Making a distinction (discrimination) on grounds of religion, race, gender, nationality and orientation is prohibited by law. In the workplace even more discrimination prohibitions are in force. If an unjustified distinction is made, the employee can hold the employer liable.

Based on European legislation Dutch labour law has many rules that prohibit an employer from treating employees unequally. For example, distinction between employees with a fixed term or permanent contract is prohibited. Distinguishing between full-timers and part-timers is also not allowed. In addition, there is a prohibition to treat employees differently because of their age. Moreover, Dutch law provides protection against unequal treatment of disabled and chronically ill employees. Unequal treatment can occur in all kinds of terms of employment such as pension, travel expenses, bonus policy, holidays, career development, working conditions and dismissal. Many employers nowadays also have a protocol or policy on how to deal with complaints about (sexual) harassment.

Objective justification

Making a distinction is not always prohibited. Sometimes discrimination in the workplace is allowed. To that purpose a so-called objective justification can exist. In case of doubt the employer is advised to check beforehand that the distinction in the specific case is permissible.

Netherlands Institute for Human Rights

Making a distinction without an objective justification is not allowed. If this does happen, the employee may demand that the employer ends the discriminatory behavior. However, if parties cannot reach a solution, proceedings will be unavoidable. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights may give a ruling on the alleged discrimination. The case can also be submitted to the court and compensation can be claimed.

Further information

We are experienced advisors and litigators on the subject of (in)equality. We can advise you how to deal with unequal treatment and what possible steps can be taken against your employer to put an end to any unjustified distinction. Do you have questions about discrimination or do you wish to discuss a case? Please contact the section Employment & Pension.



Laura Zuydgeest


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