One of the most common forms of employment in the Netherlands for both Dutch and expat employees is to work through private employment agencies.
Flexible employees then work under an agreement between them and the agency, or sometimes with a direct contract from the company to which they have been recruited.
Dutch law & Flexible employment contracts
Dutch law on employment contracts allows employers to flexibly engage employees:
› Through companies
Employers and employees can agree on fixed-term contracts (a maximum of three), the total duration of which cannot extend beyond 36 months (combined).
After this period, an indefinite contract may be offered. There is also the possibility to continue for another six months through an agency (see below).
Note: Companies may also offer (non-flexible) contracts for longer periods of time (e.g. four years). This is a single contract that automatically stops at the end of a pre-specified period.
› Through agencies
Through an agency, employees work under the rules and regulation of the Flexwet, which means working under the fasesysteem. Note that the most reliable agencies are those that are members of a federation such as the ABU.*
How does this work? In short:
Phase A: Instead of a contract, there is an agreement that lasts for 78 working weeks (i.e. the weeks that the candidate works).
Note: This agreement is like a contract, as you cannot work through an agency without one, but it is not strictly speaking a contract, in the sense that there's no obligation for salary payment if there is no work.
Phase B: A contract for fixed periods, with a maximum of eight contracts and a total duration of two years.
Phase C: An indefinite contract with the agency.
Note: The total period of Phase A and B together is 3,5 years, whereas the total duration of fixed contracts between employers and employees cannot exceed 36 months.
This means that employees can work half a year longer on flexible contracts through an agency, while companies can also use that advantage by engaging the payroll services of an agency when a temporary worker has reached the work period of three years.
Latest figures for flexible workers in the Netherlands
According to figures from the ABU, in period nine (i.e. week 33-36, 2013) the total amount of hours worked decreased 3 per cent and turnover declined 1 per cent, in comparison with the same period last year.
› The administrative sector decreased 2 per cent in terms of hours, while turnover remained the same in comparison to the same period in 2012.
› Hours in the industrial sector decreased 2 per cent and turnover remained the same in comparison to the same period in 2012.
› Ultimately, the amount of worked hours in the technical sector decreased 3 per cent compared to the same period last year, while turnover decreased 1 per cent.
› In the medical sector, the amount of hours had a decrease of 26 per cent and turnover decreased 22 per cent.
The flexible labour market still experiences decline and sometimes - for the best- stagnation. Looking at the technical sector, however, with its decrease of 3 per cent, bear in mind that there is currently a shortage of technical employees, which will grow. So the decline could be attributed to that fact.
Just for the record, both periods had an equal amount of working days, so no correction was applied.
Working through an agency is not only a flexible way of working, it also offers jobseekers the opportunity to choose between jobs and companies and therefore build up an interesting and varied résumé.
An agency can inform clients about trends and labour market developments, and offers jobseekers access to their huge network.
* ABU (Algemene Bond Uitzendondernemingen) has been the main representative for private employment agencies in the Netherlands since 1961.
Projob has been member of the ABU since its beginning in 1995 and is constantly updated by the ABU with facts and figures for the flexible labour market.
Els Brouwer is an expat service provider, who works as Manager Interim Professional for Projob, an agency specialising in Recruitment & Career Coaching. Els has worked with expats and international companies for more than 10 years now.