Work and contracts
What kind of employment relationship do you have?
As soon as you start working for somebody else, also if you are a student, several rules apply. Even if there is no written contract or agreement!
Legally, there are five types of employment relationships:
- Employment contract, you work as an employee
- Commission contract (work to order), you work as an independent supplier (freelance or as a self-employed person)
- Work placement contract, you work as a student trainee
- Volunteer contract, you work as a volunteer
- Agency contract, a special kind of employment contract for an agency temp.
In the case of freelance work, you should find out in adavnce which type of employment relationship exists. This is important to know if you want to apply for benefits after your contract ends. The Working Relationship Declaration (Verklaring Arbeids Relatie, VAR) is very important in this situation. It is not up to you to decide about the legal status of the contract so make sure you have informed yourself well enough. For more information read the section on income and taxes.
Personal contracts and general labour law
Employment contracts protect employees against inappropriate actions by the employer, and they allow employers to specify the work to be done by their staff and to take action if it is not done or is unsatisfactory. Much the same applies to the contracts between independent suppliers and their clients.
Many general rules about employment contracts are enshrined in law. These are usually compulsory measures designed to protect the weaker party, the employee. This means that the employer cannot deviate measures like paying the minimum wage. Even if the employee signs, it is not legal.
But there are also "regulatory" measures which allow some scope for individual arrangements. These include the rules covering secondary benefits such as extra time off, (sometimes) pension schemes and company mobile telephones. Agreements on these matters must be made in writing!
Collective labour agreements
As well as personal contracts, there are also collective labour agreements (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomsten, CAOs) which may apply to your employment relationship. CAOs are agreed between employers' organisations and trade unions. They cover everybody working for an employer which is a member of the signatory organisation. Even within a single sector, more than one CAO may be in force. As collective agreements, they prevent you from negotiating individually on certain aspects of your employment relationship.
Breach of contract
What you can do in the event of a breach of contract is defined in law and in the contract itself, but also depends upon your own position and any legal precedents. In the event of problems, therefore, you should always contact a legal adviser. For example the advisor of your union or professional association. And, as well as the items about contracts listed above, read the article on the legal approach of conflicts in the text on legal disputes.