3 April 2019

Dutch law on working conditions

Work place rules for Dutch employers

The Working Conditions Act forms the basis for regulations pertaining to safe and healthy work. This piece of legislation comes under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. It mainly includes a description of the processes for guaranteeing good working conditions. In fact, it comes down to the government determining as many target requirements and limit values for organisations as possible. Those target requirements and limit values determine the boundaries within which employees and employers can conclude their own agreements, which they can register in the Arbo Catalogue for more the 150 types of business activities. The Working Conditions Act is based on the European working conditions framework directive. The Dutch government creates room for increased customisation within companies and ensures compliance with European legislation.

Working Conditions Decree

More specific target requirements and limit values are included in the Working Conditions Decree with specific occupational health and safety topics, such as provisions on work places, dangerous substances, noise, vibrations That Decree is for a large part also an implementation of special European Directives that are based on the framework directive. The limit values and target requirements in the Working Conditions Decree therefore concern standards and values for risks that occur in more than one industry. There are, for example, target requirements for noise, VDU activities, non-ionising radiation and dangerous substances. These agreements also find their way into the Arbo Catalogue. The Working Conditions Regulation contains specific provisions which usually are changing relatively fast. For example the occupational exposure limit for dangerous substances.

Procedural Regulations in the Working Conditions Decree

The Agenda Stipulations or Procedural Regulations in the Working Conditions Decree deserve special attention. Agenda Stipulations describe matters in respect of which no target provisions have been set as yet or in respect of which it is impossible to set limit values. An example of this is the ‘psychosocial work stress’. This may manifest itself in the shape of bullying or gossiping and backbiting on the work floor. Employers and employees must ensure that no psychosocial work stress can arise. It is impossible to provide a specific limit value, however, but the Arbo Catalogue can describe methods for the company to counter bullying. The Working Conditions Regulations include the detailed regulations that are derived to a large extent from the annexes to the various European Directives.

Law enforcement of working conditions in the Netherlands

Enforcement of the Working Conditions Act is the responsibility of the Inspectorate SZW (or: the Labour Inspectorate or “Arbeidsinspectie”)). Dutch employers are required to comply with the working conditions legislation (Working Conditions Act, Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulations). The Arbo Catalogue can be a useful tool in this connection. The Inspectorate SZW visits companies to inspect whether these companies actually comply with the regulations. If this is not the case, the company may be issued with a warning or an administrative fine or an official report in case of serious matters. A Dutch lawyer can file a complaint or appeal in case the Dutch authority sanctions any offense.

Employer’s duty to use service providers for safety and health at work

An employer can make a choice from a broad range of service providers in the field of safety and health at work. Usually Dutch employer hire the services of these experst on health and safety Inter alia for having an RI&E and the rehabilitation process checked, the employer may choose between hiring specialists from a certified working conditions service (this can also be an internal working conditions service) or engaging a certified working conditions expert not employed by a working conditions service (custom scheme: only if this has been arranged via the collective labour agreement or approved by the employee representation). A list of certified working conditions services can be found on the SBCA website. Working conditions services must employ the following disciplines: company doctor, occupational hygienist, higher safety specialist and a work and organisation expert. A company can also have itself assisted with advice concerning various other areas issued by advisors who are not certified. This not an obligation pursuant to the Working Conditions Act.

Employer’s Insurance for illness and working hazards

Employers can insure themselves against many things, for example by means of sick leave insurance, fire insurance or liability insurance. This insurance means that the insurer pays an amount to the employer when the employee falls ill. This is actually covering the risk of having to continue to pay an employee’s salary in case of illness. This type of insurer is also referred to as a non-life insurer. They work together in the Dutch Association of Insurers trade association. These insurers may impose requirements in their policy conditions as regards the working conditions or the safety of their policy holders (companies). The insurance company may demand for example that in case of fire insurance fire prevention measures are implemented, for example in the form of a sprinkler installation. Employers are required to take out health insurance.

For any assistance of questions on the Dutch rules on Working Conditions please contact Rachelle Mourits.