Worldwide the number of Corona patients is increasing. In all affected countries measures are being taken to prevent the further spread of the virus as far as possible. The foregoing affects many employers in the Netherlands, resulting in employers temporarily having no or less work for their employees.

In special circumstances, such as an outbreak of the Coronavirus, Dutch law provides the possibility for employers to reduce the working hours of their employees. If the employer fulfills certain requirements, the employer can apply for a permit for a reduction of working hours (vergunning voor werktijdverkorting). If the permit is granted, employees whose working hours have been reduced will be granted unemployment benefits for the hours they have not worked. That means that employers have less salary costs, while the employees remain fully employed. In this message we will briefly explain the requirements to obtain a permit for a reduction of working hours and the steps that need to be taken in this respect.

Requirements permit

Employers must apply for a permit for a reduction of working hours at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW). Please note that a reduction of working hours cannot be requested for temporary workers, on-call workers with a zero-hours contract. Employers should use the digital form ‘Application reduction in working hours’ (Aanvraag werktijdverkorting). In any case the following requirements must be met:

  • the company has been affected by a special situation that does not fall under the normal entrepreneurial risk; and
  • the company expects a decrease of the workload of at least 20% for a period of two up to and including 24 calendar weeks.

The employer must be able to substantiate the above requirements. It is at the discretion of the SZW whether the requirements are met and whether a permit will be granted. If the permit is granted, it is valid for a maximum of six weeks. For clarity sake, the permit cannot be granted for the period of time preceding the date on which the application has been received by SZW. If the company’s situation does not improve, the employer can apply for a renewal of the permit (with in total a maximum period of 24 weeks).

Steps to be taken after the permit has been granted

The employer must report the receipt of the permit directly to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). During the period of reduction of working hours, the employer should in principle continue to pay the employees’ regular salary. Within one week after the permit has expired, the employer can apply for unemployment benefits for the employees by using the form ‘Application for unemployment benefits in case of reduced working hours’ (Aanvraag WW-uitkering bij werktijdverkorting). If the employees meet the conditions, the unemployment benefits will be paid to the employer. Given the large number of applications, payment of unemployment benefits may take several weeks after the UWV has received the forms.