Labour market measures announced

The Minister of SZW (Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment) announced a package of labour market measures in a letter to the House of Representatives. The measures reflect agreements she reached with trade unions and employer organisations. The aim of the measures is to give workers more security while giving employers the necessary flexibility.

Employment contracts

On-call contracts will disappear and be replaced by basic contracts for the number of hours for which workers are scheduled at least as standard. Zero hours contracts will be banned. Employees with a basic contract must be available to the employer for a number of hours over and above the stipulated number of hours. The total number of hours may not exceed 130% of the basic number. The employee will have the right to refuse a call from the employer outside the predetermined and fixed available hours.

The basic contract is intended to be covered by the low WW premium if it is a written employment contract for an indefinite period. Contracts with an annual hours standard will remain possible.

Those working through a temporary employment agency will get a more secure contract after 52 weeks worked. To prevent competition on working conditions through temporary agency work, all working conditions of temporary agency workers must be at least equivalent to those of own staff. Now this is limited to wages and other allowances and working and rest times.

Chain arrangement

A chain of temporary employment contracts is interrupted by an intervening period of six months or more. Soon, if an employee has had three consecutive temporary contracts with the same employer, he may only be given a new contract after five years. The longer interruption period will also apply to temporary work. The possibility to deviate from the duration and number of contracts by collective agreement will disappear.

Invalidity insurance

For the self-employed, there will be compulsory disability insurance. This insurance will apply to all self-employed people, both with and without staff and their assisting partners. Excluding the self-employed with staff would make the scheme more difficult to implement. Dga’s and result generators are not covered by the compulsory insurance. The group of income earners is very diverse and often has other income besides income from employment. Compulsory insurance does not seem to have any added value for income earners. According to the minister, it is not feasible in the short term to demarcate, within the group of owner-managers, owner-managers without staff from owner-managers with staff.

The insurance waiting period is one year. Self-employed people can arrange a shorter waiting period through private insurance. The benefit to be insured is 70% of the last earned income up to the limit of 143% of the legal minimum wage. The premium for the insurance is estimated to be 7.5 to 8% of income up to the maximum premium base.

A bill introducing compulsory disability insurance for the self-employed is planned to be tabled in early 2024.

Long-term disability

Employers with no more than 100 staff can get clarity on structural replacement after one year of an employee’s illness. In principle, reintegration in the second year will focus on work resumption with another employer. Employer and employee can jointly determine that reintegration with the own employer is no longer reasonable. If they cannot reach a mutual agreement, the employer can ask the UWV for an assessment. Even in the second year of illness, the employer remains responsible for continuing to pay wages and for the progress of the reintegration process. Should the employee recover in the second year, he is entitled to return to his own job provided it is not permanently filled.

Crisis scheme

There will be a crisis staff retention scheme for employers affected by a crisis or calamity outside the entrepreneurial risk. Under this scheme, the employer can temporarily reassign employees to work elsewhere in the company. The employer can choose to let employees work at least 20% less, without losing their WW rights. Over the number of hours not worked, the employer pays 80% of the salary. The employee’s total wage may not fall by more than 10%. The employee’s wage may not fall below the statutory minimum wage. The employer can apply for an allowance of 60% for the wage costs of hours not worked. This possibility should prevent employers from having to lay off staff due to a crisis or calamity. Employers can make use of this scheme for up to six months.

Source: Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid | publicatie | 2023-0000216197 | 02-04-2023

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