Coronavirus updates (Covid-19)
Special coverage of the legal impact of coronavirus in the Netherlands
Get insights and guidance about the latest legal news regarding the coronavirus and what it means for your rights under Dutch law.
GMW will continue to update this page with the latest developments as they occur. Please note that laws change, especially in such a challenging situation. Legal advice provided here is correct at the time of writing.
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The below advice is based on current law of the Netherlands. Advice about employment excludes employees working in essential services professions and employees with special employment conditions or collective bargaining agreements.
Can my employer force me to come to work if I am sick?
No, they cannot. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) has issued specific guidance during the coronavirus outbreak: if you are sneezing, or if you have a sore throat, runny nose, coughing or a fever up to 38 degrees, you are obliged to stay home.
If you are sick, do not go in to work in person. Instead, call or email your employer and report yourself as sick according to your company’s policy and guidelines.
Can my employer prevent me coming to the office or make me work from home because of coronavirus?
Yes, your employer may close your workplace and require you to stay home or to work from home, depending on your function.
Your employer has the right to close your workplace and prevent you from entering the premises in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Your employer is also obliged to follow any national guidance regarding business closures during the pandemic.
If your employer asks you to work from home, they are required to provide you with the necessary supplies or equipment (e.g.: laptop or charging cable) to perform your work.
Can I automatically work from home because of the lockdown?
No. Whether you are able to work from home depends on your job function, your company’s policy, your own employment agreement and any special arrangements your company may make for working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. You do not have the automatic right to stay home.
If you are worried about going to work during the pandemic, discuss your concerns with your manager or HR Officer and see if you can reach a reasonable solution together.
Follow your company’s guidance and go to work as usual. Failure to attend work without prior approval could compromise your rights.
Can my employer force me to work part-time because of coronavirus?
Yes, your employer could reduce your working hours temporarily – but don’t panic. The Dutch government is taking measures to help companies keep paying staff.
On March 12, 2020 it was initially announced that companies affected by the consequences of coronavirus (Covid-19) would be able to apply for “shorter working times” (in Dutch: werktijdverkorting or WTV) due to reduced business activities. However, this has since changed, due to the high number of companies that applied and the fact that it did not help employees on a zero hours or on-call temporary employment contract, or self-employed entrepreneurs (ZZP-ers).
On March 17, 2020 the Dutch government announced that the WTV has been discontinued as a “coronavirus measure”. Instead, a new temporary allowance called Emergency Fund Bridging Employment (NOW) is being introduced. This new allowance allows employers to apply for a substantial contribution to wage costs and receive an advance from UWV, so that they can continue to pay employees with a permanent and a flexible contract.
If your employer is granted this allowance, the unemployment fund will pay part of your salary – so even if you work less, you will continue to be paid your salary. For your employer to get this allowance, they have to commit in advance that they will not apply for dismissal of their employees on grounds of economic reasons during the period for which the allowance is received.
Can my employer require me to perform other tasks or to work at other times?
Yes, within reason.
Your employer may also propose a temporary change to your employment conditions. If the proposal is reasonable within the context, then the employee may reasonably be obliged to agree.
Can my employer force me to use my vacation days because business is slow?
No, your employer can never force you to use your vacation days, unless this is specifically provided for in the collective bargaining agreement. Otherwise it is not permitted without consent from the employee.
In the current situation, your employer may, however, request it.
Can my employer fire me because I get the coronavirus?
No, your employer may not fire you because you contract the coronavirus. Your rights are still protected under standard Dutch employment law.
If you are employed on a permanent contract and you become sick, your employer cannot terminate your employment during the first 104 weeks that you are ill.
Can my employer fire me due to economic or other reasons?
Yes, dismissal for business reasons remains possible, but this must still be implemented according to Dutch employment law; there are no special provisions at this time. As such, your rights as an employee are unchanged.
Can my employer force me to observe new health policies in the workplace?
To the extent that the requests are reasonable, or governed by your contract, yes. Your employer can for example insist on no handshakes or physical contact at the office, as a new company policy. They may also stagger working hours or use of lunch or other food preparation areas in the workplace to minimise infection risks. You should comply with your company’s guidelines on these matters, and if in doubt, start a conversation with your manager of HR officer.
Can my employer unilaterally decide to suspend certain payments to employees?
No. An employer who is in liquidity problems and yet unilaterally decides to suspend certain payments (bonuses, holiday pay, bonuses) in principle will owe the statutory increase of a maximum of 50%. If the employer were to jeopardise the survival of the company through payment, there is a real chance that the legal increase will be mitigated by the court, possibly even to nil.
Can my employer unilaterally force me to give up my holiday money (vakantiegeld)?
No, the amount of the holiday allowance is mandatory. This amount is 8% of a maximum of three times the statutory minimum wage (1,653.60 x 3 = 4,960.80 gross per month). An agreement contrary to the Minimum Wage Act (WML), whereby an employee ‘hands in’ the holiday allowance, is null and void (Article 19 of the WML).
However, when the salary is higher than this statutory minimum, the holiday allowance on that higher salary is a contractual agreement. Therefore the employer can try to make agreements about this with the employees.
Note: The employer can by written agreement choose the moment they pay holiday money, as long as it is paid once per calendar year. Therefore the employer could suggest to defer payment of the holiday allowance until (and including) December 31, 2020.
I’m an expat employee working from home. Can I return to my home country, do my work there and have the right to get paid?
No, in principle you will not be entitled to continued payment of wages. As an employee you do not have the right to unilaterally decide to perform your work elsewhere.
The employer must have a valid reason to refuse such a request, but with current travel restrictions and subsequent uncertainty about when an employee could return to the Netherlands, a valid reason could be easily demonstrated.
Does an employee have the right to be paid if they have to go into home quarantine and they cannot work from home?
Probably. Home quarantine is mandated by the government in certain situations, for example if the employee has been in contact with a person infected with coronavirus (Covid 19). In such a situation, the employee is unable to work through no fault of their own. As such, it may be compared to inability to work due to illness.
Does an employee have the right to be paid if they have to take care of a family member infected with coronavirus, and therefore cannot go in to work?
If the employee can perform their work at home, whether partially or fully, they have the right to be paid. The collective bargaining agreement (or other employment conditions) may also place additional requirements on the employer.
Employees can also consider other options, such as (where applicable) the right to limited unpaid leave, or long-term unpaid leave to provide care.
If the employee should themselves become sick then the standard duty to continued wages will apply.
Does an employee have the right to be paid if, due to closure of schools and childcare, they are unable to work at home or at other times?
In principle, being unable to work for this reason is at the expense of the employee.
Employees do have the right to short-term emergency leave – however this is only for a few days. Thereafter, the reason for non-performance of work is reasonably for the employee’s account – so there is no right to continued payment, unless for example the employee uses their vacation days.
Does the works council have the right of consent to decisions made by the employer regarding the corona crisis?
We believe that the works council will generally not have a right of consent in decisions of the employer because these are temporary measures. We do however advise that you involve the works council closely.
What happens if an employee is unwilling or unable to continue their planned Easter or May holiday?
The employer does not have to return the vacation days to the employee; the holiday is planned and the employee can then “enjoy” it in another way.
Does coronavirus change the contractual obligations of my business?
In short, no. If your business contract is governed by Dutch law, that agreement is unchanged. If you do not meet your contractual obligations, you may be liable to pay damages.
If an event occurs that is beyond the control of the parties and prevents the contract being performed, then it may be possible to appeal to force majeure and dissolve the contract. However, it is important to note that just because compliance is more costly or difficult because of coronavirus, this does not justify invoking force majeure.
For more information, please see: Coronavirus – the contractual consequences
What can companies do to navigate the financial difficulties of coronavirus?
The Dutch government provides a number of measures that companies can use to survive the current economic disruption. These include debt restructuring and the SME credit guarantee scheme (BMKB), suspension of tax payments, bridging loans and temporary bridging funding to help companies pay salaries. Also, Dutch banks have opened the possibility to suspend repayments on loans.
If your company is facing serious financial trouble, take action now. A reorganisation, restructuring of obligations, (re)financing or offering a creditor’s agreement may still help to avert bankruptcy.
As a director, can I pay my creditors selectively if bankruptcy is unavoidable?
If bankruptcy is unavoidable, your company may still pay creditors selectively. Our advice is: watch out for this. If bankruptcy is unavoidable, the equality of creditors should not be breached, unless there is a good reason for this.
As a director, can I pay my creditors selectively if I do not expect my company will go bankrupt?
As long as it is still realistic to expect that your company will not go bankrupt and will eventually be able to pay all its debts, selective payment of creditors is permitted. The question is: how realistic is the estimate that the company will not go bankrupt?
I have lost income due to coronavirus - can I stop paying rent on my home?
No, you cannot stop paying your rent. If you have signed a rental contract then you have a legal obligation to uphold the contract. Regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, the rights of both the tenant and the landlord remain protected according to Dutch law.
I’ve lost business due to coronavirus – can I stop paying rent on my retail/catering property?
No, you still have a contractual obligation to pay your rent, even if your business activity is reduced. Having periods of more or less work is considered part of entrepreneurial risk – not justification for breaking a rental contract. As such, the terms of your contract are unchanged.
For more information, please see: Coronavirus and renting retail or catering space
If I can no longer pay the rent, can the landlord terminate the lease?
Yes, but for that the landlord will first have to go to the sub district court. There must be at least a rental debt corresponding to three months’ rent for termination of the lease to be granted.
I can no longer pay the rent due to the impact of coronavirus. What can I do as a defence in a possible procedure?
It can be argued that there are unforeseen circumstances, as a result of which the tenant is not bound by the obligations arising from the lease. Furthermore, the tenant can defend himself or herself with the statement that the government will support them (or the landlord) financially, so that the landlord will suffer little or no damage in the long term.
Can I suspend the visitation arrangements now?
The answer to that is no. The cabinet’s measures, including the stricter measures of March 23, do not give you the right to suspend the visitation arrangement. Your child has the right to contact and interact with the other parent, just as the other parent has the right to contact and interact with your child. The contact arrangements must therefore be observed.
Can I suspend the visitation arrangement if someone in my household has a fever?
One of the measures of the cabinet means that if you have a cough, cold, sneezing combined with a fever, everyone in the household must stay at home. This means that the contact temporarily cannot take place. However, you cannot decide this without consulting the other parent. Communication between parents is key and that certainly applies in the time in which we now live. So communicate about this with each other.
Is it possible to change the visitation arrangement temporarily?
That is certainly possible by mutual agreement. Perhaps parent A has a vital occupation and therefore cannot work at home, while parent B has the opportunity to work from home. For example, you could agree that your child may temporarily stay more time with parent B during the corona crisis. As mentioned, this is only possible after mutual consultation with the other parent and you cannot determine this unilaterally.
Corona crisis and pension schemes: what are your options as an employer?
Pension is an expensive employment condition, especially when many companies and sectors are losing a large part of their turnover due to the corona crisis. However, employers do have some options when it comes to payment of the pension contribution and the pension scheme itself:
- Use the NOW scheme
- Temporarily do not pay a pension premium to the pension provider as far as permitted by the pension scheme
- Change the pension scheme
Learn more about these options and key considerations for your decision-making – read the full article: Corona crisis and pension schemes
We have assembled a team of lawyers who can offer specialised legal advice about the consequences of coronavirus with regard to employment, pensions, property, tenancy, company and insolvency law. If you need legal advice about a coronavirus topic, you can send us your question using our easy online form. A member of our coronavirus advisory team will respond to you using the details you provide. You can also call us on +31 (0)70 361 50 48.