News Update Employment & Pensions
27 September 2023
On 26 September 2023, the Dutch Senate rejected the bill for the Work Wherever You Want Act (Wet werken waar je wilt). The bill aimed to make it easier for employees and employers to arrange for remote working. Nevertheless, employers can certainly draw lessons from the parliamentary debate on the bill.
This bill came in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which has changed people's views on remote working. The Work Wherever You Want Act aimed to assist employees to work from different locations and facilitate hybrid working.
The debate in the Dutch Senate showed that most parties found the bill sympathetic but unnecessary. Employers and employees usually manage to "work things out" and today's practices have not caused any major legal cases. The Dutch Senate voted against the bill by a small majority.
Fostering communication between employers and employees
The most important change in the Work Wherever You Want Act was the legal test. An employer would only be allowed to reject an employee's request to change their work location based on reasonableness and fairness, and would be expected to properly balance all interests and weigh all circumstances of the case.
Even without this legal test, it is important to consistently find the balance between the employee's wishes and the employer's interests in workplace discussions. This balancing of interests also enables employers to require employees to come to the office for any particular reason. For example, this may be due to induction training, team building or clients.
During the Dutch Senate debate, the costs and other drawbacks of remote working for employers, co-workers' opinions and requirements, the nature of the work and social cohesion, as well as other aspects, were cited as interests to be weighed.
In addition, employers and employees should discuss what would be a suitable work location. This could be the employee's home address or a multi-tenant commercial building. As an employer, you want to ensure that employees who work at a different location do so under safe working conditions. Employees should also have access to company information, workplace communications and documents, which would have to be transferred between different work locations.
No amendment to current legislation
The current Flexible Working Act (Wet flexibel werken) allows employees to request to change their work location, provided that they have been working for at least six months at a company with ten employees or more. The employer must consider this request and discuss it with the employee (duty to consider). After that, the employer is free to reject the request for any reason but will have to give sound arguments for their decision.
The request must be sent in writing at least two months before the proposed start date.
The employer, in turn, must respond to this request in a timely fashion but no later than one month before the start date. If the employer misses this deadline, the work location will be changed in line with the employee's wishes. To avoid long response times, it is important for employers to have a policy on handling such employee requests at the organisation.
Employees should give proper thought to the reasons for and implications of their request. And employers should seriously consider these requests – there are valid reasons why employees are asking to work remotely.
The parliamentary history of the bill for the Work Wherever You Want Act provides some guidance in the discussions on remote working.