By Aimée Peterse and Ilse Baijens, Firm:  Bronsgeest Deur

Proposed legislation requiring employers to implement policies to promote equal opportunities and combat discrimination in the hiring process will make its way to the Dutch House of Representatives this fall.

At the beginning of July 2020, on the proposal of the State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment, the Netherlands’ Council of Ministers approved a bill titled ‘Monitoring equal opportunities in recruitment and selection’. In a letter dated 6 July, the State Secretary informed the House of Representatives about the content and status of the bill. The bill is part of the Action Plan on Employment Market Discrimination 2018-2021.

Reason and purpose of the bill

The bill aims to promote equal opportunities and fair treatment in the labour market. Job candidates experience discrimination based on age, migration background, pregnancy and sexual orientation, among other things. This bill aims to ensure that employers’ recruitment and selection procedures offer equal opportunities to applicants and prevent prohibited discrimination. As the State Secretary points out in his letter, the current Covid-19 crisis makes attention to labour market discrimination even more important, as many people have become unemployed and are looking for new jobs.

What the bill would require employers to do

The bill imposes an obligation on employers to implement policies to combat discrimination in the hiring and selection process. Larger employers (those with ten or more employees) must formalise these equal opportunity policies in writing. For small employers (those with less than ten employees), a verbal explanation of their policies will suffice.

Enforcement and penalties

Under the bill, the ‘Inspectorate SZW’ (the labour inspectorate branch of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment) will eventually be given the power to verify compliance with this obligation. The Inspectorate SZW will also have the power to impose a fine on employers in the event of non-compliance. This fine will only be imposed after employers have been given an extra chance to comply with the legal requirements. The amount of the fines is not yet known.

In order to increase knowledge and awareness of labour market discrimination among employers and to support them in drawing up appropriate equal opportunity policies, a digital guidance document is currently being prepared by the Ministry for employers, and in particular for small to medium-sized enterprises.

Progress of the legislative proposal

The bill was the subject of an internet consultation at the end of 2019. Subsequently, the Council of Ministers approved the bill, after which it was forwarded to the Council of State for advice. The bill and the advice of the Council of State are expected to be submitted to the House of Representatives this autumn. Upon submission, the legislative text will be made public. The House of Representatives will then vote on the bill, after which the Senate will take it up.

What can employers do now?

Under the Working Conditions Act, employers are already legally obliged to take steps to prevent labour discrimination. Discrimination in the workplace falls within the category of psychosocial impact, which employers must limit or prevent as much as possible. Situations involving direct or indirect discrimination in the employment relationship, including sexual harassment, aggression and violence, bullying and work pressure, can cause stress among employees. Employers are required to implement policies to prevent or reduce this psychosocial impact. This policy must be part of the employer’s Risk Inventory and Evaluation (‘RI&E’). In the RI&E, employers are to describe situations in which their employees may face discrimination and the measures to be taken against this.