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Doing Business in the Netherlands

Our guide to working in the Netherlands includes a general economic overview, information on the job search, labor laws, the social security system, and business etiquette. We have all the info you need for your assignment abroad. Welcome to the Netherlands and its thriving business world!
Rotterdam is the leading industrial city in the Netherlands.

Maternity Leave

The Netherlands has a maternity protection law which applies to female employees in case of pregnancy. According to this law, they are not obligated to inform their employer of their pregnancy and enjoy an extended dismissal protection until one year after giving birth. During the last few months of their pregnancy, they are not supposed to do physically straining tasks or to work overtime and in shifts.

Pregnant employees are entitled to additional breaks during the work day and receive 16 weeks of maternity leave. At least four of these weeks should be taken before giving birth and at least 10 weeks should be taken afterwards. The maternity allowance during this time has to be consistent with the previous salary. Mothers and fathers can reduce their working hours for up to six months after birth to take care of their newborn child.

The National Insurance System

The Netherlands has a social security agreement with all other EU/EEA countries. However, many benefits also apply to non-EU citizens. The national insurance system, for example, is open to all residents of the Netherlands, regardless of citizenship or income. It offers basic services and is financed by contributions paid to the revenue office along with the income tax (Loonheffing). The national insurances system is regulated by the following laws:

  • general law for surviving dependents’ benefits (Anw)
  • general law for child allowance (AKW)
  • general law on long-term care (Wlz)
  • general law for retirement (AOW)
  • work and employment support for disabled youth (Wajong)
  • health insurance act (Zvw)

Employee Insurance

All employees are automatically insured through their employer. Employee insurance is subject to the authority of inter-trade organizations (Bedrijfsverenigingen) and must adhere to the following regulations:

  • law on continuation of payment in case of illness (Wulbz)
  • law on sickness benefits (ZW)
  • law on unemployment insurance (WW)
  • law on insurance for accidents at the work place (WAO)
  • law on the correspondence of work and wage to the ability to work (WIA)  

Starting a Business in the Netherlands

Members of the EU/EEA can start a business in the Netherlands without having to apply for a work permit or residence visa. However, the usual red tape still has to be taken care of. Since 2008, you can register with the Commercial Registry (Kamer van Koophandel or KvK) and the Dutch tax office (Belastingdienst) at the same time. You should contact your local Kamer van Koophandel (KvK) if you want to start:

  • an independent operation (Eenmanszaak)
  • a partnership under common firm (Vennootschap onder Firma)
  • a limited partnership (Commanditaire Vennootschap).

The KvK registers all relevant data of your business. If you are planning to start an independent operation, you will receive your KvK number and your sales tax identification number right away. Otherwise, it will take a while to process the paperwork.

Dutch Business Etiquette: Straightforward

Dutch people are known to be straightforward, and this also applies to their business culture. In a meeting, expect business negotiations to start straight away after the introductory round. Meetings often follow a stringent agenda, which should be adhered to. There is not much room on it for late arrivals or general conversation and punctuality is highly valued. If you disagree, you are expected to say so, and you should not be offended if your Dutch business associate does the same.

Always address business partners and colleagues by their last name until you are invited to do otherwise. Business gifts are not expected to be given or received. However, if you want to present your business partners with something, make sure that it is not too expensive to avoid making them feel uncomfortable or even be suspected of bribery. The Dutch do protect their reputation of honesty in international trade. When invited to a private home, on the other hand, it is considered good manners to give a small present to the host or hostess, like flowers or chocolate.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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