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This is what you need to know about working safely in the Netherlands

Last updated: 11/22/2023, 1:50 PM
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An employer may treat you badly. For example, if you don't get money or have to work too much. This is called exploitation and is punishable in the Netherlands. If you are working while this is not allowed, you have labour rights and can report exploitation.

If you work in the Netherlands you have labour rights

If you work in the Netherlands and have a W-document for 1 year, you have the same labour rights as Dutch nationals. Even if your employer has not applied for a permit for you, you have the same rights as working Dutch nationals. These rights are:

  • Your employer may not pay you less than the minimum wage in the Netherlands. The minimum wage from the age of 21 has been 13.27 euros per hour since 1 January 2024.

  • You are entitled to holiday and days off. The minimum number of days off per year is fixed.

  • You have the right to call in sick.

  • Your employer must deposit your salary into your bank account on time every month.

  • Your employer must provide a safe and healthy work environment.

  • You work up to 60 hours per week, but not every week.

  • Your employer must pay you a wage that is normal in the Netherlands for the work you will do with your knowledge and experience.

  • If you are under the age of 18, you are not allowed to work at night or do dangerous work.

This is how you can recognise exploitation in work

Several things can constitute exploitation. It could be an employer forcing you to work more than your contract states. Or forcing you to work too many hours in a row. It can also be about you getting very little or no money. Sometimes exploitation is about having to work in poor conditions or your employer treating you badly. This is how you can recognise exploitation:

  • Your employer does not want to give you a contract and will only pay you in cash.

  • You have to work long hours without breaks or days off.

  • You get little, no or late payment.

  • You have to do dangerous or unhealthy work without protection.

  • Your employer is friendly at first, but then suddenly not.

  • Your employer pressures you to do things you do not want to do.

  • Your employer is secretive about the content of the job or where you go to work.

  • Your employer scares you or threatens you.

  • Your employer withholds your money. For example, because you have to pay a debt.

  • Your employer takes away your passport.

  • Your employer says you cannot talk to anyone about work.

Exploitation does occur in the Netherlands. It can happen to anyone. If you are new to the Netherlands you run a greater risk of being exploited because sometimes you do not know the language and the rules very well yet. Or because you are not used to how Dutch people work and what is normal in the Netherlands. Therefore, be careful. You have the same rights as Dutch people who work.

Here is what you can do if you are exploited

Employers who exploit people can be punished in the Netherlands. You have the right to report to the police if you are being exploited. Also if you work while this is not allowed or if you work without a contract or agreements on paper. The police will then help you. You will not be punished if your employer has done something criminal. You can also report exploitation anonymously. You can also take someone with you when you go to the police.

Always call 112 in an emergency. If it is not an emergency, call the Dutch police under (0900) 88 44. If you have reported exploitation to the police, you have the right to a lawyer's assistance. That lawyer is usually free of charge.

If you feel unsafe or you are being forced to do things you do not want to do, you can ask for help from your contact at VluchtelingenWerk. Your safety is important. Your contact will treat your information as confidentially as possible and will not share it with others if you do not want them to.

This is how you can be alert to exploitation yourself:

  • Take someone with you when you first meet a potential employer. Or make sure someone you trust knows where you are. Meet in a public place.

  • Know what your labour rights are in the Netherlands. You may be used to different rights in your home country, but Dutch rules apply in the Netherlands.

  • Make arrangements with your employer regarding your salary, working hours and when you will be paid. Make sure this is in a contract that you both sign.

  • Write down what arrangements you have made. Also write down your own working hours. Keep your own documentation well.

  • Never hand over your passport or identity documents for an extended period of time. However, your employer may ask for a copy of your identity documents. This is sometimes necessary for your contract.

  • Leave or ask for help if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable during your job interview or work.

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