Flexible working changes 

From 1 January, 2016,  new legislation,  ‘Wet flexibel werken’ (“the new Act”), will come into force. The aim of the new Act is to encourage better work-life balance.

Amendment of the Dutch Working Hours (Adjustment) Act

Currently, the only formalised system for requesting flexible working concerns changes to working hours, employees being able to  file a request with their employer seeking an increase or reduction. The applicable conditions are set out in the Dutch Working Hours (Adjustment) Act. Those provisions will be amended when the new Act is introduced, so that the system will apply to any requests for flexible working. So, for example, from next year, employees will have a right to file a request with their employer to alter their working hours, working times and/or workplace.

Right to file a request

It is important to bear in mind that the right of the employee is to file a request. This does not mean that their employer is obliged to comply with the request. Employers retain the right to refuse any requested changes to working hours or working time where justified by substantial business interests (the nature of which are clarified  in the new Act).

Furthermore, employers are obliged to consult with the employees before refusing a request to change the place of work  (for example, a request to work from home). In all cases,  employers are obliged to inform employees of their decision in writing, stating the reasons for refusal of a request, where that arises.

Time limits

The new Act will introduce shorter timeframes relating to flexible working requests:

  • at present, an employee must submit the request four months’ prior to the desired starting date. The new Act reduces this to two months;
  • furthermore, at present an employee can only submit a request following at least twelve months’ employment. From  January,  this period of service will reduce to six months; and
  • under current law, an employee must wait two years after their request has been responded to (whether favourably or not)  before being able to file a new request. This time limit will be shortened to one year.

Applicability

Save in respect of requests to reduce working hours, the new Act will not apply to employees who fall within the scope of a collective labour agreement which includes provisions for flexible working. Furthermore, small employers are excluded from its terms, the new Act applying only to employers with more than ten employees.