Collective labour agreements

In a collective labour agreement (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst, cao), you will find agreements about terms and conditions of employment. Employers and employees have made and adopted these agreements together.

Terms and conditions of employment

In a collective labour agreement, there are agreements about terms and conditions of employment, such as salary, allowances and bonuses, payment in the event of overtime, working hours, probationary period, notice period, annual leave and/or pension. It can also include information about internship pay or trainee allowances and minimum rates for self-employed professionals.

The statutory duty to protect employees against aggression, (sexual) intimidation, discrimination and bullying is mentioned in many collective labour agreements. If this is not included in your collective labour agreement, the law continues to apply, of course, and you can rely on the Working Conditions Act, the equal treatment legislation or other legislation in the field of social safety.

The personal agreements that you make with your employer can be found in your employment contract. If the agreements in your employment contract do not correspond with those in the collective labour agreement, then the collective labour agreement applies.

For and by whom?

Collective labour agreements are concluded between employers and employees; or between employers’ organisations and trade unions. As an employee, you can join a trade union in order to exert influence. They represent the interests of workers.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of collective labour agreements: sectoral collective labour agreements and company collective labour agreements. Sectoral collective labour agreements apply to affiliated employers in a particular sector. If this collective labour agreement is declared universally applicable, the collective labour agreement, or parts thereof, will apply to anyone who works in this sector. This applies, for example, to the Collective Labour Agreement for Theatre and Dance (Cao Toneel en Dans) and the Collective Labour Agreement for Architectural Firms (Cao Architectenbureaus). This means, therefore, that as soon as you start a company or an architectural firm, you are automatically bound by the rights and duties in the collective labour agreement concerned. A company collective labour agreement applies to the organisation in question.

You will find the collective labour agreements in the arts and culture sector at the bottom of this page.

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Representative bodies


There is standard legislation for terms and conditions of employment. These are described in the Dutch Civil Code, and the Minimum Wage and Minimum Holiday Allowance Act. The collective labour agreement may not be in conflict with that. A collective labour agreement therefore provides better agreements about the terms and conditions of employment, in general, than prescribed by law.

Source of valuable information

A collective labour agreement is often public and easy to inspect, especially if it applies to an entire sector. A collective labour agreement can be a source of valuable information! Are you entering into salary negotiations? In that case, look up in which scale and salary scale point you belong in advance, then you will also know what a realistic amount is to negotiate over. Are you a self-employed professional? Look up what you should earn in salaried employment and add 40% or 50% to that. An increasing number of collective labour agreements also apply such a rule for self-employed professionals. A collective labour agreement is also great to use if you have to make a project budget and want to include staff therein. Look up what an appropriate salary would be for your project team members. Will you be hiring someone yourself or will you be taking on staff? Make an appropriate proposal.