Working Hours in the Netherlands

Working Hours in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is known for its healthy work-life balance, and this is evident in their standard working hours. When working for a Dutch employer, you’ll find a good mix of efficiency, productivity, and personal time, allowing you to pursue hobbies and recharge outside of the office.

A standard workweek is a typical schedule from Monday to Friday, with most offices nurturing a working timeframe from 9:00 am to 10:00 am and finishing by 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, resulting in an average workday of 8 hours. The average workweek is approximately 36 to 40 hours. During the workday, there is usually a 30-minute lunch break.

Let’s delve into what a typical workweek looks like in the Netherlands, including usual work schedules, legal limitations, and breaks.

Standard Working Hours in the Netherlands

working hours in the netherlands

It’s important to note that standard working hours depend on the industry and specific job positions. As we previously mentioned, workers in hospitality and workers in the office do not work the same amount of time per week.

The specific working hours can be agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

Full-Time Workweek (voltijd)

The legal average work hours in the Netherlands are 38 hours. Most full-time Dutch employees work between 36 and 40 hours, which is 7 to 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday. In most cases, official working hours are from 9:00 to 17:00.

To keep energy levels high and promote focus, in addition to the standard 30-minute lunch break, shorter breaks throughout the day are incorporated if you work shifts longer than 5.5 hours. In this case, you are entitled to two 15-minute breaks.

You should know that some employers offer a 40-hour workweek with higher financial compensation compared to the average salary. Some employers compensate for higher weekly hours by increasing your annual vacation days to around 12 additional days. There are also specific rules for overtime hours, shift work, on-call duty, and night shifts, but we will discuss them further below.

You can check out the Dutch government’s website on working hours and rest times.

Part-Time Working Hours in the Netherlands (deeltijd)

A job is classified as part-time when you work anywhere between 12 and 36 hours a week. These working hours offer flexibility for those who want to have more free time for their hobbies, family, or studies.

Part-time work is quite popular in the Netherlands, with a significant percentage among women. The part-time work allows them to strike a balance between work and raising kids and taking care of the family.

There are several benefits to working part-time. Besides allowing you to pursue personal goals, it also reduces stress levels, contributing to your overall physical and mental health. 

Part-time work is ideal for students and parents. One of the biggest benefits is the convenience of being able to negotiate specific days you work or even split your weekly working hours into multiple shorter shifts throughout the week.

While part-time work offers flexibility, there are certain drawbacks. You will probably receive a lower salary compared to full-time positions, and career advancement will be slower. Also, for employees working part-time, benefits packages are less comprehensive.

Legal Limits on Working Hours in the Netherlands

The Netherlands enforces legal limitations on how many hours an employee should work to protect their well-being, promote a healthy work balance and prevent burnout. Here’s a breakdown of these limits:

  • Maximum Hours Worked – An employee cannot work for more than 12 hours in a single shift. The maximum working hours in the Netherlands per week are 60.
  • Average Weekly Limits – By Dutch law, there are established limitations on average working hours over extended periods. For a 4-week timeframe, employees can’t work more than 55 hours per week. On the other hand, for a 16-week timeframe, the average working week shouldn’t exceed 48 hours over that period.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements – While these are the standard legal limits, there is some flexibility since many people prefer to work overtime. Collective bargaining agreements between employer organisations and employee unions establish different working hour rules, however, the average cannot exceed 60 hours per week. These agreed-upon hours cannot surpass the legal limitations or there will be fines and penalties.

The Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet)

The Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet, ATW) is a cornerstone of Dutch labour law, safeguarding employee well-being by setting parameters for working hours and rest periods. Here’s a closer look at the ATW’s key provisions:

  • Protection of Employee Health and Well-being – The ATW prioritises employee health by establishing maximum working hours and minimum rest periods to prevent burnout and fatigue.
  • Standard Dutch Working Hours – There’s no strict definition of a standard workweek; the ATW sets the legal limit at an average of 38 hours over a 52-week period.
  • Maximum Limits – The ATW safeguards against excessive workloads. Employees cannot work more than 12 hours in a single shift, not even willingly. An average working week cannot exceed 55 hours a week over a four-week period or 48 hours over 16 weeks.
  • Flexibility and Agreements – The ATW allows employers and employees to negotiate working hours within the legal limits since some industries require working longer hours per week to properly function.
  • Employee Consent – The ATW acknowledges the importance of individual needs and working extra hours. Employers can extend the average working week to 60 hours for a 26-week period with proof of employee written consent.
  • Rest Periods – The ATW states mandatory minimum rest periods between work shifts. This means at least 11 consecutive hours of rest in every 24-hour period. On a weekly basis, this translates to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 90 hours a week. For instance, three consecutive night shifts require more hours of rest.
  • Night Work – The ATW recognises the challenges of working the night shift. There are additional regulations for night shifts, including shorter rest periods under specific circumstances, as well as limitations on the number of consecutive night shifts. Also, under regulations, we need to mention additional compensation. The type and amount of compensation depend on the industry and the CBA agreement. Some employers offer night shift allowances, while others classify it as an allowance for working outside the regular hours.  
  • Weekend Work – There is no legal obligation for employees to work on the weekends. Employers can request that you work on the weekend if there is a need, and you are entitled to refuse it if you don’t want to work. However, if you accept or decide to work on weekends, you will probably earn higher compensation compared to regular working days. Also, this policy can refer to working on Dutch public holidays as well. 
  • On-call Duty and Standby – This Act also addresses situations like on-call duty and standby. This is where employees are available when needed but are not actively working. The Act dictates minimum rest periods even during these times.

Therefore, the Working Hours Act plays a crucial role in promoting a healthy work atmosphere in the Netherlands by establishing clear legal boundaries. You, as a Dutch employee, are protected from overwork and assured that you have adequate time for rest and personal pursuits.

Rest Periods and Breaks

working hours in the netherlands

The Netherlands prioritises employee well-being by providing regulations surrounding rest periods and breaks. Here’s a breakdown of what you, as an employee, can expect:

  • Minimum Breaks – If an employee works for more than 5.5 hours, a minimum break of 30 minutes is mandatory. This break is usually unpaid and not considered working time. Moreover, some employers might offer paid breaks as a regular part of the benefit package. This 30-minute break can be split into two 15-minute breaks, allowing for more flexibility throughout the workday.
  • Longer Hours, Longer Breaks – For employees working over 10 hours, the minimum break time must be at least 45 minutes. This break can also be divided into smaller intervals.
  • Employer Discretion – Employers have the possibility of scheduling breaks in the way that works best for everyone.
  • Meal Breaks vs. Regular Breaks – Distinction between meal breaks and regular breaks is crucial. These 30 or 45-minute minimums are for regular breaks. Meal breaks, on the other hand, are usually shorter and might be unpaid, depending on the company’s policy.
  • Night Work – While the minimum break times still apply for night workers, there might be some flexibility in scheduling breaks during the night shift.

Keep in mind that these are the legal minimums, and some employers might offer more generous break policies. To be sure, consult your HR or employment contract or company handbook to understand the specific break schedule in your company.

Overtime Work

In the Netherlands, working overtime exists, but it’s not as popular as in some other countries. This refers to hours worked that exceed the schedule agreed between the employer and employee in the employment contract.

Whether you receive overtime compensation and how much depends on your employment contract or relevant collective bargaining agreement (CAO). Overtime pay is usually a percentage of your regular salary (often 50% or 100% extra) or time off in lieu of payment.

For higher-level positions (typically scale 11 or above), overtime can be considered part of the base salary. You need to remember that an employee is not entitled to overtime compensation if they work without an order from their supervisor or if the overtime is less than one hour after their standard hours worked.

If you have any concerns about working overtime, it’s best to discuss them directly with your HR or employer.

Ready to Work in the Netherlands?

Adapting to a new work culture takes time. The truth is that you’ll successfully transition to a work environment that values your time and well-being outside of the office in no time. You can do that by developing good time management skills, prioritising tasks, and focusing on the most important ones first.

Dutch culture prioritises quality personal time and well-being alongside productivity, so embrace the opportunity to disconnect and recharge outside of work.

If you’re interested in exploring short or long-term job opportunities in the Netherlands, we have a great suggestion for you. Head over to Robin and see what job opportunities await you in the Netherlands!


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