Expected labour market policy in the new government period

Background
It is not surprising that the theme 'labour market policy' is high on the political agenda. In early 2020, the ‘Borstlap Committee’ concluded in its report 'What kind of country do we want to work in? Towards a new design for the regulation of work', that the differences between employees working on the basis of a contract for a(n) (in)definite period of time, flexible employees and self-employed workers have become too big and that labour market policy and social security should focus more on people working in general instead of on employees. The Corona crisis that followed exposed the conclusions of the report. Relatively many flexible employees and self-employed workers lost their jobs, as a result of which it was necessary for the government to offer income support in the form of temporary bridging schemes in addition to the existing social safety nets.

Labour market policy in the election programmes of VVD and D66
The core of the new cabinet will expected to be formed by two liberal parties: VVD and D66. The parties agree on a number of important points regarding labour market policy. For instance, both parties want:

  • to reduce the obligation to continue payment of salary in case of illness from two to one year;
  • a basic disability insurance and good access to pension for self-employed workers;
  • a higher minimum wage, so that working becomes more beneficial for the lower incomes also;
  • higher unemployment benefit (WW) immediately after redundancy, followed by a gradual reduction, in order to limit the loss of income upon dismissal and to stimulate finding new work;
  • more attention to the training of workers through the use of individual development and learning budgets, including the so-called STAP budget (both parties) and possibly through an expansion of the work-related expenses scheme (werkkostenregeling) (VVD);
  • to make permanent employment contracts more attractive, for example by maintaining the existing system whereby employers pay lower premiums for employees with permanent contracts (VVD), or by means of a surcharge on the minimum wage for flexible employees (D66).


Of course, there are also differences. For instance, the VVD wants to clarify the legal distinction between self-employed workers and employees in order to tackle bogus schemes (service contracts which are actually employment contracts), a relaxation of dismissal regulations while simultaneously introducing higher severance compensation after unlawful dismissal and a pension that develops along with the rest of the economy. D66 on the other hand, wants to reduce employer's premiums for the lowest salaries, increase the statutory pensionable age to facilitate continuing work after the current statutory pensionable age and appoint a National Coordinator against Discrimination.

Conclusion
Although the reform proposals in the Borstlap Committee report go further than the plans mentioned above, there appears to be sympathy for the reform proposals. Moreover, the two largest political parties agree on a number of important issues. This could mean that the coming cabinet may well be significant for Dutch employment law. However, this is ultimately also depending on the position of the other parties joining the new coalition government. How many of the plans will actually be translated into legislation is therefore still uncertain.

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