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. It is a 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.


The Dutch unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU. It is also considered moderately low on a universal scale. This is quite remarkable, given the effect that the recent worldwide economic downturn has had 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 the 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 almost 1.2 million persons claimed self-employment (referred to as Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel, or ZZP-ers). This is nearly 10% of the labor force. Compared to other European countries, this level of self-employment is quite high, particularly among younger people.

Following the economic crises, the Dutch labor market seemed to recuperate and now 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. This will be discussed further in the next section.


In terms of numbers of jobs, the commercial service sector has been the strongest for several years, and it still is today. It is closely followed by the health care and manufacturing industries. Science & engineering are showing growth as they search for international and capable workers. This is taking place in areas like: water management, green and renewable energy and logistics.


Many of you will not have moved to the Netherlands on an expat contract. Therefore, it is important for you to be familiar with the rules that apply to you as an employee of a Dutch company. Even expatriates, whose contracts explicitly state that a foreign law applies to the employment relationship, will find that they are subject to mandatory rules of Dutch employment law. Dutch rules of public order, by means of binding allocation rules of international private law, might even apply to them as well. 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, a new legislation: the ‘Wet Werk en Zekerheid’, entered into force. This new law includes some clear changes related to probation periods of short-term contracts. For a temporary employment contract with a duration of less than six months, a probation period is no longer permitted.


‘Chain contracts’ sounds like a rather vague term. But, it actually refers a chain of employment contracts, which last only for a limited period of time. Some employers try to avoid offering employees a permanent employment contract, by instead giving them a series of temporary ones.

Employees beed to be protected against this. So, it has been decided that after three consecutive fixed-period contracts, the next employment contract will last for an indefinite period of time. This is also the case if a fixed-term contract exceeds two years in total, even if it has been 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. After this, the counting will start from the beginning again.

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 for each time you are called in. This arrangement offers you certain rights that all employees have. These include: continued pay (70 percent) during illness, protection against dismissal and the accrual of holiday allowance. The only obligation on your side, is to show up if you are called in. After the first six months you will receive your wages. These will based on the average number of hours you have 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. It does, however, require your employer to pay you at least three hours worth of wages 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. The chosen option will depend 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 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 months
10 – 15 years 3 calendar months
> 15 years 4 calendar months

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


A number of changes have been introduced over the last few years. They make it possible for the employee’s financial situation, and that of their employer, to be taken into account when settling severance payment. The labor market perspective of the dismissed employee, and their behavior, is also a factor. Short-term contracts are covered better by this new model. As of July 1, 2015, employers will owe compensation if they terminate a permanent, or a temporary, contract that lasted more than 24 months. This transition payment (transitievergoeding) replaces the existing cantonal court formula (kantonrechtersformule). According to the latter, 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. This can be up to a maximum of € 75,000.

The new severance payment is calculated as follows:

1/3 of an employee’s monthly salary is granted to them, for every year of employment. This is only applicable if they were employed for a period of less than 10 years in total. Alternatively, 1/2 of their monthly salary could be granted to them 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 in the same way that a company would treat their employees. This should be in regards to wages, working on holidays, night shifts, overtime, vacation days, compensation, etc. 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). This has various regulations on (but not limited to), subjects such 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 elements of the Collective Agreement for Temporary Employees (ABU Collective Agreement) apply to employment agencies. This also goes for foreign agencies, which place non-Dutch employees on the Dutch labor market.

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.


Are you looking for a job that allows you to speak your native language? You could register with a specialised employment agency. Equally, you can apply directly to companies where business is conducted in your native language.

After the UK, Germany and France, most ‘multilingual’ jobs are to be found in international call centers, and shared service centers, in the Netherlands. There are over 150 of these multilingual service centers in the country. Most are located in the Randstad region, which covers a triangular area of land that includes Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam. However, you will find an increasing number of 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 environment (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. This is for safety reasons. The level of your job, and your responsibilities, will determine what level of Dutch you need to master. Still, the ability to speak English fluently will often come in handy in this internationally-oriented economy. But don’t forget, the Dutch do speak the language quite well, so it won’t be enough to land you a niche 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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