On 1 January 2016, the Flexible Working Hours Act (‘FWH’) entered into force which aims to improve the work-life balance of Dutch employees.
Under previous legislation, an employee could only request an amendment of their working hours, such as an increase or reduction in hours. Following the flexible working boom, employees are now also able to request a change to their working times and their workplace. Employers are obligated to agree to requests for an adjustment to working hours or working times, unless there is a substantial business reason justifying why they cannot. This could include problems with security, work schedules or business finance and organisation. Employers do not have to agree to an amendment of the workplace. However, the employer must consult with the employee before denying such a request. If a request has been denied the employee must be informed of such decisions in writing, detailing the reasons.
Reduction in time periods relating to flexible working time requests
The FWH has also reduced certain time limits regarding the filing of flexible working requests:
- A request can now be filed after six months instead of after one year of employment;
- If the request is refused, the employee can file a new request after one year instead of once every two years;
- The amount of time required to submit a request in writing has been reduced from four months to two months prior to the desired starting date; and,
- If there are unforeseen circumstances (such as a sudden illness of a family member), the requirements of the three time limits above do not need to be followed.
The employer must set the distribution of working hours in accordance with the employee’s wishes, but the hours can be altered if the employer’s business reasons for doing so are fair and reasonable.
Heightened risk of non-compliance for employers
If an employer has not responded to the employee’s request within one month of the desired starting date, the new working hours, time, or workplace proposed by the employee will be automatically accepted and implemented. The employer is able to change these amendments or revert back to the original arrangements if a new justifiable business reason arises. However, this reason must not have existed at the time the employee’s request was submitted and implemented.
What does this mean for my business?
This new legislation only applies to employers who employ more than 10 employees. However, employers with fewer employees must still make their own arrangements regarding the right of employees to adjust their working hours.
Where the employer has granted permission to work from home, it is advisable to check that the employee is working in a healthy and safe environment, and that these conditions comply with the health and safety rules in the Working Conditions Act.
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