Employer during the corona crisis: what you can and must do

This information is provided by

Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, SZW

The government has taken measures to protect you and your staff against the coronavirus. For example, working from home and keeping 1.5 metres distance. Read what you can and must do for your employees.

Advice to work from home and ventilation

On 19 July, the government has announced that, due to the rapidly increasing infection rate, the advice to work from home as much as possible has been reinstated. Moreover, homes, offices, schools, and hospitality venues are urged to ensure adequate ventilation as a basic measure.

Step 4 of the reopening plan has entered into force on 26 June, relaxing some corona measures. Face masks are also no longer mandatory in many offices and workplaces, provided 1.5 metres distance can be observed.

Urge your employees to work from home

The advice to work from home as much as possible has been reinstated. This measure does not apply to crucial and vital professions (in Dutch) like caregivers, supermarket employees, and transport workers. If working from home is not possible, try to spread the working hours. Make sure there are not too many people in the workplace at the same time. Your employees have to keep 1.5 metres distance in the workplace, same as everywhere else.

Tips for working from home

You are responsible for good working conditions. This is also true when your employees have to work from home. Think of lending an office chair or monitor from your office for the time being. Your employees need to feel that you understand and trust them during this period. Stay in touch on a regular basis if you are managing them long-distance. Find a practical guide on working from home on Arboportaal, a website by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

Ensure adequate ventilation in the workplace

If employees do need to come into the workplace, it is advised you ensure adequate ventilation of all the spaces. For the employees who work from home, it is important to also air their homes at least 15 minutes per day. Ventilation has been added as a 4th measure to the list of basic corona measures.

Face mask obliglation lifted in many workplaces

The face mask requirement for public indoor space has been lifted, as long as 1.5 metres distance can be held. This includes offices, shops, restaurants, and practices of contact-based professionals, like hairdressers, beauticians, or pedicures. Face masks remain mandatory in indoor spaces where 1.5 metres distance is not possible, which includes public transport, stations, and airports. Face masks are still required in secondary schools. Where mandatory, face masks are required for customers and employees alike.

Refusing entry to the workplace

You are responsible for offering your employees a safe and healthy work environment, which includes safeguarding the 1.5 metres distance in the workplace. Refusing someone entry to the workplace may be necessary to ensure this. You are also entitled to closed down the workplace, should this be necessary.

Please note: Vaccination or non-vaccination may not play a role in this. Even if you know that your employee has not been vaccinated, you may not prohibit them from working in the workplace.

Testing your employees

You can have your employees do a self-test on their own or under the supervision of a doctor or health professional. Even if they have no complaints. This allows you to open up the workplace in a safer way. You may not make a coronavirus test mandatory.

Compulsory vaccination for your employess

You may not make it compulsory for your employees to be vaccinated. You may also not ask for a vaccination certificate because of the privacy of your employee.

Read more about the rules for vaccination and work.

Your employee falls ill

If your employee calls in sick, you cannot ask why. Not even to inquire if they have symptoms of the coronavirus. It is up to your employee to decide if they want to tell you. The company doctor or the health and safety agency are the only ones allowed to process the medical data. Has coronavirus been officially diagnosed in one of your employees? Then take immediate action (in Dutch).

One of your employee’s housemates falls ill

Your employee has to self-isolate if one of their housemates develops common cold symptoms or a fever. They must self-isolate and remain in quarantine for up to 10 days, unless of course they develop symptoms. Your employee can only come in to work if they perform a crucial or vital profession. If your employee has to self-isolate, but cannot work from home, you must continue to pay them their wages. Nor can you deduct leave hours, unless you both agree to this.

Quarantine period

The quarantine period for persons who have been in contact with someone who has developed corona symptoms, or who have returned from a region or country with code orange, is usually up to 10 days. For specific guidelines, read more on the website of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM). Not sure when quarentine is necessary? Do the Quarentine Check.

Forcing your employees to take leave days

You cannot force your employees to take leave days, even if you have less work for them due to the corona crisis. You can discuss it with them. The employee decides if they want to take leave or not.

Form for reporting an unsafe workplace or fraud

The Inspectorate SZW website offers a corona complaints form in several languages (English, Polish, German, Dutch, and Romanian) that individuals and businesses can use to report a breach or corona safety rules in the workplace, or to report suspected fraud involving corona financial schemes.

NLWerktDoor!: employees on loan

Do you have less work for your employees? Perhaps a business in a different sector is busier than usual and looking for temporary workers. You could loan your employee to this business temporarily. The exchange programme NLWerktDoor! (The Netherlands keeps on working) is set up for just this purpose. It is an initiative launched by the Employee Insurance Agency UWV, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, several municipalities, employers, and trade unions. NLWerktDoor! is part of the government effort to save as many jobs as possible.

Withholding or delaying holiday allowance

You are not allowed to withhold your employees’ holiday allowance, or to delay paying holiday allowance. You and your employees can come to an arrangement together. If you do, you have to lay them down in writing, for instance as part of a plan to keep your company afloat.

Your employee returns from a country with an orange or red travel advice

You cannot forbid your employee to travel to, or take a holiday in, a country with an orange or red travel advice (in Dutch). Your employee does have to return in time. This means that their self-isolation period must be within the allotted holiday period, unless they can work from home. If they cannot work from home, and have to remain in quarantine for longer than their allotted holiday period, you do not have to pay them for the days they miss. Make sure your employee is aware of this.

Cancelling leave when a travel advice is adjusted

If your employee has to break off a holiday in a country for which the travel advice has shifted from yellow to orange, and then has to self-isolate for up to 10 days, they cannot simply decide to cancel their leave days. You have to give permission for this; you can also demand that they do take the allotted leave – for instance, if they cannot work from home.

Prevent staff dismissals

If the corona crisis makes it hard or impossible for you to continue paying your staff, you can continue to apply for the Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure for Continued Employment NOW from the government. NOW 3.0 will cover the period of 1 October 2020 - 1 July 2021 in 3 3-month instalments. NOW 3.0 compensates a large percentage of your total wage sum. This allows you to continue paying your employees, both permanent and flex or fixed-term ones. Check out the other financial measures for employers and entrepreneurs.

NOW scheme includes holiday allowance

The NOW scheme includes compensation for the monthly accruement of your employee’s holiday allowance. You receive 30% on top of your employee’s wage sum, to accrue holiday allowance, and to pay for pension and employer contributions.

Not renewing your employee’s contract

You may not want to, or be able to, renew an employee’s contract. For instance, because it is a fixed-term contract, or your employee has been off sick for a long time. You do not have to renew a fixed-term contract, regardless of whether the employee in question is off sick or not. A fixed-term contract ends on the date stated in the contract. If the contract is a permanent one, it depends on the circumstances and duration of the contract whether or not you can dismiss your employee. Is your employee ill? Check carefully whether or not you are allowed to dismiss them.

The 1.5 metre society

The Netherlands is currently a 1.5 metre society, until there is protection against the coronavirus. Rules and protocols apply to several sectors, to enable working in a safe environment. These rules and protocols are usually drawn up by sector and employer organisations such as VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

This information is provided by

Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, SZW