Working hours and rest times

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Checked 24 May 2024
2 min read
Nederlandse versie

Do you run a business in the Netherlands and do you employ staff? Or does your business have its registered office outside of the Netherlands but you employ workers in the Netherlands? Then you must comply with statutory regulations regarding working hours and rest times.

Your employees may not exceed a specific number of working hours per day and per week. They are also entitled to take regular breaks. These rules apply to everyone, including foreign employees and temporary personnel.

Working hours rules

The Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet, pdf) contains the rules you as an employer should keep to:

  • You must record the hours worked.
  • You must put the work schedule in writing and your employees must be able to consult the schedule.
  • When determining the work schedule you must take into account the personal circumstances of your employees. You must for instance consider their care duties, education and training, and volunteering.
  • If there are changes in the work schedule you must let your employees know of this in time. You should make it known at least 28 days before the changes take effect, unless you have made other arrangements.

Exceptions and additions

For certain employees, professions and working conditions there are exceptions and supplements to the general rules for working hours, rest and break times. There are modified rules that apply to:

A number of professions and sectors have supplementary sector-specific rules (in Dutch) as well, for instance cinemas, bakeries, and fire brigades.

Irregular working hours

Do your employees work irregular hours? For example because of shifts, on-site standby duty, or on-call duty? For these employees there are also rules concerning maximum working hours and minimum rest times.

  • During on-site standby duty an employee stays in the working place, so they can start work as soon as they are called upon.
  • During on-call duty an employee is available for emergencies during their time off.
  • An employee works a night shift if they work for at least 1 hour between 00.00 (midnight) and 06.00 hours. There are strict additional rules for night shifts.

You can find the rules concerning working hours and rest times for working on on-call duty and on-site standby duty on pages 8 and 9 of the Working Hours Act brochure. You can find the rules on night shifts on page 6 of the brochure.

Flexible working

Does your employee want to work fewer or more hours than is agreed to in their employment contract? Or do they want to adjust their working hours or working location? Companies with 10 employees or more must allow this.

Employees can request a change in working hours after they been employed for 6 months, and they can request a change once a year. Unforeseen circumstances may justify a second request. The change in working hours may be temporary.

You can refuse a change in (the number of) working hours if you can demonstrate that your company would suffer serious consequences as a result. For example if no one can take over the work, there is not enough work or money (to work more), it causes problems with the work schedule, or the staff composition leaves no room to work more.

If you refuse the request you have to let the employee know in writing.

Modifying working times after parental leave

Has your employee used up all of their parental leave? Then they may request a temporary modification of working times for the period following this. Your employee must submit this request 3 months before the end of the parental leave period. You must decide 4 weeks before the leave period ends.

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