Dutch Work Culture

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Work Culture

To do business in the Netherlands, it is vital to have a good understanding of its business or work culture. Making the right impression with the right people is the key to success in Holland, and it is important to back this up with the right research on the market and potential business associates.

As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about the Dutch work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in the Netherlands to start your expansion well-informed.

The Netherlands, which is ideally situated at the commercial heart of the European continent, offers great opportunities. However, understanding the work ethic and culture of the Netherlands will go a long way to creating the right business environment for your company and staff.

Dutch business culture is relatively flexible. The openness characterizing Dutch society is reflected in the horizontal structure of business culture seen in many companies, where the managing director and employees are all considered co-workers. Executives do not usually display their power – but still have the authority.

Companies have specialized employees while managers are seen more as a problem solver or facilitator. There is emphasis on bringing multiple specialists together, thereby improving diversity and expertise. The Dutch like consensus so are fond of meetings, which combine informality with protocols and a strict agenda.

The Dutch traditionally keep their professional and private lives separate – do not expect too much socializing. Here are a few tips on business interaction as you get ‘down to business’:

  • Punctuality: After fixing an appointment arrive on time for the meeting – it shows you can keep to deadlines. Allow time for the traffic and call if you are going to be late.
  • Language: If you are more comfortable discussing business in English, the Netherlands is the place to be as most Dutch professionals speak the language fluently. It is still best to speak plainly – English idioms may be misunderstood by your opposite numbers.
  • Business Relationships: Realize the business relationship will revolve around strict agendas and sticking to the point. Small talk is unlikely to feature in the early days as the Dutch will be keen to get down to business, while expecting all team members on both sides to be fully briefed and taking part in discussions.
  • Introductions and Greetings: Shake hands firmly, maintain trust-building eye contact and make the introduction using your first and last name.
  • Business Cards: These are generally exchanged towards the end of the introductory meeting. Dutch business cards typically include any academic qualification. They may also show a home address and telephone number – but this is not an invite for ‘after hours’ contact.
  • Dress Code: This varies, but always within the boundaries of being presentable. Suits and ties may prevail in the upper levels of business hierarchy or government, but in the summer particularly shirts, blouses, jeans, slacks, trainers and even tee-shirts are typical office wear.
  • Gift-giving: This is not a common practice in Dutch business, and any gifts exchanged at the conclusion of the deal should be modest and neutral.
  • Sealing the Deal: As meetings are very much agenda-driven there will be attention to detail in following the planned course of action, and with the egalitarian approach towards involving everyone, progress could be slow. But once a decision and agreement is reached, setting the deal in stone will be confirmed by rigidly enforced contracts.
  • Business Meals: Another concept not overly common in Dutch commerce. Business lunches are unusual, and dinner is kept generally as a private social occasion. But if a business meal is called for there will be little small talk.

Dutch Minimum Wage

The minimum wages paid to employees aged over 21 in full-time employment increased from €1,684 to €1,701 (US$1,997) from July 1, 2021. The Dutch government adjusts the rate annually in January and July in line with collective agreements. The new weekly rate is €392.55 (US$460) and €78.51(US$92) per day. 

The law does not decree a minimum hourly wage as hours vary between businesses depending on the number worked in a week. Part-time workers calculate their entitlement by taking the minimum weekly wage, dividing that by the number of hours in a full working week and multiplying the result by the number of hours they work.

Probation Periods in The Netherlands

Probationary or Trial Periods (Proeftijd) are allowed by law in the Netherlands and written into the employment contract but both employer and employee must agree to it, unless covered by a collective labor agreement.

The maximum permitted period is two months for indefinite contracts, and for fixed-term contracts of more than two years. Fixed-term contracts of less than six months cannot specify a probationary period, but a contract between six months and two years can have a one-month trial period. An employment contract can be terminated by either party during the probationary period.

Working Hours in The Netherlands

Working hours’ regulations are included in the Working Hours Act and the Working Hours Decree (ATB) and apply to all workers including foreigners. Employers must make a record of all hours worked by their employees.

Between 36 and 40 hours generally comprise a working week, or seven to eight hours per day, scheduled between 6am and 6pm, five days a week. The maximum hours is 60 per week and 12 hours per shift, which must average out to 55 hours over four weeks and 48 per week over 16 weeks.

Employees must have 11 hours consecutive rest between workdays. Working a five-day week, there must be 36 consecutive hours of rest for workers in a 14-day period. 

Employees receive 30-minutes rest after working over 5½ hours, which can be split into two 15-minute breaks. More than 10 hours must include at least 45 minutes rest, again split into several breaks. A collective arrangement may allow for more break time but not less. An employee working for 5½ hours, must have a 15-minute break.

Overtime in The Netherlands

This is a legislative grey area in Dutch labor law, which has no specific provisions regulating overtime or any compensatory payments. Agreements regarding overtime may be agreed contractually, or as stipulated in the employee handbooks or by a Collective Labor Agreement (CAO).