The lower house of the Dutch Parliament approved draft legislation to establish remote work as a legal right for employees, making the Netherlands one of the first countries to protect remote work flexibility by law. The Dutch Senate is likely to approve the measure, which could cause a ripple effect in other European Union countries.
Amendments to the Flexible Work Act: Currently, a right to work from home is not embedded in Dutch employment law. The Flexible Work Act (in Dutch: Wet flexibel werken), which became effective in 2016, regulates the rights of the employee regarding working hours, working time, and place of work. Significantly, the Act contains certain grounds for refusing an employee’s request to adjust working hours and/or work times, but not for a request to change the place of work (e.g., working from home). The new legislation will stipulate that employers must consider such requests and, in the case of a denial, give reason for doing so. It is not yet clear what grounds will be included in the legislation.
Under the proposal, it would be challenging for employers to refuse such requests from employees who were able to effectively work from home during the pandemic. In such cases, other considerations need to be taken into account to support a permanent remote work arrangement. Employers in the Netherlands are currently legally responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, including for remote workers. It may imply that employers will need to conduct a risk inventory & evaluation (RI&E) of the occupational risks related to working from home and the measures to be taken to mitigate these risks. Additionally, employers are obliged to provide an ergonomic workplace and are responsible for the costs of making adjustments. Moreover, employers also need to involve union or other workers’ representatives if a collective bargaining agreement or other form of agreement modulating working location are in place.
Outlook: The Dutch legislation could encourage adoption in other European Union countries. Germany is working on policies that could legally increase flexibility for employees, and employment lawyers say France and Portugal are also looking at laws on remote work.