Dutch Working Conditions Act

What is the Dutch Working Conditions Act?

The Dutch Working Conditions Act provides the basis for a sound health and safety policy. It applies to all employers and employees in The Netherlands. Proper working conditions have a positive influence on employee motivation and the prevention of sickness-related absence. The importance of employers and employees taking personal responsibility for health and safety is pivotal in the Dutch Working Conditions Act. Both parties are subject to statutory obligations.

The Dutch Working Conditions Act focuses on:

  • The general provisions regarding a company's health and safety policy
  • Promoting good working conditions
  • Preventing illness and incapacity for work

Dutch Working Conditions Act: responsibility for both parties

At the heart of the Dutch Working Conditions Act is greater individual responsibility for employers and employees in caring for a healthy and safe work environment. The Dutch Working Conditions Act is a framework act: it contains general provisions on health and safety policy in an organisation. Within these frameworks, organisations can customise their policy to their own situation. The starting point is to have as few additional rules as possible on top of the European Union's regulations. The government only formulates target regulations that are as concrete as possible. A target regulation determines the degree to which employers must offer their employees protection. For instance that employees may never be exposed to noise over 85 decibels. Or that an employee working at a height of 2.5 metres must be protected against the risk of falling. The legislator describes these target regulations as concretely as possible in the Dutch Working Conditions Act, the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulation.

What is a working conditions catalogue?

A working conditions catalogue records how the target regulations are achieved. To do so, employers describe techniques, means, methods and standards. In actual practice, trade unions and employers' organisations often draw up the working conditions catalogue for the entire industry or sector.Risk Identification and Evaluation (RI&E) and working conditions agreements form a good basis for doing so. If social partners have drawn up a working conditions catalogue for the industry, the Health and Safety Inspectorate expects all employers in that industry to implement the target regulations as described in that catalogue. If an industry does not have a working conditions catalogue, the employer can draw one up together with the works council or employee representative body. ArboNed can help and advise you on drawing up a working conditions catalogue. ArboNed regularly acts as adviser for drawing up industry catalogues.

What do employers have to arrange under the Dutch Working Conditions Act?

The Dutch Working Conditions Act describes that you and your employee have shared responsibility for improving working conditions. Together you work on a healthy and safe work environment. Should an employee be taken ill nonetheless, you must do all you can to enable your employee to resume their duties as soon as possible.
Statutory obligations of the employer:

  • Develop and implement health and safety policy. The work done in the organisation may not have any negative consequences for the health and safety of your employees.
  • Optimally adjust the furnishings of the workplace, the working methods, resources used and job content to the personal characteristics of the employees. This also applies to employees with a structural functional limitation, e.g. because of illness.
  • Risk Identification and Evaluation (RI&E). This identifies the health and safety risks in your organisation.
  • Draw up an action plan as follow-up to the RI&E. In this action plan, you indicate which risks will be addressed and within what term.
  • Provide access to a safety expert, such as a prevention officer (internal or external) or a safety officer.
  • Pursue policy aimed at preventing or reducing work-related psychosocial stress: factors such as sexual harassment, aggression and violence, bullying and workload that could cause absence.
  • Provide information to your employees about the work to be performed and the related risks and measures aimed at preventing or reducing these risks.
  • Immediately report to the Health and Safety Inspectorate any industrial accidents that result in death, permanent injury or hospitalisation. You must also keep a list of reported industrial accidents and of accidents that have resulted in absence with a duration exceeding three working days.
  • Emergency response. Take effective measures regarding first aid, fire fighting and the evacuation of employees and other people present. For instance by appointing an emergency response officer.
  • Periodically offer your employees the opportunity to have a medical examination. This will also allow you to discover potential (work-related) complaints at an early stage.

Responsibility of employees

Employees are expected to 'behave responsibly'. This means, for instance, that employees may not jeopardise their own safety or that of others. Employees must comply with work instructions and use materials in the correct manner.

Obligations of employees

  • Use work resources and hazardous substances in the correct manner.
  • Use and store protective equipment made available by the employer in the correct manner.
  • Cooperate with organised instructions.
  • Inform the employer of any health and safety hazards found in the organisation.
  • If necessary, assist the employer and other experts with performance of their obligations.

Safety net or customised scheme

Under the Dutch Working Conditions Act, you as employer have the obligation to have experts assist you with your absence policy. In doing so, you can opt for a safety net or customised scheme.

Safety net scheme

With a safety net scheme, you conclude a contract for a range of services with a certified occupational health and safety service, such as ArboNed. ArboNed will monitor the statutory obligations in relation to absence and reintegration, including the relevant administrative processes. By engaging ArboNed, you meet your statutory obligation in relation to absence support.

Customised scheme

With a customised scheme, you yourself determine who to engage as absence support expert. You can, for instance, opt to engage independent company doctors. In this case, you are personally responsible for coordination between these experts and the occupational health and safety service, for instance in the event of a reintegration process or a periodical medical examination. The contracts with the experts and the occupational health and safety service must meet the statutory and professional standards.

Employees' consent

Your works council or employee representative body must give its consent for your choice of a safety net or customised scheme. You are under a statutory obligation to record this consent in writing. If your employees reject the proposal to switch to the customised scheme, you are obligated to apply the safety net scheme.