14 December 2022

Recruiting employees on the basis of green working conditions

By Koen Vermeulen

Almost all employers have considerable difficulty finding staff.

Besides that, there is also a desire from politics, society and potential employees for sustainability, climate policy and energy transition. Does this present opportunities for employers to become more appealing? And does implementing green working conditions help retain employees? Is the recruiting of employees on the basis of green working conditions possible?

Green working conditions

Green working conditions include working conditions that contribute to sustainability and energy transition. What can an employer consider? Some examples of green working conditions are actually very similar to current working conditions.

  • Such as providing a higher allowance for commuting expenses if the employee uses his/ her bicycle instead of public transport or a car. During the Covid crisis, this travel expense differentiation was implemented by a number of companies following tax changes to the fixed travel allowance. One example is the ANWB.
  • It awards extra holidays to employees who travel by train or electric car to their holiday destination rather than flying. Awarding bonus days is not a new concept. Such as employers who grant employees an extra day’s holiday if they are not sick during a 3-month period. Which is legally permissible.
  • Allocation of a one-off budget to be used for home sustainability. For example, Achmea has implemented such a climate budget in its 2023 collective labour agreement. An employee can spend the budget on insulation, solar panels, more energy-efficient household appliances or green investments. The collective labour agreement of the central government will also award employees a budget for home sustainability in 2023; without the requirement that the employee works from home or partly from home.
  • Companies can encourage bicycle use by offering a bicycle plan or lease bike, instead of a lease car.

Employment law design and sustainability of green working conditions

These are some examples of green working conditions that can be included in employment contracts, staff handbooks or collective labour agreements. At this point, the question may arise about how to give this legal and/or tax form. Of course legal questions may arise with any new or amended working conditions. Examples of this include issues such as privacy (relating to the employee’s choice in furnishing his/her home or holiday), working expenses regulations, equal treatment (some employees live too far away to be able to cycle) and unilateral changes in working conditions (having to exchange a leased car for a leased bicycle).

At the same time, any employment law bumps are easily solvable; especially if both parties have a desire to make a contribution to greening, including in the employment contract. And this desire seems to be present. Even if it is only to help retain staff partly with the help of green working conditions.

Future legislation

On top of this, after the summer recess, the Second Chamber will consider the plan of the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management that would require employers with more than 100 employees to provide a report on the business travel and commuting of its employees, most likely from 2023. This is in connection with the Climate Goals and the associated reduction of CO2 emissions by employers. For the specialist, this concerns the proposed Work-Related Mobility of Persons Decree (Besluit werkgebonden personenmobiliteit), which is part of an amendment to the Living Environment (Activities) Decree (Besluit activiteiten leefomgeving).

Although this is a draft decree, it is clear that the intention is that sustainable policies are required from large companies even in the employment relationship. For example, this could be achieved by an employer by encouraging employees to make more use of bicycles or public transport instead of petrol cars, or by encouraging working from home and online meetings.

Get started with green working conditions!

Many companies are already fully engaged in greening and sustainability. There are therefore opportunities when implementing the working conditions, i.e. in the direct relationship between employer-employee.This is confirmed by the recent collective labour agreements of the central government and Achmea that apply to large groups of employees. If you would you like to implement green working conditions and possibly amend your current working conditions, and you are encountering practical or legal questions – please do not hesitate to contact us immediately!

Koen Vermeulen

Koen Vermeulen

Lawyer / associate partner

Koen Vermeulen is your sparring partner for all questions relating to labour relations and pension.

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