Anti-Discrimination Laws in The Netherlands

1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws

According to Dutch legislation, discrimination on any ground whatsoever is prohibited.

Discrimination on the following grounds is explicitly prohibited: religion, personal beliefs, political opinion, race, sex, nationality, hetero- or homosexual orientation and civil status.

In addition, in specific employment laws, discrimination on the following grounds is explicitly prohibited: age, sex, handicap and chronic disease, temporary/permanent employment contracts and working hours (part-time/full-time).

2. Extent of Protection

The discrimination laws cover direct and indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination occurs when a neutral behavior (e.g. a policy or practice) results in discrimination based on one of the grounds mentioned above.

Indirect discrimination – and direct discrimination with respect to age, temporary/permanent employment contracts and working hours – can be justified if objectively necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and proportionate to the aim sought.

3. Protections Against Harassment

The Dutch Equal Treatment Act prohibits harassment and sexual harassment. The Working Conditions Act contains an obligation for employers to prevent harassment from occurring at the workplace. If the employer fails to do so, administrative fines can be given and the employer can be held liable for damages resulting from discriminating behavior of the employer.

4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

The Dutch government encourages companies to hire disabled persons. As an incentive the government may grant financial benefits. An employer is responsible for all the employees. If an employee is disabled, his/her workplace should still be safe and accessible. The employer is responsible for this. If the workplace needs to be adapted, the employer can ask the Work Placement Branch of the Employee Insurance Agency for financial compensation to establish this.

All employees should be able to fulfill their religious duties. The employer cannot interfere with this, until a certain point. For example, the employer is not obligated to set up a prayer room for his/her employees. There are no specific laws about this subject in the Netherlands.

5. Remedies

In employment relationships in the Netherlands, discrimination claims are not that prominent. In practice, the employer and employee as well as Dutch courts tend to search for reasonable, pragmatic and practical solutions.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Netherlands, please contact Christiaan Oberman, Partner at Palthe Oberman ( at
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