Dutch Senate Rejects Home-Working Law by a Single Vote
Workplace Flexibility Remains in Employers’ Hands
A proposed law that would have given employees the right to choose their place of work has been rejected in the Dutch Senate after initially receiving 125 votes in the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives). This outcome signifies that the ability to permit remote working remains a decision for companies and organizations. Notably, parties such as BBB, VVD, JA21, and SGP voted differently in the Senate compared to their initial support for the bill in the Tweede Kamer. From the outset, PVV and Forum for Democratie opposed the bill.
FNV Union and Initial Support for the Bill
The FNV union expressed strong disapproval at the result, labeling it as detached cynical election politics and a missed opportunity. The initial voting in the Tweede Kamer took place in July 2022, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were still working from home. However, some parties have since shifted their stance due to various arguments.
Opponents Criticize Proposed Law
Senator Cees van de Sanden from VVD argued that the law hampers efforts to rebuild trust in the government and characterized it as a poor solution to a non-existent problem. Echoing these sentiments, BBB senator Robert van Gasteren added that it should be up to employers and employees to negotiate such matters in their collective labor agreement.
Proposed “Work Where You Want” Law and its Limitations
The proposed “Work Where You Want” law, also referred to as the home-working law, would only apply to a portion of workers, as many are dependent on their workplace for carrying out their duties. The law would not have allowed employees to work from varying locations. Instead, the concept was for an employee to request a single steady place to work, in addition to their usual workplace. This could be at home or at another branch of their employer. Furthermore, stricter regulations were proposed for employees wishing to work outside the EU or in local coffee shops.
Revised Bill and Employer Response
The bill was partially revised in the previous year to offer employers slightly more flexibility. Initially, an employer could only refute an employee’s request to work from home on the grounds of ‘heavy company or service interest.’ The Social Economic Council (SER) considered this too restrictive for employers and recommended modifying the norm. An employer should treat a request to work from home with ‘reasonableness and fairness.’ This revised bill was passed by a substantial majority in the Tweede Kamer the previous year.
Despite these amendments, employers remained unenthusiastic about the proposed law. AWVN, the largest employers’ association in the Netherlands, deemed the law unnecessary, stating that there was no proven need for such regulation. The VNO-NCW interest group was slightly more moderate in their response, but it also noted that many companies already have arrangements in place for remote working.
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