No relaxation of dismissal laws

Dismissal laws in the Netherlands have been a hot political topic for the last ten years. Many employers have been arguing against the requirement to obtain a dismissal permit in advance. Rumour has it that the Rutte II cabinet will finally relax the dismissal laws. However, a close examination of the government coalition agreement suggests otherwise.

The coalition agreement formulates the plans for changes to dismissal laws somewhat loosely. However, on reading carefully one sees that they will in essence restrict the opportunities for dismissal. The basic principles are described as follows: “We will maintain the dismissal permit requirement in the form of a compulsory application to the Dutch Administrative Office for Employed Persons’ Insurance Schemes (Uitvoeringsinstelling werknemersverzekeringen or UWV). The criteria for lawful dismissal will be described in detail. The parallel route of applying to the sub-district court will cease to exist.” Diederik Samsom, leader of the PvdA political party, made a passing comment on the Pauw & Witteman television programme about an improvement in exchange for further cutbacks in the unemployment benefit scheme.

Escape door closes

The requirement for a dismissal permit from the UWV (previously the director of the employment agency) was a post-war measure, intended to stabilise the employment market at that time. Dismissal by applying to the sub-district court was

the way out for employers who considered the UWV dismissal permit process too risky or too lengthy. On the other hand, the sub-district court generally requires the employer to make a settlement payment for terminating the employment contract. It is the sub-district court route that the new government intends to get rid of, except in select cases.

As far as I can see, this can mean nothing but bad news for employers and good news for employees. So it seems that the spring coalition agreement is a thing of the past when it comes to relaxing the dismissal laws as well. If the new government’s plans come to fruition, employers will only be able to dismiss employees if they are able to produce well-prepared dismissal files.

This commentary appeared on 6 November 2012 on