Netherlands: A Guide to Prevent Collapse During Coronavirus

Emily Kuhnert March 19, 2020

We have gathered information on what measures you can take as an employer in Holland to help preserve your employees while keeping your business intact. As more information comes in, we will update this post.

If you have any questions on the impact of Coronavirus on labor laws, visit our Linkedin AMA post and leave us your questions in the comment section and we will reply.

March 25, 2020

If an employee has a sick child, an employee may apply for short-term care leave for up to 2 weeks.  During this leave, the employee is entitled to 70% of their regular pay.

If an employee has scheduled annual leave and would like to cancel it, the employer is not obligated to agree.

If an employee is not able to work from home, it is the duty of the employer to provide a safe work space.  In addition, the employer should provide guidelines on health and safety, with information on hygiene.

If an employee is unable to resume work, they are able to apply for compensation at the amount of 4,000 EUR for the period of 3 months.

As of March 17, 2020, employers are no longer able to submit a request for shortened work hours.  Instead, the government has announced a new temporary measure called N”oodfonds Overbrugging Werkgelegenheid” (NOW).  NOW allows for employers to request government assistance in paying employer wages and would allow the employee to continue to work and received their full salary.  The employer can request assistance for 3 months and it is possible to request for an extension for an additional 3 months.  The government is working on releasing more information on the eligibility of this measure and we will update this post once received.

If the employee is not sick but is not able to fulfill their duties for reasons such as being quarantined or banned from entering the Netherlands, the employee must continue to pay employee’s wages.  If an employee refuses to work without a valid reason, the employee may be able to penalize the employee through a wage reduction, however, this can only be done after the employee receives a warning in writing.

 

Updated: March 19, 2020

Reduced Working Hours

When there is a reduction of at least 20% of the normal working hours per employee, the employer can apply for a reduction in working time and unemployment benefits for employees. The following actions should be followed:

  1. Employer makes a request at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment for a reduction of working time permit.  The minimum amount of time a permit can be granted for is 6 weeks and can be extended to up to 24 weeks.
  2. When the permit is approved, the Employer must submit a notification to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) of the changes.
  3. After the permit has expired, the employer can apply for the regular Unemployment Insurance (WW) benefits. WW benefits only apply for employees who pay WW contributions in the Netherlands. The WW is based on the total hours that an employee has worked.

The UWV pays the temporary WW benefit to the company. In most cases, the company needs to pay the full wage of the employees unless the collective labor agreement or employment contract stipulates otherwise. The UWV pays the company 75% of the wage (with a maximum of 75% of the maximum daily wage) for the first 2 months. After 2 months, this is reduced to 70% of the maximum wage.

If an employee falls ill before the permit period commences the employer will continue to pay the wages as it will not be possible to apply for temporary WW benefit for this worker. If the employee becomes ill during the permit period his temporary WW benefit will continue

 Tax Relief

The Dutch tax office has announced some tax relief measures during the coronavirus crisis:

  • Tax payment deferral—the tax administration is to grant deferred payments of  individual income tax, value added tax (VAT), turnover tax, income tax, tax on wages and corporation tax if the entrepreneur provides a written statement reporting the challenges and issues that it has encountered due to the coronavirus crisis. As soon as the request is received by the tax authorities, the tax authorities are to stop the collection, with an assessment to take place later.
  • No default penalty—the tax administration will not impose or will reverse a default penalty assessment that has been imposed for non-payment of tax or late payment of tax.

Employer and Employee Rights & Obligations Q&A

Source: Baker McKenzie

1. Are employees obliged to disclose themselves as a “risk-factor” to the employer?

  • Employees with a confirmed infection need to disclose the same to their contractual employer.
  • Employees with flu symptoms who: i. visited or ii. had contact with individuals from areas with presumed community transmission of COVID-19 within the past 3 weeks need to disclose this circumstance.
  • Even without flu symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pain in the muscles, tiredness), employees who: i. have an individual with a confirmed infection in their household or ii. visited an event, which later became known to be a venue from which the disease spread, need to disclose this circumstance to their employer.

2. Can the employer demand employees to disclose themselves as being a “risk-factor”?

  • Same as item no. 1 above, however if the employee is ill at home he/she does not have to reveal the nature of the illness.

3. Can the employer issue an instruction (or a policy) requiring employees to report co-workers with flu symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pain in the muscles, tiredness) to the employer?

  • Yes, but this is a significant intrusion on privacy in a sensitive area. Please refer to the guidance under item no. 3 in Germany’s content in this regard.

4. Can employees refuse to come to work?

  • Employees can only refuse to come to work if i. there is a confirmed Coronavirus infection in the work place; and ii. the employee’s place of work is in close proximity to where the infected employee was located (i.e., same open space office) and the employer cannot re-assign the employee to a no-risk environment at the work place.

5. Can employees refuse to attend meetings or to travel? 

  • Only if the meeting takes place in a region officially recognized by authorities as being a crisis-region or if attendees visiting from crisis-regions would attend. The same rule applies for business travel.
  • However, an employee can refuse business travel for the reason that he/she is seriously anxious. It will be debatable if it is good employment practice to ask employees to do business travels if they have serious problems with it at the moment.

6. Can the employer send employees on suspension from work?

  • If an employee qualifies as a “risk factor” based on the criteria set out in the response to question no. 1, the employer is obliged to lock out the employee. The employee will need to continue working if possible (e.g., from the home office) unless sick.

7. When is the employer forced to shut down its operations?

  • Only if there is evidence that the place of work is an “out of control crisis venue”. This decision should only be made in consultation with local health authorities.

8. Does the employer have the obligation to report infections occurring in the business to the health authorities?

  • No, only medical staff and doctors who become aware of an infection are required to report to the health authorities.

9. Can the employer require an employee to see a doctor?

  • No, the employer can only recommend the employees to see a doctor. If the employee refuses, the employer can send the employee on paid suspension from work under the preconditions stipulated in item no. 6.

10. If employees are sent on suspension from work, or refuse to come to work or if an operation is being shut down, do the employees still need to be paid?

  • In case of a legitimate lock out, suspension from work or shut down (based on the requirements stipulated in these FAQ), the employee would need to be paid. But the employee would also be required to take all reasonable steps to work from home. Further, the employee would need to accept being temporarily reassigned physically within the work place to a no-risk environment (i.e., other office) or to be assigned with different duties even if these are inferior to the standard duties (unless entirely unacceptable).

11. If kindergartens and schools are being closed and employees need to stay home and cannot work, does the employer need to pay them and – if so – for how long?

  • This must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Assuming there is no risk that the employee has been infected by Coronavirus and can come to the office, the employer may in principle require the employee to take measures in response, i.e., arrange for alternative care, stay home whilst taking up days’ holiday, etc. This could however be different if there is a risk of the employee having the Coronavirus or any formal advice from the Dutch government (e.g., the Dutch government now advises employees living and working in the Netherlands to work from home if possible and not come to the office).
  • Under the circumstances, the employee could also invoke contingency leave (calamiteiten verlof). In that case, based on Dutch statute the employee is eligible for continued payment for a few hours up to a number of days, depending on the situation. If the child of an employee is ill, it could also be possible to invoke short term care leave. This applies for a maximum of twice the number of hours the employee works per week and during that period, the employee is eligible for 70% of the salary

For more details see our payroll & benefits guide to the Netherlands