SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has published new draft legislation which he says will encourage companies to take on more permanent members of staff.
The number of people on flexible contracts has soared in recent years and the new government has pledged to tackle the differences between permanent and flexible employment contracts.
The aim of the legislation is to reduce the legal gap between working as an employee or as a temporary worker, Koolmees said. To this end, the rules for sacking staff have been relaxed while the period temporary staff can work on short contracts will be extended from two to three years.
The changes to redundancy law will allow firms to sack staff after a string of minor misdemeanours rather than one major fail. In addition, maximum trial period that a new employee can be required to work will go up from two to five months.
Companies will also get a discount on unemployment benefit premiums if they take on permanent rather than temporary members of staff. People who work via a payrolling company must also have the same working conditions as people on permanent contracts and will also have the right to a pension.
The length of time people can work for the same company as a temporary worker will go up from two to three years.
Critics in both union and employer camps say that the minister’s plans will not have the desired effect. ‘The cabinet has to show more ambition,’ said Zakaria Boufangacha, spokeswoman for the FNV trade union federation.
‘How will this legislation lead to more permanent jobs if the trial period is made longer, it is easier to sack people, and people can work as temps for longer?’ And Marco Bastian, director of staffing agency lobby group NBBU said the legislation is clearly aimed at stimulating permanent employment and making flexible contracts more expensive.
Instead the government should focus on making it more attractive to work and employ staff across all types of employment. That will create a more inclusive labour market, he told magazine Flexmarkt.nl.
Some 5.3 million people in the Netherlands now have a permanent job, or around 60% of the total workforce, according to CBS figures. Two million people have a flexible contact and 830,000 people are classed as self-employed.
The situation has changed significantly over the past 15 years. In 2003 nearly 75% of workers had permanent contracts. (DutchNews)