The Netherlands offers international job seekers endless possibilities and has plenty to offer foreign students as well. Despite the lingering worldwide economic crisis, the country still has a relatively low unemployment rate, and is a comparatively large economic player, with its two international mainports and its longstanding tradition as a nation of trade. It also has a strong educational system and great internship arrangements. Below you will find information on the labor market of this small country with its international and impressively diverse job market.


The Dutch unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU and is considered moderately low on a worldwide scale, which is quite remarkable given the recent worldwide economic downturn and its effect on the Dutch market, which historically relies on international trade.

Side Note
Part-time employment in the Netherlands is rather high; reports state that part-time employment constitutes nearly 40% of total Dutch labor force. Accordingly, almost 31% of total job vacancies are posted for part-time employment. Gender difference in employment participation is quite high; approximately 75% of Dutch women work fewer than 35 hours a week, while only 25% of Dutch males hold part-time positions (Eurostat, 2015). Most people work directly for an employer, though a considerable and growing number are self-employed; according to the Dutch Bureau of Statistics CBS, in 2015 more almost 1.2 million persons claimed self-employment (referred to as Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel, or ZZP-ers), which is nearly 10% of the labor force. Compared to other European countries, this level of self-employment is quite high, particularly among younger people.

On the bright side, the Dutch labor market seems to have recuperated and the outlook for the employment sector is rather positive. Figures for 2014 and 2015 indicate a general downturn in unemployment, while labor participation has gone up. Youth unemployment in the Netherlands has also gone down and is currently below EU average. Overall, the number of job vacancies has significantly increased across many sectors compared to previous years, which will be discussed in the next section.


In terms of number of jobs, the commercial service sector remains the strongest in the Netherlands, and has been for several years, closely followed by the health care and manufacturing industries. Also science & engineering are showing growth as they search for international and capable workers in areas such as water management, green and renewable energy, as well as logistics.


As many of you will not have moved to the Netherlands on an expat contract governed by your home country laws, the rules that apply to those employed directly by a Dutch employer can be of great importance to you. Even expatriates, whose contract explicitly states that a foreign law applies to the employment relationship, will find that they are subject to mandatory rules of Dutch employment law and/or Dutch rules of public order by means of binding allocation rules of international private law. For this reason, we include an overview of the main issues contained in this law:


Type of Contract Maximum Duration of Probation


Contract for less than 6 months no probation period


Contract between 6 months and for 2 years


1 month


2-year or permanent contract 2 months

As of January 1, 2015, new legislation, the ‘Wet Werk en Zekerheid’, entered into force. With regard to probation periods in short-term contracts, this new law includes some clear changes. For any temporary employment contract with a total duration of less than six months, a probation period is no longer permitted.


Chain contracts sounds rather vague, but what the term refers to is a chain of employment contracts for a limited period of time. In order to protect employees against employers who try to avoid offering them a permanent employment contract by means of a series of temporary ones, it has been decided after three consecutive fixed-period contracts – or if the fixed-term contracts exceed two years in total – the employment contract is deemed to be a contract for an indefinite period of time, even if it is explicitly stated that it is a fixed-term contract. Only if a period of more than six months

has passed between contracts is this fictional ‘chain’ broken and does the counting start from the beginning. These rules do not apply to certain types of work, nor to employees who are younger than 18 years of age.

Min/Max/Zero Hours

If you work on call, there are two types of contracts you can enter into. One is the min/max contract:: this offers you a guaranteed number of hours of work (and pay) as well as the possibility that your employer will call you in to work more hours. Every time you are called in, you receive a minimum of three hours’ pay.

A maximum number of hours can also be set per time you are called in. It offers you certain rights that all employees have, such as continued pay (70 percent) during illness, protection against dismissal, and the accrual of holiday allowance, as well as the obligation on your side to show up if you are called in. After the first six months have passed, you receive wages based on your average number of hours worked over the past three months.

There is also the ‘nul-uren contract’ (zero hours contract), which does not offer a minimum number of hours, but does require your employer to pay you at least three hours every time he calls you in. It offers you the same rights and obligations as the min/max contract.


As of July 1, 2015, there are two options for an employer who wishes to terminate an employment contract, depending on the reason for the termination. If the work relationship is damaged, an employer can only terminate an employment contract via the sub-district sector of the District Court (or Cantonal Court).

In case of economic reasons or in case of illness of the employee, the employment contract can be terminated via the UWV. For employees who have been employed for a minimum of two years, a so-called transition compensation is due.


When terminating an employment contract, an employer must apply the following notice periods (these do not apply when the employment contract is dissolved by the courts):


Length of employment period

Notice period
0 – 5 years 1 calendar month
5 – 10 years 2 calendar month
10 – 15 years 3 calendar month
> 15 years 4 calendar month

Side Note
The above notice periods apply to contracts for an indefinite period of time. In the case of other contract forms, such as a temporary employment contract, the employer must notify the employee one month in advance of his intentions – if the contract is for six months or more. For ‘temp’ contracts with a duration of less than six months, termination is/can be with immediate effect.


These past years, a number of changes have been introduced, making it possible to take into account the labor market perspective of the dismissed employee, the employee’s behavior, and the financial situation of employee and employer. Also, short-term contracts are better covered by the new model. As of July 1, 2015, employers will owe compensation if they terminate a permanent contract or a temporary contract that lasted more than 24 months. This transition payment (transitievergoeding) replaces the existing cantonal court formula (kantonrechtersformule), according to which the employee is awarded one, one-and-a-half or two months’ salary per year of employment, depending on their age. Regardless of the termination route (UWV or Distric Court/Can­tonal Court), a severance payment must be paid by the employer, to a maximum of € 75,000. Specifically, the new severance payment is calculated as follows: 1/3 of their monthly salary is granted to employees for every year of employment if they were employed for a period shorter than 10 years in total, or 1/2 of their monthly salary for every year of employment that exceeds the ten years. For more information, you can consult (‘being fired’).


Employment agencies are expected to treat you equally to employ-ees who are in the employment of the company to which you are sent to work when it comes to wages, working on holidays, night shifts, overtime, vacation days, compensation, etc.  The currently the top agencies are: Randstad Nederland, Start People Netherlands, Unique Nederland, Luba Uitzendbureau, Tempo-Team and Adecco.

There are two main Temporary Workers unions; the ABU and NBBU. These unions are governed by their own collective labor agreement (CAO), in which various regulations are given on (but not limited to), such subjects as:

  • statutory number of vacation days
  • holiday allowance
  • national holidays
  • salary statement specifications
  • working overtime
  • illness/sick pay
  • the ‘Phase system’ and ‘Chain system’.


(Some provisions of) the Collective Agreement for Temporary Employees (ABU Collective Agreement) apply/applies to all employment agencies, thus also to (foreign) employment agencies that place employees on the Dutch labor market from abroad. Keep in mind that nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) can move to the Netherlands for work and enjoy the same conditions as Dutch nationals in areas such as access to housing, wages and social security – among others.


When looking for employment in the Netherlands whereby you can work in your native language, you can either register with various specialized employment agencies or you can apply directly with companies where the business language is your native language.

After the UK, Germany and France, most ‘multilingual’ jobs are to be found in international call and shared service centers located in the Netherlands. There are over 150 of these multilingual service centers in the country, most of which are located in the Randstad region (the triangle between, and including, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam). However, you will find more and more pan-European centers in Maastricht, Arnhem and other cities, particularly near the border. Within these organizations, English is usually the business language.

Unless you have been sent here by a company and will remain working in an English-language (or any other foreign language environment), you probably won’t be able to get by without learning Dutch. In fact, the government has determined that if you work in a ‘risky’ work environment (manning large machines, or removing asbestos,

for instance), you have to be able to speak Dutch, in order to be able to function safely and avoid accidents. The level of your job and responsibilities will determine the level of Dutch required.The ability to speak English fluently, however, will often come in handy in this internationally-oriented economy. But don’t forget, the Dutch speak the language quite well, so it won’t be enough to land you the job!

For more information, click here.

Recommended reading
Dealing with the Dutch

The Mobile Life – A new approach to moving anywhere

A Career in Your Suitcase

Employment in the Netherlands
Published Yearly by Loyens & Loeff
Conditions of employment, tax and social security aspects. Available on request by e-mail:

THE ACCESS Guide/Working & ­Unemployment in the Netherlands
This guide gives an overview of Dutch Employment Law and information on how to find a job

Looking For Work In The Netherlands
By Nannette Ripmeester
Published yearly by Expertise in Labour Mobility
If you are looking for work in the Netherlands, this guide provides accurate and practical information on the job hunting process

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