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Netherlands – Proposal to strengthen flexible workers’ rights

02 September 2013

A proposal that would strengthen the rights of workers with flexible terms of employment has been launched by Social Affairs and Employment Minister Lodewijk Asscher. Under the new proposal, temporary workers would be entitled to the offer of a permanent contract following two years’ employment, instead of the current level of three.

Minister Asscher believes that there exists a significant difference between contract workers and workers with permanent contracts. He wants this proposed to restore a better balance between the two and provide flexible workers with more security.

The proposal calls for fairer and simpler dismissal regulation, and the payment of compensation following the dismissal of so-called ‘flexi-workers’ after two years. The intention is to prevent situations where one employee is dismissed without compensation but another received a ‘golden handshake’. The Minister proposes a legalised standard fee, for which all workers, including flexi-workers, are eligible following at least two years’ employment with the same company. The fee would be dependent on the length of time the employee has worked at the company beyond the two years. The compensation fee could then be used for vocational retraining to assist the worker in securing new employment.  

The statutory maximum duration that unemployment benefit can be paid will be gradually reduced between 2016 and 2019, from 38 months to 24. The intention is to get people off benefits and back to work as soon as possible. The measures would not apply to the current unemployment benefit and, for older workers who find it difficult to find employment, transitional arrangements will be put in place.

Minister Asscher expects the proposed bill to come under Parliamentary scrutiny within the next three months. The Bill would come into force for improved flexi-worker security on 1 January 2015, with the unemployment benefits implemented one year later.

These proposals have already come under fire, with one temporary recruitment agency director claiming that these changes will make it more difficult for temporary workers to secure longer term work.

The temporary job market in the Netherlands has struggled in recent months. Recruitment agencies across the region have predominately reported falling revenues and profits during 2013. Staffing Industry analysts forecasts a single digit decline for 2013 as a whole.

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