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Article

3 min read

A Guide to Employee Background Checks in the Netherlands

Employee background checks
Legal & compliance

Author

Michał Kowalewski

Published

February 29, 2024

Last Update

July 12, 2024

Table of Contents

Essential information for a background check in the Netherlands

Are background checks legal in the Netherlands?

What types of background checks are illegal in the Netherlands?

Common background check industries in the Netherlands

Types of employee background checks in Netherlands

Background check mistakes to avoid in the Netherlands

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in the Netherlands

Key takeaways
  1. Background checks are legal in the Netherlands, but strict regulations apply. You need to obtain consent, limit data collection, and comply with data protection laws like GDPR.
  2. Common background checks include criminal records, employment history, and education verification. Social media checks are less common and require caution.
  3. Avoid discriminatory practices and ensure transparency throughout the process. This includes informing candidates about the check and handling their data responsibly.

Employee background checks should be an integral part of your hiring process in Netherlands. Although not mandatory, they are a common practice, especially in finance, healthcare, education, and government organizations.

The Netherlands is recognized as a prime location for global hiring due to its highly educated workforce, strong proficiency in English, and innovative business environment. In the Netherlands, 45% of 25-64 year-olds have tertiary education degrees, contributing to a skilled and versatile talent pool.  The Netherlands also has a robust infrastructure and is strategically located in Europe, making it an attractive hub for businesses looking to expand their operations globally.

Background checks in the Netherlands, like in many other countries, are an important part of the hiring process, particularly in sectors where trust and security are paramount. However, it's crucial that these checks are conducted in compliance with local laws and regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to respect candidates' privacy and avoid potential legal issues

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in the Netherlands 
  • What are the common types of employee checks in the Netherlands
  • Step-by-step process of a thorough employee screening
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in the Netherlands

Essential information for a background check in the Netherlands

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, ensuring the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

In the Netherlands, employee background checks are governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), and the Dutch Implementation Act.

  • GDPR: Emphasizes the protection of personal data in the European Union, impacting how employee background checks are conducted by requiring lawful, fair, and transparent data processing. Organizations must ensure they have a legitimate basis for such checks, often necessitating explicit consent from the individual
  • Dutch Data Protection Authority: Oversees compliance with GDPR in the Netherlands, ensuring that organizations adhere to data protection laws during employee background checks. They provide guidelines and enforce regulations related to the processing of personal data, safeguarding individuals' privacy rights.
  • Dutch Implementation Act: Complements the GDPR by addressing specific national provisions. It details the processing of personal data, rights of individuals, and obligations for data controllers within the Netherlands. This act ensures that Dutch law aligns with the GDPR while addressing local requirements.

It's important for recruiters to consider the cultural aspect of privacy in the Netherlands. Dutch society values personal privacy, and the protection of personal data is highly regarded. As a result, background checks should be conducted with utmost respect for the candidate's privacy rights. Recruiters should also be aware of the 'Right to be Forgotten' under the GDPR, which allows individuals to request the deletion of their personal data under certain circumstances.

Background checks are legal in the Netherlands, provided they comply with the GDPR and the Dutch Implementation Act. 

Recruiters can conduct background checks on a candidate's criminal record, employment history, educational qualifications, and financial history. However, it's essential to note that the scope of the background check must be relevant to the specific job role. For instance, conducting a credit history check may be justifiable for a financial position but could be considered disproportionate for a non-financial role.

Recruiters must also inform candidates about the purpose and scope of the background check and obtain their explicit consent before initiating the process. Although it’s not specified in the law, written consent is recommended for documentation and compliance purposes. 

What types of background checks are illegal in the Netherlands?

Netherland’s job market offers exciting opportunities for global tech companies, but running legal background checks requires caution. While verifying qualifications and experience is encouraged, certain practices cross legal and ethical boundaries.

Stay clear of:

  • Discriminatory Checks: Don't inquire about irrelevant aspects like race, religion, family details, or criminal records beyond what's directly job-related.
  • Overly Intrusive Checks: Avoid excessively personal information like finances or social media monitoring, except for specific justified roles.
  • Unfair Practices: Ensure information is accurate, inform candidates beforehand, and handle data responsibly (retention, sharing).

Violating data privacy laws during employee background checks in Poland can lead to significant legal repercussions due to strict adherence to the GDPR and local data protection laws.

Specifically, the GDPR outlines a two-tier fine system for infringements. Less severe violations can result in fines up to €10 million or 2% of the firm's global annual revenue from the previous fiscal year, whichever is higher. More serious infringements, however, can attract fines of up to €20 million or 4% of the firm's worldwide annual revenue from the preceding financial year, again whichever is higher.

Common background check industries in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, various industries rely on employee background checks to ensure the integrity and reliability of their workforce. Some of the common industries where background checks are prevalent include:

  • Finance: Financial institutions conduct checks to ensure the integrity and reliability of employees managing sensitive financial transactions, protecting against fraud and financial crimes.
  • Healthcare: Background checks in healthcare are vital for verifying the qualifications and trustworthiness of medical staff, ensuring they can provide safe and competent care to patients.
  • Education: In the education sector, checks help in ensuring that those working with children have the proper qualifications and no history that might endanger students.
  • Government: For government positions, especially those involving national security or sensitive information, background checks help in maintaining public trust and safety.
  • Child day-care: Continuous screening in this sector is crucial for the safety of children, ensuring that all staff members are suitable to work with minors.

Types of employee background checks in Netherlands

Effective employment screening in the Netherlands covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of Check Common in Netherlands? Reason
Criminal Record Check Common This check is crucial for roles involving security clearances, handling sensitive information, or working with vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly
Employment History Verification Common Important for assessing the candidate's work experience, performance, and integrity
Educational Qualifications Verification Common Ensures the candidate possesses the required education and skills for the role
Credit History Check Less Common Less common than the others and typically conducted for positions that involve financial responsibilities, access to sensitive financial information, or handling of company funds
Reference Check Common Provides insights into the candidate's character and work ethic through past colleagues or supervisors
Social Media Screening Common Provides insights into the candidate's character and work ethic through past colleagues or supervisors
Drug and Alcohol Testing Less Common Increasingly common, this involves reviewing a candidate's public online presence to gather insights into their behavior, character, and professionalism

Background check mistakes to avoid in the Netherlands

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in the Netherlands, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Failure to obtain consent: Initiating a background check without obtaining explicit consent from the candidate violates the GDPR and Dutch data protection laws
  • Irrelevant checks: Conducting background checks that are not directly relevant to the job role may be deemed disproportionate and could lead to legal repercussions
  • Lack of transparency: Failing to communicate the purpose, scope, and results of the background check to the candidate can erode trust and transparency in the hiring process
  • Mishandling personal data: Inadequate measures to secure and protect the personal data collected during the background check process can result in data breaches and legal liabilities
  • Discriminatory practices: Requesting or using information related to sensitive personal characteristics for hiring decisions is unlawful and discriminatory

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in the Netherlands

Employers looking to hire in the Netherlands should follow the list of steps below to ensure legal and effective and thorough employee background checks.

  1. Obtain candidate consent: Before initiating any background check, recruiters must obtain explicit consent from the candidate, clearly specifying the purpose and scope of the check
  2. Check criminal record: Recruiters can request a Certificate of Conduct (Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag - VOG) from the candidate, which provides information about any criminal records
  3. Verify employment history: Contact previous employers to verify the candidate's employment history, positions held, and the duration of employment
  4. Verify educational qualifications: Validate the candidate's educational qualifications with the respective educational institutions or relevant authorities
  5. Check financial history: Only conduct a financial history check if it is directly relevant to the role and obtain the candidate's consent for this specific check
  6. Check references: Contact the candidate's provided references to gain insights into their work ethic, skills, and overall performance
  7. Check social media: While it's not common in the Netherlands, recruiters may conduct a limited and relevant social media screening, ensuring it complies with the GDPR
  8. Document the process: Maintain detailed records of the background check process, including the candidate's consent, the sources contacted, and the information obtained
  9. Comply with data protection laws: Ensure that all personal data collected during the background check process is stored securely and in compliance with the GDPR
  10. Inform the candidate: Communicate the results of the background check to the candidate in a transparent and respectful manner, allowing them the opportunity to address any discrepancies

You can also automate this process using Deel, and get a fast employee background check, with results coming in a matter of minutes.

With the requirement for a comprehensive background check for our contractors, I highly recommend Deel's background check add-on service for their unparalleled accuracy and efficiency. Deel not only streamlines the vetting process but also ensures a thorough examination of candidates, providing a reliable foundation for informed hiring decisions.

Andrew Swaby,

CEO

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