Empowering the Freelance Economy

New rules for freelancers and temp workers in the Netherlands

Karien van Gennip, The Netherlands' Minister of Social Affairs and Employment/Image source: Netherlands government
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The Dutch government is cracking down on companies being overly reliant on freelancers

New labour policies are brewing in the Netherlands that will have serious consequences for people who choose to work on a freelance or temporary basis. There is likely to be a ban on zero-hour contracts and a new rule making it compulsory for the self-employed and freelancers to take out disability insurance should they fall ill, the NL Times has reported.

“The rules for temporary contracts are becoming stricter,” said the report.

“After three consecutive temporary contracts at the same employer, the employer can only give another temporary contract after five years instead of six months. That must put an end to revolving door constructions, in which workers endlessly go from temporary contract to temporary contract. On-call workers will receive a fixed basic contract stating the number of hours for which they are scheduled as a minimum.”

In the report, Minister Karien van Gennip of Social Affairs and Employment said:

Security in your job ensures that you know when you work, that you know that you can make ends meet next month and that you can make plans for the future. Too many employees with a flexible contract or self-employed do not have that certainty.

This package of measures ensures a labour market that is better balanced, future-proof, and, moreover, we maintain mutual solidarity.

The news comes at a time when startups across Europe are looking for agile talent to build their businesses, which usually means seeking out highly skilled freelancers. In an ironic twist, the Netherlands ranked as the 7th best place in the world to start a business in a recent startup index poll.

The Netherlands was voted the country with the best quality of life rating out of every country in the ranking, with a score of 198 out of a possible 240. The study analysed 50 countries to reveal the best places to launch a startup, looking at economic factors such as corporation tax, economic growth and costs, as well as social factors including employee happiness and quality of life.

Dustin Robinson, the Head of Marketing and Community for Malt in The Netherlands, offered his insights about the proposed legislation:

“We hope that all parties involved will be able to see a clear difference between the regulatory needs and concerns around gig work versus knowledge work. Confusion about the different needs of these two groups could result in inaccurate news coverage and/or bad legislation.” 

Robinson explains that the two main elements proposed that can affect freelancers in the knowledge economy (which is the group Malt focuses on) are the insurance requirements and rules around “imbedding” and fake freelancing. 

“We believe,” says Robinson, “that some form of required insurance will be beneficial to freelancers as it will provide a valuable safety net. However, we will need to wait and see whether or not the proposal will truly lead to insurance options that are both affordable and effective.”

Malt is keeping a close eye on the rules around imbedding as there appears to be “a lack of clarity on what exactly they entail, which can create problems for both freelancers and the businesses that hire them,” says Robinson.

“Many fully legitimate freelance roles, such as interim management for maternity leave, could technically fall under this category if the legislation is poorly crafted. We hope that the final version of the law provides not only clarity, but takes the practical needs of businesses into account while recognizing the flexibility, speed, and value that freelancers provide,” he says.

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