Maternity, parental, and other types of leave in the Netherlands

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If you’re considering hiring in the Netherlands, or you already have team members in the country, you need to understand the unique Netherlands leave requirements under Dutch employment law.

Work-life balance is of optimum importance in the Netherlands, so leave provisions are comparatively generous (particularly in relation to a country like the US). The Netherlands also has excellent maternity leave and parental leave entitlements to support expecting parents.  

In this guide, we break down the main aspects of mandatory leave in the Netherlands and explain how you can stay compliant with the unique aspects of Dutch employment law. We also want to make sure you understand the expected soft benefits needed to attract top talent in the Netherlands (and we’ll advise you on the simplest way to manage a consistent benefits program in the Netherlands and your other international location).

Maternity leave in the Netherlands

The anticipation of a child being born is such a special time for a family. During this period, you need to know what a Dutch employee is entitled to for her pregnancy and maternity leave and what you can do as a company to provide the best possible support. The employee is responsible for reporting her pregnancy early enough to the company so adequate plans can be made. 

This mother is entitled to the following under Dutch maternity leave provisions: 

  • The mother has a right to a total of 16 weeks of leave
  • The first 6 weeks are called pregnancy leave and can be taken before the baby comes, while the remaining 10 weeks are called maternity leave and are taken after the baby is born
  • If the baby is born before the pregnancy leave, her 16 weeks of leave start the day after the birth
  • Pregnant employees are encouraged to start pregnancy leave six weeks before birth, but if the employee were to take this leave four weeks before the birth of her child, the extra two weeks can be added to her maternity leave
  • Maternity leave always begins after the child is born and if the baby is born past its due date, the employee’s total leave may be longer than 16 weeks
  • There are some other cases where maternity leave could be longer. In the event of a multiple birth, the employee is entitled to 20 weeks of leave
  • Childbirth can be unpredictable and if for some reason the newborn is hospitalized immediately after birth, maternity leave starts the day after the employee and her baby leave the hospital

Maternity pay

During leave, new mothers are entitled to maternity pay of their full salary up to a maximum of €219.28 per day. It is the obligation of the employer to apply for this on behalf of the employee no later than two weeks before the start of maternity leave. During an employee’s maternity leave, their holiday allowance continues to build up and they should not be asked to use up their holidays for this leave. 

Paternity leave in the Netherlands

Every parent deserves an opportunity to spend the first week of their child being born, soaking up the moment and giving their family their full attention. To encourage this, new parents are entitled to 1 week of paternity leave within the first four weeks after the birth of the child. They are expected to receive their full salary during this time.

If the employee decides to extend this paternity leave, they can do so for up to five weeks. This extended leave is unpaid and can be spread out but it must be taken within the first six months of the child being born. During the extended leave, new dads are able to claim up to 70% of their salary from the Employment Insurance Agency (UWV).

Parental leave in the Netherlands

Parental leave allows employees who have a child or children under eight years to take unpaid time off. This is different from their annual leave and it can be taken at any point. Parental leave is calculated based on working hours per week times 26. For example, if an employee works 35 hrs a week, they are entitled to 910 hours of parental leave for each child under eight years old. 

Adoption & foster leave in the Netherlands

When an employee adopts or takes in a foster child, they have a right to take up to six weeks of leave to help the child become well adjusted. The employee needs to give a notice of three weeks before taking this leave and they can decide to take this all at once or to spread it out. This leave must also be taken within 26 weeks of the child being brought home. During this time, employees have an opportunity to apply for an adoption and foster allowance through the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). They can receive up to 100% of their salary, capped at about €4,660.59 gross per month.

Holiday allowance in the Netherlands

The expectation across most countries is that when an employee uses their vacation days, they should be paid their normal salary during this time. The Netherlands takes this benefit further, with a slight twist: employees are entitled to an extra holiday allowance.

The holiday allowance in the Netherlands is an additional gross payment of 8% of the employee’s annual salary (including base pay, bonuses, and allowances). The Employee can choose to receive it pro-rated throughout the year, or on a specific month of the year (typically May or June to coincide with the start of the Dutch summer holiday period).

What happens to unused vacation days?

If an employee is unable to use up their vacation days before the end of the year, they are allowed to use them within 6 months of the new year. The leave allowance will lapse after this period. 

In the event of a termination, the unused leave balance needs to be paid out to the employee in accordance with the Dutch Civil Code. 

Sick leave policy in the Netherlands

No one has any control over illness and when this happens, employees should feel secure and at ease taking the time off they need to recover. Sick days in the Netherlands are considered paid time off and an employee is obligated to inform their employer on or before 10 a.m. on the day of illness. 

The employee is at liberty to disclose only what they are comfortable disclosing and they should never be forced to share the details of their illness. It is advisable that as soon as the employee has a clear idea of when they can return to work, this should be communicated to the employer. 

During this time, the employee is entitled to a minimum of 70% of their normal salary and holiday allowance for a maximum period of two years. If they are sick because of an organ donation, pregnancy or childbirth, they are entitled to 100% of their salary.

As an employer, it is your duty to report sick leave to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) within four days while recovery must be reported within two days. There are other instances when a sick employee needs to be reported to UWV: 

  • When the employee has been sick for more than 42 weeks
  • When the employee’s contract expires while they are on sick leave

It is illegal to dismiss an employee while they are on sick leave. If an employee has been sick for a long time, say, 1.5 years then they can apply for WIA (Wet werk en inkomen naar arbeidsvermogen). WIA, is an employee insurance policy that employees apply for after two years of illness and inability to do their job optimally. A sick employee can only be dismissed after two years of sickness with the permission of the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV).

Short-term care leave

An employee may sometimes need to take time off to care for their sick loved one or someone close to them. In this type of situation, they are typically the only one who can take care of the person who is ill. As the employer, you can grant them this time off. This leave is available for at least two times their working hours per week in a 12 month period. For a 35 hour work week, an employee is entitled to 70 hours of short-term care leave. During this time, you continue to pay 70% of the employee’s salary. 

Long term care leave

When an employee has a child, partner, or parent who is terribly ill and needs special care, the employee can request a long term leave to care for their loved one. This is typically six times the number of hours they work in a week in a 12-month period. For a 35 hour work week, an employee can take up to 210 hours of long-term leave. You can decide to pay the employee a salary during this period but it is not compulsory.

Emergency leave

To cope with unforeseen personal circumstances like the death of a loved one or emergencies that require an employee’s immediate attention, they can be granted a short leave of absence to sort things out. This can range from a few hours up to a few days. During this time, the employee should receive their salary in full.

Unpaid leave

Employees can decide to take some unpaid time off and during this time, their employment contract will still be active. Although, they cannot accrue vacation days except in the case of a long-term leave or additional birth leave. An extended unpaid leave of about 18 months does come with some consequences such as loss of benefits to a certain extent.

Special leave

The terms and duration of special leave are quite flexible and dependent on what is set in the employment contract. Here are examples of scenarios where this can be used: 

  • When a family member is getting married 
  • The funeral of a family member 
  • When moving houses 
  • To attend a doctor’s consultation 
  • To prepare and take an exam 

Additional leave to help you attract the best Dutch talent

An employee’s performance at work is highly dependent on the opportunities they have to take some time off work to care for their wellbeing, be with their family or even just dedicate time to their hobbies/passions. Taking leave is an employee’s right and it should always be encouraged. 

You can also use leave provisions as an incentive to attract and retain quality talent. Don’t restrict your company Netherlands benefits plan to the minimum statutory requirements. Consider how you can offer supplementary benefits and perks like extra paid time off, or more supportive maternity leave and parental leave provisions. 

Remote makes it easy for you to manage a consistent benefits package for all of your employees across the globe. You can let our team of global HR experts handle the complexities of running your global benefits program while our software keeps management simple. 

We have a dedicated Benefits team that will keep your benefits program up-to-date with statutory requirements across the globe, and we can help you customize your program to add the supplemental benefits you want to provide in all global markets.