In today’s fast-paced and competitive workplace, employees are always feeling pressured to not take their paid time off for any reason, no matter how much they might need it or even want it. In some business cultures, this is intentional. But have you ever noticed how Dutch HR teams and managers, are so persistent to get you to take your leave?

In this article, we are going to explain why businesses in the Netherlands want you to use your PTO (paid time off).

You are more productive after holidays

Your Dutch HR team wants you to take holidays because they know that you will be more productive when you return. Studies have shown that people who take regular vacations are happier and more productive than those who don’t. When you take a break, it gives you a chance to relax and recharge. You come back feeling refreshed and ready to work. So, next time your Dutch HR team tells you to take a vacation, go ahead and do it!

Minimise burn-out

A recent study from 2023 has found that 1 out of 5 employees in the Netherlands have shown symptoms of burn-out. The coveted vision of a healthy work/life balance for which the Dutch are known makes the risk of burn-out seem relatively low. However, reducing burn-out is a top priority of HR teams in the Netherlands regardless of how prevalent the disorder. Any amount of burn-out is not good, considering the long-term consequences.

The impact burn-out has, not just on employees but on the business as a whole, is well known by HR teams.

In the Netherlands, burn-out is considered a long-term illness which means you have a right to participate in a re-integration programme . For the employer, this requires setting up a sequence of appointments with the company doctor; developing a “back to work action plan” (which is only possible after the employee has been away for at least 8 weeks); reporting to Employment Insurance department (UWV); finding a temporary replacement, and so much more. This entire process is time-consuming, and expensive, and therefore your employer will want to avoid this at all costs!

At the end of the day, HR teams in the Netherlands understand that any short-term gains the company gets by over-working employees are not worth the long-term costs of employee burn-out. One clear way to mitigate a burn-out is by taking your holidays!

Unused leave is a financial liability for your employer

In the Netherlands, you accumulate leave throughout the year in line with the amount of time you work (check here to read the minimum the amount of hours you are entitled to). Assuming you work full-time: that comes to 20 working days in 2024. If you leave your employer for any reason during the year, they are obligated to pay you for any unused paid leave. This obligation creates a financial risk for the employer. At any moment, your employer will have to pay out a lump sum and this unpredictability is what motivates your HR team to keep careful track of unused leave and encourage employees to take it whenever necessary.

This is an obligation that is common all around the professional world – however in the Netherlands, this pay-out is taxed at a pretty high rate. That means hoarding your paid days off with the intention of getting them paid-out is not the best strategy. It is a lose-lose on both sides, so it is in your best interest to take the leave.

Dutch law makes tracking unused leave complicated for employers

In the Netherlands, every working person is entitled to 20 days of paid time off when they work a full-time contract. More often more than not, the company has set a policy that offers an additional number of days off, over and above the legal minimum referenced earlier. Secondly there are a number of public holidays that are “given” as paid time off by your employer. Which those are, are up to the employer. However, there are some public holidays which employers are required to provide as days off (if they are on a working day):

  • New Year (1st. Jan)
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascenscion Day
  • Pentacost Monday
  • Christmas Day (25th of Dec)
  • Boxing Day (26th of Dec)

Other public holidays which are commonly given as paid time-off are:

  • Kings Day (27th of April)
  • Liberation day (5th of May)

In summary there is the legal minimum amount of paid time-off: public holidays, and additional “company policy” holiday days. The company policy vacation days expire 6 months into the year after the year they were accumulated. The legal minimum days have an expiration date of 5 years after the year of accumulation.

From an HR team’s perspective – everything is much simpler if you just take your leave.

You have more paid days off than you think

There are several types of leave schemes available to employed people in the Netherlands. Depending on the type of leave you take, (sickness, vacation, maternity/paternity, etc) you will be compensated during your time-off accordingly.

But did you know that you still accrue holiday leave during the time you take other forms of leave? For example, if you need to go on sick leave (which is another form of paid time-off in the Netherlands) you will still accrue vacation days even though you are not technically working. This applies to most other forms of paid leave too.

Next time you need to take a longer leave of absence for any reason that is not a vacation, it is worth asking whether these days will be counted as vacation days or not.

All the benefits of an in-house HR team with the knowledge and professionalism of an outsourced team

People are any company’s most important asset – and a positive employee experience can make all the difference towards a business’ success. The benefits a business experiences when employees are properly engaged and satisfied cannot be understated enough – which is why our clients continually choose Octagon Professionals to ease their HR administration responsibilities and implement employee initiatives for their team.

If you would like to learn more about how our HR specialists can help your business succeed in the Netherlands, get in touch with us today.