, sometimes including their own. Usually the care is provided in the childminder’s own house, but some provide care in the child’s family home. It is advisable to use a childminder who is registered with the local Gastouderbureau, which regulates charging policies and childminder responsibilities. Typical charges are around €3 to €4 per hour. A variation on this is the Project arrangement, whereby a qualified nursery teacher looks after up to four children in a private home, usually for around €15 per hour.
Some parents choose to hire a person to live in and provide full-time care for their children. The options include a professional nanny, who has been specifically trained to look after children, or an au pair, typically a young girl from a different country, who wishes to gain experience of living in the Netherlands and is responsible for looking after the children as well as carrying out light housework. Both nannies and au pairs can be hired through specialist agencies, who will have checked their references and credentials. Au pairs usually receive accommodation and food free of charge, and are given pocket money, while nannies generally cost at least €1000 per month.
Stichting Kinderopvang Nederland (SKON)
3600 BE Maarssen
Tel (0346) 55 95 00
Fax (0346) 55 95 01
3542 DZ Utrecht
Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid
2509 LV Den Haag
Tel: 070-333 4444
Fax: 070 - 333 4033
Postbus 1100, 1180 BH Amstelveen
Tel: 020 656 5656
Fax: 020 656 5000
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