The burden caused by labour laws in the Netherlands has become so extreme that employers deserve to be protected. This is the theme of the inaugural lecture to be delivered by Professor of Labour Law, Saskia Peters, at the University of Groningen on Tuesday 17 November. ‘The Cabinet should take a long, hard look at the obligations put on employers by current employment contracts. Not only in the interests of entrepreneurs, but also for the sake of employees and the countless people who now have practically no chance of being offered a contract of employment.’
Employers in the Netherlands are complaining en masse about the heavy burden caused by the current labour laws. The obligation to continue paying employees on sick leave for two years is putting a particular strain on the business sector. According to the Dutch Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MKB Nederland) there is currently an imbalance between employers and employees. ‘Even the Dutch legislator implicitly accepts that the burden has become too large’, says Peters. But she is not happy with the government ’ s response.
‘The Cabinet is not tackling the root of the problem. It is simply implementing a patchwork of exceptions to protect certain groups of employers it assumes to be vulnerable. At the same time, a whole collection of repairs and new rules are being introduced to protect ‘well-intentioned’ entrepreneurs from unfair competition from fellow-entrepreneurs, who have already managed to get round labour laws. By introducing these piecemeal measures, the powers-that-be in The Hague are not only failing employers, but also employees.’
According to Peters, the main cause of the problem is the fact that all kinds of social insurance obligations have been pushed in the employment contract. ‘Over the last few decades, legislators have been fiddling with the knobs marked ‘prevention’, ‘financial incentive’ and ‘activation’ in order to shift the risks relating to social insurance from the collectivity to the employer by means of employment contracts. But they have failed to take the basic rights of employers into account. The extreme burdens ensuing from labour law are restricting entrepreneurs in their entrepreneurial freedom. Especially when the employment contract is burdened by obligations for other reasons than compensation for inequality in labour relations, it is doubtful whether the restriction of the entrepreneurial freedom is sufficiently justified. ’
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