In the Netherlands, all mothers have a right to maternity leave. They can take time off while they are preparing to have a baby, and once he or she has been born. It is so important to understand the Dutch laws surrounding maternity leave, because they may differ to those in your country of origin. By knowing your rights as a mother in Holland, you can ensure that you take the best possible care of your newborn, whilst maintaining positive relations with your work colleagues. We will explain it all on this page.
Before we get to the maternity part, let’s cover some legal matters you need to take care of when you are expecting your new baby.
Making a statement of pregnancy in NL
- A statement of pregnancy is called a ‘zwangerschapsverklaring’ in Dutch
- You can obtain this statement from your midwife or gynecologist
- The document makes your estimated due date official
- It will be used to determine when you will be eligible for ‘zwangerschapsverlof’
- Zwangerschapsverlof’ is ‘pregnancy leave‘. You can read about this in the next paragraph
Pregnancy Leave and Birth Leave in NL
In the Netherlands, women have a right to 16 weeks of paid pregnancy leave. The Dutch call this: ‘zwangerschapsverlof and bevallingsverlof’. The leave will be divided into: 4-6 weeks of pregnancy leave and 10 weeks of birth leave.
Pregnancy Leave in NL
When can women take pregnancy leave in the Netherlands?
- Pregnancy leave may be initiated 4-6 weeks prior to the estimated due date of your baby
- Dutch law states that your leave from work can start no later than 4 weeks before, and for 6 weeks after, your delivery
- The latter 6 weeks are referred to as ‘birth leave’
- You must discuss the dates of your leave with your employer
- If you are expecting twins (or triplets!) you will get 2-4 more weeks of leave. It will also begin at least 8 weeks before your due date
- You will legally be allowed to go back to work after your 6 weeks of rest have ended
- You may spread your remaining 4 weeks of birth leave out, if you wish. However, you must do this within 30 weeks of having your baby
Getting Paid during Pregnancy Leave
- During pregnancy leave you will receive 100% of your normal wages
- They may be paid to you directly from the Social Security Institution. Or, they might come via your employer. The Social Security Institution, or the ‘Social Insurance Bank’ is called the: ‘Sociale Verzekeringsbank‘ in Dutch
- You can be paid a maximum of €205.77 a day. This is the Dutch ‘daily wage’
- Some employers, however, will choose to pay out the gap between this and your last-earned salary
What if your baby does not arrive on schedule?
- Should your baby arrive early, you still have a right to your full 16 weeks of leave
- If your baby is late, and you have used up your initial 6 weeks of leave, you still have the right to 10 weeks leave, following your baby’s birth
- If your child has to stay in hospital for an extended period of time then you have the right to take a maximum of 10 additional weeks of birth leave. This way, you can take care of your child once he or she returns home
What if you have a difficult pregnancy?
- If you find yourself unable to work due to a pregnancy-related illness before your leave starts, you still have the right to 100% of your official daily wage
- If you are unable to return to work due to a medical condition after giving birth, you also have the right to claim up to 104 weeks of ‘benefits‘. You will be paid 100% of your daily wage during this time
- In either case, you will receive benefits based on the ‘Sickness Benefits Act‘. They are not related to the ‘Pregnancy Leave-regulation’
What if you fall ill for reasons unrelated to your pregnancy?
- You could become ill more than six weeks before your due date for reasons unrelated to your pregnancy
- If your illness renders you unable to work, then you cannot officially begin take your leave early
- The leave will still officially start six weeks before your due date
- During the days preceding your official leave you will receive at least 70% of your personal wage, if you are unable to work
Would you like to take more than the government-stipulated 16 weeks of leave? In order to do so, you need to apply for voluntary ‘Ziektewet‘ insurance:
- Ziektewet is ‘Illness law’
- Find out more about this, and whether or not you could use the insurance, by contacting your ‘Social Security Institution‘
- This is referred to as the ‘UVW’ in the Netherlands
- You must do this within four weeks of discontinuing your work activities
Leave for Self-Employed Mothers
What if you make your own money, and do not have an employer to pay your wages?
- There is a system in the Netherlands called the ‘Zelfstandig en Zwangerregeling‘. It translates the ‘Self-Employed and Pregnant Regulation’
- This regulation gives self-employed mothers a right to 16 weeks of pregnancy leave
- Your leave will start 6-4 weeks before your due date
- If you are expecting twins, it will start 8-10 weeks before your due date
- Once your baby is born, you have a right to a further 6 weeks of birth leave
- If your baby arrives early, after fewer than 6 weeks of your pregnancy leave has been taken up, then you can add the missed days of leave onto your birth leave
- If you have a pregnancy-related illness, you will unfortunately not be covered by the Self-Employed and Pregnant Regulation
- Make sure that you have arranged voluntary insurance in order to receive financial help during this period. We mentioned this in the ‘tip’ box above
- If your baby has to stay in the hospital after birth, for longer than 7 days, you have a right to a maximum of 10 additional weeks of leave
Size of Benefit
How much money do you receive under the Self-Employed and Pregnant Regulation?
- The amount you receive depends on the number of hours you worked as a self-employed individual the previous year
- If you worked for 1,225 hours or more, then you will receive a benefit equal to the Dutch minimum wage
- If you worked for fewer than 1,225 hours, then your benefit will be less
- Your profits and income over the previous year will also influence how much money you receive
- You have a right to this benefit if you work for your partner’s or your spouse’s company too
- If you, and your partner or spouse, are both self-employed then you may be able to receive benefits based on both of your working hours and incomes. The benefit will not, however, total more than your normal earnings, or more than the minimum wage
Contact the Social Security Institution to find out how much you will be eligible for and to request the benefit.
If You Are Receiving other Benefits
What if you are receiving other benefits when you become pregnant?
You must inform the UWV, and make some arrangements, if you are receiving any of the following benefits when you become pregnant:
Pregnancy leave payments will temporarily replace the money you receive from these benefits.
Your rights as a pregnant employee
Obligations to a Future Employer
What if you become pregnant when you are between jobs?
- You are not obligated to tell a prospective employer that you are pregnant
- If you choose to do so, he or she is not allowed to turn you down for this reason
- Should your contract with your current employer come to an end during your pregnancy, you have the right to claim unemployment and sickness benefits
- This means that you also qualify for pregnancy leave
- Should you quit your job within 10 weeks of when your baby is due to be born, you have a right to pregnancy leave as well
Obligations to a Current Employer
- You do have an obligation to tell your current employer that you are pregnant
- You must inform him or her about when you would like to take your leave, at least three weeks before your due date
- Your employer cannot legally fire you during your pregnancy
- Neither can your employer fire you for 12 weeks, following the birth of your child
- Your employment can only be terminated whilst you are pregnant under very special circumstances
- During your pregnancy, your employer is obligated to protect your safety and health
- You may be eligible for some additional rights as well. Discuss this with your employer
- If you do not tell your employer that you are pregnant, you cannot exercise these rights, so it is a good idea to communicate with him or her
Your Rights in NL
As a pregnant employee in the Netherlands, you have the right to:
- Regular working and resting hours
- Extra breaks
- A suitable, closed-off space to rest, where you can lie down
- Alternative working hours, or even other work, if your current work is unsafe or hazardous to your health. If neither of these options is available, you have the right to be exempted from work
- You are under no obligation to work overtime or at night
These rights are applicable for six months following your delivery.
There are also special regulations for pregnant employees whose work involves:
- Hard physical labor
- Risk of infection
- Extreme vibrations
- Extreme heat or cold
For further details, check the website of ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment‘. This is called the ‘Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid‘ in Dutch.
PATERNITY LEAVE IN NL
- In the Netherlands, fathers have a right to stand by their wife or partner while she gives birth
- They must take ‘calamity leave’ from work in order to do this
- Fathers are allowed another two days of paid ‘paternity leave’, after the birth of their child. This is called ‘kraamverlof’
- It can be used at any point within four weeks of the birth of the child(ren)
- If a child is born in the hospital, his or her father can take the leave within four weeks of the baby coming home
- Under ‘calamity leave’, dads may also take time off to register the birth of their child
- They are not technically given a full day off work for this, but they can take as much time as they need to accomplish it
- A mother’s legal partner also has a right to three days of parental leave, immediately after the birth of the child
- Whether or not he or she will receive wages over these three days depends on his or her employer
- If a mother gives birth to twins, her partner has a right to three days of leave per child
Parental Leave in NL
The law stipulates that working parents have the right to take an unpaid leave of absence from work, in order to care for their children, in the Netherlands. Parental leave is called ‘ouderschapsverlof ‘ in Dutch. This rule is no different for the parents of adopted, step or foster children.
Parental Leave: The Basics
- The law used to demand that parents needed to have been in employment for at least one year, before they could take parental leave. This is no longer the case
- Parents can take their leave from the first day that they enter into employment, if necessary
- Leave may be taken by both parents at the same time, or by one after the other, at any time during the first seven years of their child’s life
- A request for parental leave must be submitted to an employer at least two months before the date on which a parent wishes to begin their leave
- If parents have twins, they are allowed to take a leave of absence for each child
Length of Leave
- The legal amount of leave-time allotted to a parent is based on the number of contractual hours of work they do per week, timesed by 26
- This calculation is meant to ensure that you work 50% of your usual working hours, over a period of one year
- Let’s say that you usually work 32 hours a week. Under the Dutch parental leave law, you can cut your time at work down to 16 hours a week, for a period of one year
Negotiate your Leave
These rules are not always practical employees and employers. Consequently, it is completely legal for other conditions may be agreed upon. Since 2015, parents in the Netherlands can decide for themselves when and how they take up their parental leave. For example, they can:
- Take up 100% of their leave for a period of six months
- Work 75% of their normal working hours over a period of two years
- Spread their leave over six periods
We recommend that you talk to both your partner and your employer, to work out what best suits your family and your career.
There are a few other matters to take note of as well:
- Check whether a collective labor agreement applies to you. It might mean that you are eligible for some further, more beneficial, regulations on parental parental leave
- Although it is not required by law, some employers might choose to continue to pay you up to 75% of your wages, during your parental leave
- If you become sick during your parental leave, your employer must pay you your wages for the hours which you would otherwise have worked
- If you switch jobs, you can take your remaining parental-leave days with you to your new employer
Financial difficulties during parental leave:
- Because parental leave is technically unpaid, many parents experience financial hardship if they take it
- Single parent families can request government support during their leave period
- The amount of support they receive will be based on Dutch welfare regulations. These are referred to as: ‘Bijstand’ regulations in the Netherlands
- The Dutch Social Insurance Bank, which we referred to earlier, is responsible for allocating welfare
- Two-parent families are, however, expected to be able to manage their finances for themselves. One parent is expected to create enough income to take care of their family. This rule may be subject to change in the future
Adoption and foster leave in NL
If you adopt a child in the Netherlands, you and your partner have a right to four consecutive weeks of adoption leave each. Here are the details:
- Unfortunately, if you adopt more than one child at once, you will still only be allowed four weeks of leave
- This leave may be taken up anywhere between four weeks prior to the arrival of your child and 22 weeks after his or her arrival
- The leave can be spread out as much as you like over these 26 weeks
Pay During Leave
- During your leave you will receive 100% of your wages
- You are allowed up to a maximum of €205.77 a day. This is the ‘daily wage’ in the Netherlands
- Under certain conditions, this same leave is available to people who take in a foster child
- Sadly, self-employed people in the Netherlands do not receive any benefits related to unpaid leave when they adopt a child
Are you keen to learn more about longer-term parental leave? What about the kinds of rights you are entitled to throughout your children’s lives? We have another article about ‘Legal issues for parents in the Netherlands‘, which covers that information.