Relevant legislation

​From a time management perspective, the Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet, ATW) is the most important law. The aim of this Act is to guarantee the safety, health and welfare of employees by setting minimum requirements for working hours and rest periods and making it easier to combine work with family care as well as other responsibilities outside work. The ATW sets limits on the maximum working hours per reference period and lays down standards for minimum rest periods. The ATW also contains rules on working at particular times, such as working on Sunday and during the night, and on on-call duty, standby duty, on-site standby duty. All the rules are summarised in the following overview of the statutory requirements for working hours and rest periods.
The overview outlines the standards contained in the simplified Working Hours Act for employees aged 18 and over, including the general exceptions to the Act in the Working Hours Decree (Arbeidstijdenbesluit, ATB). The sectoral exceptions in the ATB are not included in the overview. Below the first table is a second table containing an overview of legal standards for young workers (16 and 17-year-olds).

In most cases, the table lists a single standard (basic and standard based on agreement are the same) which applies in all circumstances. In a few instances, a dual standard applies. In this case, the basic standard is the basic principle but derogations from this are possible by collective arrangement, provided they do not go beyond the standard based on agreement. A collective arrangement denotes both a collective labour agreement (CAO) and a written agreement between employer and employee representative body. The latter agreement may not, however, be inconsistent with the content of the CAO.  

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Employees aged 18 years or over 
  
Basic standard 
Standard based on agreement
Minimum rest periods[1], [2]
 
 
Weekly consecutive rest period36 hours per 7 x 24 hours, or 72 hours per 14 x 24 hours, which may be divided into periods of at least 32 hours
Daily consecutive rest period11 hours per 24 hours (1x per 7 x 24 hours to be shortened to 8 hours)
Consecutive rest period following a night shift[3] ending after 2:00 A.M
14 hours (1x per 7 x 24 hours to be shortened to 8 hours)
Consecutive rest period following a series of 3 or more consecutive night shifts[4]
  
46 hours
Break[5]
 
 
Working hours per shift > 5½ hours Minimum ½ hour (to be split into 2x ¼ hour)
Minimum ¼ hour[6]
Working hours per shift > 10 hours
Minimum ¾ hour (to be split into breaks of at least ¼ hour)
Working on Sunday[7]
 
 
Ban on work and exceptions
No work is done on Sunday, unless:
(a) the contrary has been stipulated and is inherent in the nature of the work, or
(b) the operating conditions necessitate Sunday working and the employee representative body (or, if there is no such body, the employees affected) consent to this, and the employee concerned consents to it for the case involved
Sunday clause[8]
In the event of Sunday working, a minimum of 13 free Sundays in each 52-week periodIn the event of Sunday working, every Sunday may be worked provided that work is done on 40 or more Sundays in each 52-week period only if the employee concerned consents to this for the case involved
Maximum working hours[9]
 
 
Working hours per shift
12 hours[10]
Working hours per night shift[11]
10 hours (maximum 5x in each period of 14 x 24 hours and 22x in each period of 52 weeks, to be increased to 12 hours while simultaneously shortening the rest period after the extended night shift to a minimum of 12 hours)10 hours (between Friday 18:00 and Monday 8:00 a maximum of 2x to be extended to 11 hours[12] and outside that period a maximum 2x in each period of 14 x 24 hours and 8x in each period of 52 weeks, to be extended to 12 hours while simultaneously shortening the rest period after that extended night shift to a minimum of 12 hours, on condition that 26x in each period of 52 weeks no work is done between Saturday 0:00 and Sunday 24:00 hours)
Working hours per week[13]
60 hours

Working hours in each 4-week period 

Average 55 hours per week 

Average 60 hours per week
Working hours per reference period
Average 48 hours per week in each 16-week period;
if 16 or more night shifts are worked in that period, an average of 40 hours per week
An average of 48 hours per week in each 52-week period[14]; if night shifts are worked in that period, an average of 40 hours per week
Volume of night work
 
 
Maximum number of night shifts or night hours
36 night shifts ending after 2:00 AM in each 16-week period140 night shifts ending after 2:00 AM in each 52-week period, or 38 hours of work between 0:00 and 6:00 AM in each 2-week period
Maximum number of consecutive shifts in a row[15] involving one or more night shifts
7
8
On-call duty[16]
 
 
Period without on-call duty in each period of 28 x 24 hours14 x 24 hours, to be split into periods of at least 24 hours, with no work being done for a 48-hour period on at least two occasions 14 x 24 hours, to be split into periods of at least 24 hours, with no work being done for a 48-hour period on at least two occasions; by derogation from this, on-call duty may be imposed on each break
On-call duty before and after a night shift not permitted 11 hours before and 14 hours after a night shift
Maximum working hours per 24 hours
13 hours
Maximum working hours per week
60 hours
Maximum working hours in each 16-week period
An average of 48 hours per week;
if more than 16x on-call duty between 0:00 and 6:00 AM in 16 weeks:
(a) an average of 40 hours per week, or (b) an average of 45 hours per week provided that, for on-call work between 0:00 hours and 6:00 AM, 8 hours of consecutive rest has been taken by 24.00 hours at the latest  
Minimum working hours when called upon during on-call duty ½ hour; if called upon within ½ hour of the end of the work from the previous call, the work from both calls constitutes a single call
               On-site standby duty[17]
 
 
Maximum number of on-site standby  shifts in each 26-week period
Not permitted
52
Consecutive rest period before and after on-site standby dutyN/A
11 hours[18]
Consecutive rest periods in each period of 7 x 24 hoursN/A 1x 24 hours and 6x 11 hours (total 90 hours), which may be consecutive
Maximum working hours in each 26-week periodN/A
               An average of 48 hours per week[19]
 

The standards listed in the above table do not apply to employees who, in 2016, had a fixed annual income in excess of EUR 59,250 gross (managers and senior executives). For part-time workers, this amount applies pro rata to their part-time hours. 

If employees normally work night shifts or do work that involves or is directly associated with serious hazards to the safety or health of people, the standards do still apply to them.

Finally, all the standards - except for Sunday working, the maximum working hours per reference period and on-call duty - do not apply in sudden, unforeseen situations posing a serious threat to people or goods. The employer must compensate for rest periods that are missed as a result of this as soon as possible after the situation has ended.
  

The following legal standards relating to working hours and rest periods apply to young workers, having due regard for the fact that time in education must be regarded as working hours: 

 
Workers aged 16 and 17 years
Basic standard
Standard based on agreement
Minimum rest periods
 
 
Weekly consecutive rest period
36 hours per 7x24 uur
Daily consecutive rest period
               12 hours per 24 hours, including the period between 23:00 and 6:00 AM
Break
 
 
Working hours per shift >  4½ hours Minimum ½ hour (to be split into 2x ¼ hour)
Working on Sunday
 
 
Ban on work and exceptions
(a) the contrary has been stipulated and arises from the nature of the work, or (b) the operating conditions necessitate Sunday working and the employee representative body (or, if this no such body, the employees affected) consent to this, and the employee concerned consents to this for the case involved
Sunday clause[20]
In the event of Sunday working, a minimum of 13 free Sundays in each period of 52 weeksIn the event of Sunday working, every Sunday may be worked provided that work is done on 40 or more Sundays in each 52-week period only if the employee concerned consents to this for the case involved 
Maximum working hours[21]
 
 
Working hours per shift
9 hours[22]
Working hours per week
45 hours[23]
Working hours per 4-week period An average of 40 hours per week
Night work
 
 
Night work
Prohibited
On-call duty
 
 
On-call duty
  Prohibited
  


The ATB contains different rules (mentioned between brackets) to the tables above for the following sectors/professions:

• Ambulance services (standby duty)
• Doctors (working hours per week, average working hours per 16-week period for night shifts and on-call duty, on-site standby duty and standby duty)
• Audiovisual productions (daily rest period, working hours per reference period)
• Dredging activities (working hours per week and per night shift, rest period after a series of night shifts, volume of night work)
• Cinemas (working hours per shift/night shift, per week and per reference period; daily rest period)
• Firefighting (on-call duty, on-site standby duty)
• Bakeries and patisseries (rest period after a series of night shifts, volume of night work, night work for young workers)
• Defence (working hours for young workers)
• Hospitality industry (volume of night work)
• Live-in household personnel (all standards)
• Secondary railways (rest period after a night shift and after a series of night shifts)
• Mining industry (all standards except working on Sunday)
• Non-nautical personnel in inland navigation personnel  (working hours per shift, weekly rest period)
• Personal chauffeurs (working hours per shift/night shift and per week, daily consecutive rest period, night work, standby)
• Performing arts (working hours per shift/night shift, per week and per reference period, daily consecutive rest period, consecutive rest period after a night shift)
• Boarding schools for children of bargees and occupational travellers (on-site standby duty)
• Cleaning firm (daily consecutive rest period)
• Winter maintenance work (standby duty)
• Exhibition construction and ship repairs (working hours per week and per reference period, daily and weekly consecutive rest period)
• Nursing and care (daily consecutive rest period, on-site standby duty)
• Volunteer police (daily and weekly consecutive rest period)
• Midwives (standby duty)

The ATB for Transport contains specific requirements for the following sectors, which replace the standards set out in the Working Hours Act.
• Inland waterway shipping
• Aviation
• Marine pilots
• Rail transport (cross-border only)
• Road transport
• Maritime shipping
• Deep sea fishing

The full texts of the ATW and both ATBs can be downloaded at http://wetten.overheid.nl. Specific brochures about working hours legislation are available from the national government, which explain the legal rules in greater detail. These brochures can be downloaded via the central government website.
More detailed information about the regulations relating to transport can also be found at http://www.ilent.nl/onderwerpen.   

Reed Business publishes the loose-leaf "Handboek Arbeidstijden" (Working Hours Guide), which explains all the rules on working hours and rest periods. A booklet entitled "De vereenvoudigde Arbeidstijdenwet; handleiding voor de praktijk" (The simplified Working Hours Act; a practical guide) is available from Kluwer, which explains the broad lines of the Act and provides some additional information about the organisation of and decisions regarding working hours regulations. Kluwer also publishes a series entitled "Lexplicatie", which includes texts explaining the Working Hours Act and the stipulations based on it (part 5.14).  

More information or if you need any assistance: please contact AWVN's ATM-experts: AWVN-werkgeverslijn, 070 850 86 05, werkgeverslijn@awvn.nl

Footnotes

[1] The reference period of 24 hours or a multiple thereof within which the prescribed rest periods must be taken commences in the first minute of each calendar day on which the employee first performs work on that day. If a shift commences on one day and ends on the following day, that time is 0:00 hours of that following day (unless a break is being taken at that time; in which case, the end of the break determines the relevant point in time). If no other shift has been worked prior to the shift concerned on a particular day, on that particular day the start time of the shift is also the time at which the reference period of 24 hours or a multiple thereof commences.

[2] The rest periods indicated may be shortened by a quarter to allow for the transfer of work. Rest period is time that is not working time (see also footnote 9).

[3] Where the table refers to a night shift, this denotes a shift involving more than 1 hour's work between 0:00 and 6:00 AM.

[4] A series of 3 or more consecutive night shifts comprises a series of consecutive night shifts which are not interrupted by a shift other than a night shift. Such a series always ends as soon as consecutive rest period of 46 hours prescribed by the law for such a series of night shifts has been taken. Following that rest period, a new series of night shifts may commence.

[5] In this table, a break denotes a continuous period of at least 15 minutes which interrupts the work done during a shift and during which the employee has no obligations whatsoever with respect to the contracted work. This applies to both unpaid and paid breaks.

[6] If the employee is working alone or if the nature of the work precludes a break, a collective arrangement may be adopted in which it is agreed that the break will be omitted, provided the average working hours in each 16-week period does not exceed an average of 44 hours per week.

[7] In this table, Sunday denotes the period from 0:00 hours on Sunday to 24:00 hours on Sunday.

[8] An employee who celebrates his or her weekly rest day on a day other than Sunday on religious or philosophical grounds may make a written request to the employer for the stipulations relating to Sunday to be applied to that other day. In this case, the requirements of the law concerning Sunday shall be transferred to that day.

[9] The working hours indicated may be extended by a quarter to allow for the transfer of work. Working hours denote the time during which the employee undertakes work under the authority of the employer.

[10] If necessary due to a public holiday, the working hours may be increased to 14 hours 2x during the 7 x 24 hours prior to that public holiday. Public holidays are New Year, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, King's Day, Ascension, Whit Sunday, Whit Monday, 5 December, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and other days dictated by religious or philosophical beliefs on which similar conditions apply with regard to work as on the public holidays mentioned. If work is necessary and cannot be postponed or organised differently, the working hours may be increased to 14 hours 1x in each 2-week period.

[11] By derogation from the basic and standard based on agreement shown, if necessary due to a public holiday, the working hours may be increased to 14 hours 2x during the 7x24 hours prior to that public holiday. Public holidays are New Year, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, King's Day, Ascension, Whit Sunday, Whit Monday, 5 December, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and other days dictated by religious or philosophical beliefs on which similar conditions apply with regard to work as on the public holidays mentioned. Similarly, if work is necessary and cannot be postponed or organised differently, the working hours may be increased to 14 hours 1x in each 2-week period.

[12] If no break can be taken, because the employee is working alone or due to the nature of the work, a collective arrangement may be adopted increasing the night shift to 12 hours.

[13] Where the table refers to one week, this denotes the period from 0:00 hours on Sunday to 24:00 hours on the following Saturday. In the case of a multiple of a number of consecutive weeks, an equal number of multiples of this period is meant. When applying working hours standards for each reference period, it must be borne in mind that the hours during which the employee would have done the contracted work but did not do the work due to fulfilling his or her role in connection with an employee representative body, sickness, holiday, the fulfilment of obligations imposed by law or the government that could not be completed during his or her free time, or as a consequence of very special personal circumstances referred to in article 4:1, first paragraph of the Work and Care Act, will be counted as working hours.

[14] The reference period relating to the average 48-hour working week may only be extended in a collective labour agreement (CAO). That CAO may delegate this authority to the employee representative body. If no CAO applies, the period may be agreed with the employee representative body. The extension of the reference period for the average 40-hour working week may be agreed either by parties to the CAO or by the employer and the employee representative body. The precondition for extending this period are peaks and troughs in the supply of work necessitating working for longer than the normal standard in a 16-week period, or unforeseen circumstances indicating the need for a derogation. Whatever the circumstances, there must be no other reasonable alternative means of organising the work. Extended working hours are possible for managers without any preconditions.

[15] A series of shifts is a series of consecutive shifts that are not interrupted by a weekly rest period. In other words, there is always a weekly rest prior to and following a series of shifts.

[16] Standby duty is the availability of the employee between two consecutive shifts or during a break to resume work as swiftly as possible, if called upon, in unforeseen circumstances. Such a call takes precedence over the rules on rest periods and breaks. In other words, the rules on rest periods and breaks may be set aside on the grounds of standby duty. A call does not constitute a night shift or other shift; however, from the time at which the employee is called upon, the time worked does constitute working hours.

[17] On-site standby duty is a shift of no more than 24 hours during which the employee - possibly in addition to the normal contracted work - is obliged to be present at the workplace in order to set to work as swiftly as possible on demand. Both the normal work and the mandatory presence at the workplace constitute working hours. The use of such services is only permitted if the nature of the work necessitates it and it is not reasonable to make different arrangements. On-site standby duty does not constitute a night shift. The normal rules on minimum rest periods and maximum working hours in the table do not apply to on-site standby duty.

[18] In exceptional cases or if objectively justified, the rest period may be shortened 1x per 7 x 24 hours to 10 hours and 1x to 8 hours, provided the time by which it has been shortened is immediately added to the next uninterrupted rest period. This also affects the total uninterrupted rest periods in each period of 7 x 24 hours. The total rest period remains 90 hours but, in this case, may consist of a minimum of 1x 24 hours, 4x 11 hours, 1x 10 hours and 1x 8 hours; these periods may now also be consecutive.

[19] If the employee consents to this in writing, the maximum working hours may be increased to an average of 60 hours per week. Such consent applies for 26 weeks and will be renewed for periods of the same length unless the employee concerned indicates in good time before the end of the period that he or she no longer agrees to the increased working hours. The employer must keep employees' written consents in a special register.

[20] An employee who celebrates his or her weekly rest day on a day other than Sunday on religious or philosophical grounds may make a written request to the employer for the stipulations relating to Sunday to be applied to that other day. In this case, the requirements of the law concerning Sunday shall be transferred to that day.

[21] For the purposes of applying the standards, the period during which a young worker attends or normally attends education, including interruptions, constitutes working hours.

[22] In the case of work in connection with an alternative sanction, a maximum of 10 hours.

[23] In the case of work in connection with an alternative sanction, a maximum of 55 hours.