Hiring on-call employees with a zero-hours contract

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A zero-hours contract is an employment contract for an on-call worker. You only call up an on-call employee when you have work for them. They only get paid for the actual hours they work. Your employee is entitled to a minimum of 3 hours' pay when called. The same terms and conditions of employment apply to your on-call employees as to any other employee.

Be aware of the rules for on-call workers

Employees with a zero-hours contract have the same rights as other employees. For instance:

  • advance notice of work;
  • continued payment when a call is canceled;
  • the right to be offered a fixed-hours contract after an on-call contract of 12 months.

Read the general rules for on-call workers.

Reference days

As of 1 August 2022, you need to register reference days for your on-call employees. These are days or hours on which your employee can be required to work.

Choose between a fixed or temporary zero-hours contract

With a zero-hours contract you must choose between a permanent or temporary contract. In both cases you must adhere to the rules regarding employment contracts. For instance:

  • All employees are entitled to a transition payment if you dismiss them.
  • With a permanent contract a cancellation period applies. You can agree on a trial period and a non-competition clause.
  • A notice period applies to a temporary contract. You must inform your employee at least 1 month before the end of the contract term whether you want to continue with them or not.
  • An employee is entitled to a permanent contract after 3 consecutive temporary contracts or after 3 years of temporary contracts.

Comply with employment conditions

An on-call worker is entitled to the same employment conditions as your other employees, such as salary, leave days and vacation days.This is always based on the number of hours that your employee has worked for you.

Leave hours and holiday entitlement with a zero-hours contract

  • Your employee does not have a fixed number of working hours per week. Therefore a certain percentage per working hour is used to accumulate leave hours. That percentage is stated in a Collective Labour Agreement or in the employment contract.
  • Your employee is entitled to a minimum of 8% holiday allowance of their gross yearly wage of the previous year. If your on-call employee worked for less than a year, you calculate the holiday allowance from the start of the employment.
  • For parental leave, you calculate 26 times the number of hours worked per week. Since the number of hours are not stated in a zero-hours contract, you take the average number of hours worked per week in the past 3 months. If the past 3 months are not representative, you may also calculate it over a longer period of time.

Pay at least 3 hours’ wages with every call

You must pay your on-call worker at least 3 hours’ wages per call. Even if your employee was only needed for 1 or 2 hours. However, there are conditions for paying out at least 3 hours:

  • You have chosen a contract for less than 15 hours per week and you have not made agreements about working hours.


  • An on-call agreement is in place.

Always continue to pay the salary after 6 months

You must continue to pay your on-call workers wages, even if you do not have available work for them. This is called the Continued Payment of Wages Obligation (loondoorbetalingsverplichting). You and your on-call worker can agree to waive this obligation for the first 6 months of the contract, and only pay for hours worked. This agreement is only valid if you have it in writing. After 6 months you must continue to pay wages:

  • if you have insufficient work for reasons that are your responsibility. For example, because a customer cancels an order.
  • if work is available, but you fail to call them in.
  • if you call up your employee, but they cannot perform the work because of something that is your responsibility. For example, because your equipment stopped working.

Do you fall under a Collective Labour Agreement (CAO)? Then you may possibly extend the exclusion of the continued payment of wages obligation by 6 months. You can check the conditions in your Collective Labour Agreement.

Continue to pay wages during sickness

If your on-call worker becomes ill during a call, you must continue to pay their wages. You pay for the hours of the call. The sickness pay must be at least 70% of the Dutch minimum wage.

Monitor the number of hours that your on-call employee works for you

If your on-call worker works for at least 20 hours a week for 3 months in a row or more, they can demand that you adjust the employment contract from a zero-hours contract to a fixed-hours contract. This is called Legal Presumption of Employment Duration (rechtsvermoeden van arbeidsomvang). The average number of hours worked per month counts as the number of fixed hours for the new contract. If you do not want to change the contract, you must be able to prove that it was temporary. For example, in a written agreement or a shift roster as proof of a peak period.

Observe the employee’s notice period for a zero-hours contract

If your on-call worker wants to end the contract, they have to observe a notice period of (usually) 4 days, the same number of days that you have to observe when calling them to work. If your collective labour agreement (CAO) states a shorter notice period, then you can abide by that. Your employee can only terminate a temporary zero-hours contract before the end date if this has been agreed upon in the employment contract.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact theNetherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO