Dutch labour law sets a generous minimum of Netherlands vacation days and holiday pay. Sanne van Ruitenbeek of Pallas Attorneys explains the Netherlands’ vacation law and employee benefits.
Employees are well protected in the Netherlands, not least by the numerous trade union agreements with industries and companies in the Netherlands. Under Dutch labour law, employees are granted a generous number of vacation days in the Netherlands and holiday pay.
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How many Netherlands vacation days?
The legal minimum number of vacation days in the Netherlands per year is four times the amount of days worked per week. This typically means 20 holidays in the case of a fulltime employee working a five-day week (4×5 working days=20 Netherlands vacation days). However, it is common practice in the Netherlands for a fulltime employee to be entitled to approximately 25 holiday days per year, in addition to more than 10 public holidays in the Netherlands.
Empoyees may be granted more vacation days in the Netherlands by result of personally negotiating the conditions of their employment contract. Otherwise, workers who are part of a Collective Labour Agreement (CLA, or CAO in Dutch) may also be granted a package of more Netherlands vacation or vakantie (vacation in Dutch).
CLAs are commonly formed between industries or employers and trade unions and binds all employees within that company to the union-agreed employment conditions, including salary levels, Netherlands vacation days, overtime, contract terminations, Dutch maternity leave and paternity leave, Dutch pensions, education, childcare and other employee benefits. Such union ties are commonly formed in the Netherlands and often offer more favourable conditions than those prescribed by law, but can never be in contradiction to Dutch labour law.
Holiday pay Netherlands
The biggest question most employers ask is: what is the legal amount of holiday entitlement? During your vacation days in the Netherlands, employee benefits include the continued payment of your full wage.
Under Dutch employment law, employees are also entitled to a minimum holiday allowance of at least 8 percent of their annual salary (including salary, bonuses and allowances) in addition to their vacation days in the Netherlands. The holiday allowance may be reduced or eliminated, however, if you earn more than three times the Dutch minimum salary and sign an agreement. Your holiday leave allowance is paid by your employer usually once a year (around May), and your employer must state the holiday allowance on your pay slip.
Rules for using your Netherlands vacation
Your Netherlands vacation days must be taken within six months in the year after they were accrued, otherwise your vacation days in the Netherlands will lapse without any compensation or holiday pay.
There is, however, one exception to this rule; if an employee is not able to take holidays, for instance, due to sickness or workload. In this case your holidays will not lapse until after a period of five years. This five-year time-limit is also applicable to all holidays accrued before reforms implemented on 1 January 2012 and to all holidays which the employee is entitled to on top on the legal minimum number of vacation days in the Netherlands.
As a final resort, you can also come to a private agreement with your employer to extend the period in which you can take your vacation.
Changes to employee benefits
The European Court of Justice previously judged that sick employees should accrue the same number of holidays as employees who are fit for work. This judgment brought to light that Dutch legislation employee benefits concerning vacation was in violation of EU rules. For this reason the law was changed in 2012.
Previously Dutch labour law stated that an employee who was unfit for work for more than six months would only accrue holidays over the last six months of sickness, regardless of the amount of sick leave taken in the Netherlands. As of 1 January 2012, however, the law stipulates that sick employees will not be treated differently from ‘healthy’ employees, which means holidays will be accrued during the whole period of sick leave. To prevent an employee accruing a significant backlog of holidays – which could be a risk for the employer – the new law also introduced the expiration date of six months.
In brief, the laws on vacations in the Netherlands include the following:
- The law does not distinguish between employees who are fit or unfit for work; both groups will accrue the same number of vacation days in the Netherlands and minimum Netherlands holiday pay.
- Employees should be able to take holidays during sickness in order to get a break from reintegration activities.
- If an employee does not take their minimum number of Netherlands vacation within six months after the year they accrued the holidays, the holidays will lapse, unless the employee has not been able to take the holiday for reasons such as sickness or workload.
- Holidays accrued before 1 January 2012 and holidays on top of the legal minimum number of holidays will lapse after five years.
- Twenty is the legal minimum number of vacation days for a fulltime employee.
- Holidays which have the shortest expiration date will be deemed to be taken first by the employee.
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