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The Netherlands is making work from home a legal right: What does this mean for Dutch companies?

The Netherlands continues to lead the shift towards a more flexible work culture by enforcing new legislation to make work from home a legal right.

Jemima Owen-Jones
Written by Jemima Owen-Jones
July 21, 2022
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The Dutch parliament’s lower house adopted the new work from home (WFH) legislation, which is now with the Dutch senate for final approval. Once approved, the Netherlands will officially be one of the first countries to grant remote working by law.

As the law currently stands, employers in the Netherlands can deny workers’ requests to work from home without giving any reason. Under the new law, employers must consider all such requests and provide adequate reasons for refusing them.

The first-of-its-kind law is known as the work from home bill. The bill is an amendment to the country’s Flexible Working Act 2015, which allowed workers to request changes in the number of hours they worked, their work schedule, and place of work.

Steven van Weyenberg, a member of the pro-European D-66 Party, and Senna Maatoug, a lawmaker from the Green Party, proposed the amendment. They say that the new law has received widespread support, particularly from the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions, which has over 900,00 members from various professions.

Steven van Weyenberg said in a Bloomberg interview, “We have the green light for this new law thanks to the support we received from both employees and employers’ unions. We are very hopeful it will pass before the summer.”

According to Eurostat, 14% of the Dutch workforce worked remotely two years before the pandemic, the highest rate in the EU. However, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns gave even more people a taste of the remote work lifestyle leading to a surge in demand.

Senna Maatoug of the Groenlinks party said to The Wall Street Journal that the bill is an “important step” for workers. “It allows them to find a better work-life balance and reduce time spent on commuting.”

Other European countries have implemented similar worker-protection laws in recent years. Still, none have explicitly stated that employees have a right to work at home. It’s expected that the new law will inspire many other European countries, including Germany, France, and Portugal, to follow suit.

Unfortunately, the latest news isn’t trending with Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, who recently warned employees that they could either return to the workplace or leave the company.

What does the new law mean for Dutch companies?

Dutch companies can expect their workforce to come forward with requests to work remotely.

A recent poll of 5,300 Dutch employees in the financial, business, and government sectors found that 70% wanted to vary between working at home and in the office. Only 10% want to work full-time in an office, and 20% said they only wanted to work from home.

Companies should develop a work from home policy outlining the factors they will consider when an employee requests to work from home. 

“In order to remain competitive and improve employee happiness, three-quarters of employers say they’ve updated their flexible working policies—including more options to work remotely—since the pandemic, which is testament to the popularity of working from home,” said Marcel Molenaar, country manager for the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg at social media network, LinkedIn.

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Can Dutch employers deny work from home requests?

While the exact procedures have not yet been released, it’s likely employers can refuse a WFH request if the refusal is based on valid business grounds. Valid business grounds may include:

  • The worker can only perform the essential duties of the role in the workplace
  • The essential duties require the use of specific equipment or tools that the worker cannot replicate at home
  • There is a fundamental need for face-to-face interaction and coordination of work with other employees
  • There is an essential need for in-person interaction with outside colleagues, clients, or customers
  • The role requires the employee to have immediate access to documents or other information located only in the workplace

Can employers agree to a hybrid work arrangement?

Suppose the employer determines that the employee must perform some essential job duties in the workplace. In that case, the employer and employee should decide whether a hybrid work arrangement is appropriate.

What if an employee successfully worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It could be challenging for an employer to objectively demonstrate why the employee needs to work from the office if they performed their duties from home without issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the advantages of the new law for Dutch employers?

The law will help provide more structure and clarity around work-from-home measures, making it easier for businesses to roll out work-from-home policies and arrangements.

Employees will also have more confidence and surety in coming forward with requests which are likely to improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Dutch companies are also likely to see an increase in international talent as the Netherlands becomes ever more popular with expats looking to fulfill their flexible work goals.

Check out our article on the Netherlands’ highly skilled migrant scheme to find out how you can legally hire a foreign worker for a high-level position in the Netherlands.

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