Employers Associations and Trade Unions in The Netherlands

1. Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Organizations

Only in case of a collective dismissal, or if provided by a Collective Labour Agreement, the employer is obliged to inform the trade unions when it reports its intention to implement the dismissal to the Employee Insurance Agency. After the report has been made, there is a one-month waiting period. No waiting period applies if the report is accompanied by a statement of the trade unions confirming that they were consulted and that they agree with the termination of the contracts.

Frequently, a social plan (e.g. termination packages) is negotiated. There is no legal obligation for the employer to negotiate the content of a social plan with the trade unions. Nevertheless, a social plan often forms an important part of the negotiations with the trade unions, as they will base their support on the content of that plan. If the employer and the trade unions conclude a social plan, a court will usually award the employee a severance amount in accordance with that social plan, unless application would be clearly unfair to the employee.

2. Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

Trade unions play important roles in case of collective dismissals, strikes and collective bargaining. Trade unions can also represent the individual interests of employees. Contrary to the Works Council (see below) there is no statutory number of members and everyone can become a member of a trade union.

3. Types of Representation

Trade unions are involved in collective dismissals, strikes and collective bargaining. Members of a trade union can also be represented in case of an individual dismissal.

4. Number of Representatives

There is no minimum or maximum number of representatives to form a trade union. Nevertheless, trade unions with a large number of representatives obviously have more influence.

5. Appointment of Representatives

Dutch law does not provide rules for the appointment of representatives of trade unions.

6. Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

Dutch law does not provide rules about the tasks and obligations of representatives of trade unions.

7. Employees’ Representation in Management

All employees (including managers) can become members of a trade union. Please note that an employer cannot terminate an employment contract of an employee because of his/her membership of a trade union. However, the employee is obliged to act in accordance with rules regarding the concept of “good employeeship”. An employee may not interrupt the business of an employer unreasonably, because of trade union work and such activities may only be performed during office hours if the employer provided consent beforehand.

8. Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

1. Types of representation

An entrepreneur maintaining an enterprise in which, as a rule, at least 50 employees work, is obliged to establish a works council for the purposes of consultation with and representation of the employees employed by the enterprise. The obligation to establish a works council may also result from a provision to this effect in a Collective Labour Agreement.

2. Number of representatives

The number of works council members is calculated as follows:

  • 50 employees: 3 members
  • 50 – 100 employees: 5 members
  • 100 – 200 employees: 7 members
  • 200 – 400 employees: 9 members
  • 400 – 600 employees: 11 members
  • 600 – 1000 employees: 13 members
  • 1000 – 2000 employees: 15 members
  • With every 1000 employees after 2000 employees, 2 members more with a maximum of 25 members.

If the employer gives permission, the works council can determine another number of members in its regulations.

3. Nomination of representatives

Employees can stand for election for the works council if they have been in service for at least one year. The election of the members of the works council is executed by a secret written vote on the basis of one or more lists of candidates. An employee is allowed to vote if he/she has been in service for at least six months.

4. Tasks and obligations of representatives

A. Information Right of the Works Council

The works council is entitled to receive all information, which it reasonably needs to properly perform its duties. The information shall be provided in writing, if requested. At least twice per year the employer shall inform the works council orally or in writing of the expectations regarding the activities and the results of the enterprise in the coming period.

B. Right of Advice

The employer is obliged to request the advice of its works council in advance in case of an intended decision regarding the (among others):

  • transfer of control of the company or a part thereof;
  • establishment, take-over or relinquishment of control of another company, or entering into or making a major modification to or severing a permanent co-operative venture with another company, including entering into or effecting major changes of or severing of an important financial participation on the account of or for the benefit of another company;
  • termination of the operations of a company or a major part thereof;
  • major reductions or expansions or other changes to the company;
  • major changes in the organizational structure of the company or in the allocation of powers within the company.

C. Right of Consent

The employer is obliged to request the prior consent of its works council for decisions regarding the establishment, modification or withdrawal of regulations concerning (among others) pension insurance, profit sharing, working hours, job classification and remuneration. If the works council refuses to give its consent, the employer can ask the cantonal judge to give consent. The cantonal judge will only give consent if the decision of the works council is unreasonable or if the intended decision of the entrepreneur is necessary because of compelling business interests.

D. Right of Advice appointment / dismissal director

The employer must give the works council the opportunity to give advice about every intended decision to appoint or dismiss the director of the employer.

5. Employee representation in management

In principle, every employee (including managers) can stand for election for the works council if the employee has been in service for at least 12 months. Only the executive director is excluded from election.

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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