Logo of the Dutch government

Working Hours Act

This information is provided by:Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVONetherlands Enterprise Agency, RVOLast updated on Nederlandse versie

The Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet) prescribes the maximum number of hours your employees can work per day or per week. Employees can sometimes work longer, but only if the work cannot be done in any other way, for example in the event of a disaster or in periods of peak workload. Your collective labour agreement (Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst, CAO) may contain various provisions.

Statutory working hours

Employees aged 18 and over can work a maximum of 12 hours per day and 60 hours per week. However, they cannot work that maximum number of hours every week, but rather a maximum average of:

  • 48 hours over a 16-week period, or
  • 55 hours in up to 4 consecutive weeks.

Most CAOs specify a 40-hour maximum working week. Exceptions are possible, for example seasonal work, peak times, or in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as a serious accident on the shop floor. In such cases, your employees can work more hours per day temporarily. Exceptions are possible if permitted in your CAO or if industry-level agreements are in place on these issues.

To whom does it apply?

The Working Hours Act applies to all your employees, including temporary agency staff, ‘payrollers’, secondees and trainees. You can only deviate from the Working Hours Act if an employee is earning more than 3 times the minimum wage per year. The Act does not apply to self-employed professionals, except where the safety of third parties is an issue, such as for self-employed drivers in road transport.

What about commuting time?

Time spent commuting between home and work does not constitute working time. Travel between work sites and for work purposes does count as working time. A few exceptions also apply regarding commuting between home and work. For example, if you instruct an employee to pick up or drop off colleagues at home in a company vehicle, these trips do count as travel for work purposes as far as that employee is concerned. For the colleagues, the trips still count as a commute.


Your employees are entitled to breaks. The Act specifies as follows:

  • If an employee works for more than 5½ hours, he is entitled to at least 30 minutes of break time. This may be split into two 15-minute breaks;
  • If an employee works for more than 10 hours, he must have at least 45 minutes of break time. This may be split into several breaks, each of which must be at least 15 minutes.

Breaks do not count as worked hours.


Overtime hours count towards the statutory maximum hours your employee can work for you, which is 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week. The Act does not state how much extra pay your employee must receive for overtime. You can make your own arrangements for this in your terms of employment, or there might be overtime provisions in your CAO.

Night shifts

Time worked only counts as night work if your employee works at least 1 hour between 00:00 and 06:00 CE(S)T. A night shift can last a maximum of 10 hours, and must be followed by an extra long rest period. Exceptions apply, for example, if the number of night shifts per year is limited or if there is no substitute for your employee and the work needs to be done.

Please note: before your employee’s first night shift, they must undergo a health check-up before going on duty. Any employee who fails the health check-up must return to daytime work as soon as possible.

Find all the rules for night shifts (in Dutch) on the Arboportaal website.

Maximum number of night shifts and exemption

It is not allowed to let your employees only take night shifts. There is a maximum number of night shifts your employee can work per year. The number of night shifts an employee can work is limited to 117 per year. This rule does not apply if:

  • there is a collective agreement in place that specifies more night shifts are necessary, or
  • the nature of the work demands it.

In that case, 140 night shifts per year is the maximum. You can apply for an exemption to the maximum, for instance if your business only operates during the night. If you are granted the exemption, your employee can work 20 night shifts per 4 weeks; this amounts to 260 night shifts per year.

Related articles