A survival guide to work contracts in the Netherlands

Job Advice

Work contracts in the Netherlands

Finding a job in a new country is not easy, and when you do find one, it’s still just the beginning. You then need to deal with a new environment, new language and new laws and regulations you know nothing about. How many holiday days will you have? What to do in a case of dismissal? We aim to answer these and some other common questions in this article. 


Click here to download the survival guide!


What is CAO?

If you work for a Dutch employer, your contract is subject to the Dutch employment law. In addition to this, some companies also participate in a Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst – CAO (Collective Labour Agreement).

A CLA is a written agreement between an employer and its employees which covers working conditions and benefits - these are usually more favourable for employees than the ones prescribed by law. A company can have its own labour agreement or can be a part of an industry labour agreement. Everything in your contract has to be in accordance with CLA and if you have any doubts about your rights or responsibilities, this is a one-stop-shop you should check. If your future employer has no CLA, you will need an individual agreement where you negotiate the working conditions.

What is the difference between a temporary or permanent labour contract and a contract with a recruitment agency?

A temporary or definitive contract means that there is a start and an end date of your employment. A permanent or indefinite contract means that the end date is not known. As of January 1st 2020, you have a right to a permanent contract after 3 years of working for the same employer or 3 definite contracts, if not stated differently in the Collective Labour Agreement. Bear in mind that the permanent contract cannot be offered if the interval between two temporary contracts exceeds 6 months.

Working through an agency, such as Adams, means that you will perform a job for a certain company, but you sign the contract with an agency that is your legal employer. In this case, you can have more than 3 contracts and not be entitled to a permanent one. This is because you can work on short-term projects and have temporary contracts of just a few weeks. You will usually have an extensive talk with the administrative staff of your agency before signing anything. They will explain to you everything you need to know about your rights and obligations as a temporary worker. An agency can also represent you in talks with a potential employer where you sign a contract directly with a company, but your agency recruiter can negotiate things for you.

Is there a trial period?

The trial period depends on the length of your contract. If the contract is 6 months or less, then there is no trial period. If a contract is between 6 months and 2 years, the trial period is usually 1 month. Contracts longer than 2 years can have 2 months of probation period.

The trial period gives you and your employer enough time to access if this job is the right fit for you. In most cases you will receive feedback by your manager after the first month and find out will your contract continue. This is also an important period for you to feel the company culture, get the sense of your daily tasks and check how well you get along with your colleagues.

How many work hours is a full-time job?

Your contract should state how many work hours per week will you work. Dutch law recognizes full-time employment from 36h to 40h per week. Your salary and holiday days depend on the number of working hours so make sure to have this clarified before signing a contract.

What will my salary be?

The current minimum salary in the Netherlands is €1.653,60 for persons 21 and older and the average salary is around €2.816. Bear in mind that these are gross salaries. This, of course, depends on years of experience, skills, a field of expertise and industries. You can find out more details in our blog post Salaries in the Netherlands – what should you be earning?

What is a holiday allowance?

A holiday allowance is a payment your employer pays on top of your annual salary. It was introduced back in the 1920s as a form of paid leave, but in 1960s transformed into an additional annual payment to accommodate rising prices of travelling.

The minimum is 8% and an employer is obliged to provide it. It is usually paid at once in May or June (before the holiday season). However, some people prefer to receive an additional payment on top of their monthly salary instead of getting the whole payment at once. If you earn more than 3 times the minimum wage your employer can offer you a contract that does not include a holiday allowance or includes reduced payment. If you receive a lower salary due to an illness or a leave, you will receive a lower amount of holiday allowance as well. Always ask your future employer does the gross salary stated in the contract includes holiday allowance or not!

How many holiday days will I have?

The minimum number of holiday days in the Netherlands is 20 for a full-time job. However, 25 vacation days per year is average. If you don’t spend all your vacation days in the given year you can take a maximum of 5 days into the next year otherwise, they will expire.

Public holidays are non-working days for most of the general population. However, there is no legal requirement obliging an employer to give you a day off on a public holiday. Therefore, in some industries, such as horeca and tourism, holiday days may be working days as well.

Dutch public holidays 2020

New Year’s Day

1st January

Good Friday

10th April

Easter Sunday

12ve April

Easter Monday

13th April

King’s Day

27th April

Liberation Day – every 5 years

5th May

Ascension Day

21st May

Whit (Pentecost) Sunday

31st May

Whit (Pentecost) Monday

1st June

Christmas Day

25th December

Boxing Day (2nd day of Christmas)

26th December



What are ADV and ATV days?

On top of your holiday days, you can have additional days off. They are called ADV daysATV days or roostervrije dagen. ADV means ArbeidsDuurVerkorting – shorter working hours. This rule was introduced decades ago in order to create more employment. The idea is that as one person works shorter work week a company would hire additional staff and therefore create more jobs.

ADV days are not regulated the same way holiday days are. An employee is not entitled to these additional days unless there is an agreement put in place. Also, ADV days cannot be transferred to the next year; if you don’t use them in a given year they are gone.

You can also have ADV hours. That is one or more hours taken off of your weekly work hours. For example, if you work 40h per week, and you are entitled to 1 ADV hour every week your actual workweek is 39h. Again, as with ADV days, this is an additional benefit your employer provides you, not a mandatory regulation.

Will the employer pay my commute expenses?

Travel reimbursement is decided by CLA. Most of the employers in the Netherlands pay €0,19 per kilometer if you live more than 10km away from your working place. This covers either public transportation or expenses for your own vehicle. Bear in mind that if you use your own car you will not receive separate reimbursement for a parking fee. Based on a specific CLA of an employer you may be entitled to a higher or a lower reimbursement payment. It is also possible that you do not receive any separate compensation, but the reimbursement is incorporated in your monthly payment. Make sure to ask about travel reimbursement before signing a contract to avoid any further inconveniences.

What are the common secondary benefits in the Netherlands?

Many companies provide extra benefits to attract the best employees. The usual benefits include free coffee, tea and fruits in the office, but can also extend to additional payment for your health insurance, gym subscription, monthly and yearly bonuses, unlimited vacation days or 13th salary. When negotiating your contract make sure you have a clear understanding of what is your base salary and what are additional benefits.

What if I get sick or pregnant?

An employer cannot dismiss you in the first 2 years of sickness. During this time, you will receive 70% of your salary. After 2 years you may be able to work reduced hours or have different responsibilities. If this is not an option, you can apply for disability benefits.

In the case of pregnancy, you are entitled to at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. During this time, you will receive 100% of your salary.

By Dutch law, both parents are entitled to unpaid parental leave until the child is 8 years old. This leave is calculated as 26 times the number of hours you work. You can spend it all at once or spread it across a few years.

How long is the notice period?

Your notice period depends on several things: the type of your contract, are you still on a probation period and specific agreement with your employer. Usually, the notice period from your side is 1 calendar month if not agreed differently with the employer. During the notice month, you are still required to work regular work hours. If you want to resign during your probation period, you can do that immediately and your employment stops at that moment. If you have worked more than 5 years for the same employer, your notice period will be 2 months and with every additional 5 years of service, it increases by a month.

The employer is also obliged to give you a notice period before dismissing you. Depending on your contract it can be between 1 and 4 calendar months unless you are still on the trial period in which case the notice period is not required.

In some instances, you can be dismissed on the spot without the notice period, such as fraud, stealing, serious lack of skills to perform a job or refusing to work without a good reason. You will not be entitled to the unemployment benefits and your employer can stop paying your salary immediately.

What should I do in the case of dismissal?

If your contract is not extended or you have been dismissed you may have a right to unemployment benefits. You must reside legally in the Netherlands, have worked for at least 26 weeks in a 36 weeks period before you became unemployed, and the reason for unemployment is not your own fault. The length of unemployment benefits depends on your employment history. Usually, each year of work entitles you to one month of unemployment benefits with the minimum being 3 and the maximum being 24 months. You can find all the necessary information at the Employee Insurance Agency.

In addition to unemployment benefits, you may be entitled to a transition payment. This is a one-time compensation that depends on your monthly salary and how long have you worked for the employer. Starting 1st of January 2020 the length of employment that qualifies you for this is 6 months.

What is a non-competition clause?

A non-competition clause or concurrentiebeding is a statement in your contract that prohibits you to work for a competitor once your contract with your current employer expires in order to protect an employer's business interest. In the Netherlands, the usual period of prohibition is 12 months and it’s only valid for indefinite contracts. Pay close attention to this before signing a contract since it can restrict your next career move.

Will I have a right to a pension?

Everyone who legally resides in the Netherlands and reaches the retirement age will receive the basic state pension. The current retirement age in the Netherlands is 67 years, regardless of gender. When you retire you are entitled to a basic pension income guaranteed by the General Old Age Pension Act (Algemene ouderdomswet or AOW). The amount of retirement income depends on your age and living conditions. Currently, the guaranteed pension is €1.255,87 gross per month for people leaving alone and €859,55 for couples. Bear in mind that there is a 2% deduction for every year spent abroad from the age of 15 to the moment of retirement.

You can also get an additional income your previous employers paid during your working years. Bear in mind that not all employers offer a pension plan, but in some industries a pension scheme is mandatory. On top of that, you can have private pension insurance where you pay a regular amount during your working years and receive payment once you retire.

Check list

Many things in your contract depend on the CLA your employer has in place, such as holiday and ADV days, holiday allowance and more. If you find a job through an agency all this will be explained to you. But if you get a contract directly with your future employer make sure to clear out all the doubts you have. Here’s a check list of all things you should clarify before signing a contract:

  • The length of your contract and does it include a probation period
  • The amount of your base salary (monthly or annually), is it with the holiday allowance and will you receive any additional bonus
  • The number of holiday and ADV days
  • Will you have a day off on public holidays?
  • Will you receive a travel reimbursement?
  • Check the non-competition clause
  • Additional benefits such as a pension scheme and a supplement to your health contribution

Now that you understand your rights and responsibilities for working in the Netherlands, it’s time to start searching for that dream job!