A woman sits at home working on her laptop

Dutch law establishes home working as a legal right

Legislation has been approved in the Netherlands that establishes working from home as a legal right, requiring employers to consider home working requests. Under the new legislation, jobs that can be carried out away from the office can now be carried out at home.

The Dutch parliament passed the legislation on 5 July, which will come into force once approved by the Dutch senate.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to a greater acceptance of flexible working, The Netherlands has long viewed it as a way of allowing employees to achieve their maximum potential at work.

2020 Eurostat data showed that 14.1% of Dutch workers work from home, compared to a smaller 4.7% of home-workers in the UK. The average percentage of home workers in Europe is 5.4% across 27 countries.

The pandemic caused global, wide-scale shifts in attitudes to work, prompting employers to consider ways to operate remotely. Whilst many employers still retain the idea of flexible working in the UK, the majority are demanding employees return to the office or workplace.

In comparison to the UK, The Netherlands appears to be encouraging flexible work patterns and leading the globe in this manner of working. High-speed internet access has been attributed to why remote-working is seen as successful and realistic. In addition, the high number of self-employed people in the country that can work just as effectively without the need to be present in the office has propelled the argument that flexible, home-working is the direction we should be moving to in the employment and workplace realm.

Although there is no current legislation enforcing employers to allow employees to work from home, employees do have a legal right to request flexible working if they have been employed with the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks. The Netherlands law requires employers to consider home-working requests, whereas in the UK, the scope of flexible working does not necessarily entail home-working options. UK employees are only able to make a single request to changes to working arrangements in a period of 12 months. Flexibility in the UK can be location- or time-based.

UK employees will have to submit their request in writing, specifically communicating the change to working arrangements and the date the employer should approve the change to come into force. Most importantly, the change that takes place must be assessed to explain the impact the flexible arrangement request will have on the business and to what extent.

An employer’s only obligation is to consider reasonably the request and respond.

The Dutch proposal has been passed to give more freedom to employees and allow them to balance their work and home life.

Edith Norman, managing partner and attorney of law for ACG International in the Netherlands, said:

“At present, the right to adjust one’s place of work is less well anchored in law than the right to adjust one’s working hours or hours of work. The bill’s initiators want to give workers equal rights so they can decide their place of work. This also reflects the changing spirit of the times following the obligations to work from home during COVID-19 lockdowns.

“For this reason, this bill proposes to treat a request from the employee to adapt the workplace in the same way as a request to adapt the working hours or working time. It proposes to amend the Flexitime Act to make it possible for a request for an adjustment to the working hours or working time.”

The passed bill, like the UK, specifies that a person can make a request if they have been employed by their company for a minimum of 26 weeks. However, companies with fewer than ten employees will not be enforced to consider the home-working requests of their employees.

Although the new legislation will give employees greater rights and freedom to choose their place of work, there are still acceptable grounds that an employer may reject the request.

Grounds for denial of requests include:

  • The desired workplace is not safe or suitable.
  • Remote working can cause issues with the work schedule.
  • The work cannot be performed in a place other than the workplace.


Kevin Bridges, partner at Pinsent Masons LLP, said:

“In any scenario where home working is being considered, employers still have obligations in relation to workers’ safety and health. Regardless of whether a home, workplace or hybrid model is used, this obligation includes a requirement to report injuries and dangerous incidents.”

In the UK, the law states that an employee must be notified of the decision of their request within three months. If the application is accepted, the new arrangement will be permanent. However, should the request be rejected, the employee has the option to escalate the matter in different methods, as well as raise a claim to and Employment Tribunal.  With the new Dutch bill coming into force, it may well be a nudge to the UK to follow its lead and give workers greater freedom in choosing their workplace.