Remember when working from home was just a perk? Not anymore. The Netherlands is working to become the first country to make remote work a legal right. This could set a precedent for other countries, especially within the European Union.
The first step in the process happened when the Dutch parliament’s lower house approved legislation around remote specifications. The law would require employers to consider employees’ requests to work from home, so long as they work in an industry that wouldn’t hinder performance.
The impact of Netherlands work from home legislation
The legislation still needs to be approved by the Dutch senate before it can be made into law. However, even without it being passed into law, some employers may be subject to this new work from home policy. Trade unions, which are an integrated part of the Dutch economy, could create their own terms within a collective labor agreement. This could have a big impact on Dutch employers, with about 20% of Dutch employees as part of a trade union and 80% covered by a labor agreement called Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst (CAO).
Many employers have already adjusted to new remote working environments, so the legislation wouldn’t necessarily result in sweeping changes. Countries like the United Kingdom don’t even see the need to implement a law, considering working from home is already widely accepted. Instead, they’ve implemented legislation for employers to deal with work from home requests in a “reasonable manner.”
Other countries like Spain already have laws in place protecting employees’ rights to work from home. A law passed in September of 2020 gives workers the option to work remotely, depending on their industry. Portugal also took steps to protect workers with regulation in November of 2021 that states employers cannot contact employees outside of regular working hours.
Whether countries want to implement a work from home law like the Netherlands, or a flexible work policy like the U.K., employees have made it clear they want to choose where they work.
3 considerations for employers
With this legislation set to become law in the Netherlands, and the possibilities of other countries following suit, it may be time for employers to consider how such a law would affect their operations. Companies that have already made flexibility part of their strategy and embrace remote-first culture already know this, but here are some of the considerations for employers with this upcoming legislation:
1. Netherlands expansion expectations
Now, businesses shouldn’t allow this legislation to prevent them from operating in the Netherlands. It's certainly an attractive country for international expansion, especially in terms of technology and innovation. Their strategic location offers an excellent infrastructure for trade, featuring the largest port in Europe. Companies can expect a competitive business climate and well-educated workforce when they hire in the Netherlands.
Just a few years ago, work from home was not widely accepted, and many business leaders feared remote work would negatively impact the productivity of their workers. However, with the pandemic forcing many professionals to work from home, this idea was widely debunked: A study done by Deloitte discovered that productivity actually increased for remote workers.
With that said, the work from home legislation should have little-to-no impact on an employer's ability to operate successfully.
2. Global workforce equity considerations
Let’s pretend for a moment that the legislation in the Netherlands is passed and that you have a global workforce. Your company obliges with the new law and allows all employees operating in the Netherlands to work remotely. However, you still require your employees in other countries to work in the office. How will your workforce feel about this? If they know about the Netherlands working from home and still being productive, perhaps they’ll demand equal treatment.
Employees are one of the greatest investments a company makes. And happy employees often means better retention, better talent and better results for the business. More and more companies are empowering employees to decide on a good work-life balance for their individual lifestyles. Instead of waiting for your employees to complain about unequal treatment, perhaps your company should consider a proactive approach. Offering employees the opportunity to work from home, regardless of physical location or country legislation, will help you gain the trust and loyalty of your global workforce.
3. Watching international trends
The world is watching, eagerly anticipating the results of the Netherlands’ work from home legislation. Perhaps other companies are wondering, if it’s important enough to codify in the Netherlands, is it worth considering in every country of operation? Of course, some countries could follow suit with legislation of their own, but there's no reason a business can’t implement such policies without legal intervention.
Remote work is a great opportunity for businesses to create better processes and systems for their teams. Instead of in-person meetings, teams can connect from anywhere with video communication platforms. Instead of managers hovering over employees, workers can use task management tools for accountability. Instead of hoping a strategy works, teams can use advanced data and reporting metrics.
Evolving employment laws
As evidenced by the Netherlands work from home legislation, employment laws are constantly changing. With remote work environments and other issues being raised, governments around the world will be addressing a swath of challenges in the coming years. Companies are responsible for staying up to date on these new laws to ensure they stay compliant within their countries of operation.
Partnering with an employment solutions provider can help your business navigate these evolving global shifts. They can hire fast anytime, anywhere in the world while maintaining proper compliance. As you adjust to these remote working requirements, our global employment solutions can help with hiring, payroll, HR, compliance and more. Contact us to speak to a global advisor today.