Working Conditions Act & Working Hours Act
The Working Conditions Act (Arbowet) and Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet) impose (serious) obligations on the employer in order to protect employees with a view to safe and healthy work. Every professional group has its own risks, both physical and mental. Dancers, for example, run similar risks to top athletes, musicians can sustain hearing damage, professionals in any discipline can suffer from RSI and stress.
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When do the acts apply?
The rules of the Working Conditions Act and Working Hours Act apply to everyone who works under someone else’s authority. In addition to employees, interns, volunteers and temporary workers also fall under these Acts. The Working Conditions Act also applies to students in higher education.
If a self-employed person is working alone, these Acts do not apply. In that sense, you are better protected, therefore, as an employee. As a self-employed person, you will have to deal with these Acts in the following situations:
- The Working Conditions Act: if volunteers (friends), interns or, more generally, persons are working under your authority: in that case you have the same obligations as an employer with regard to the Working Conditions Act;
- The Working Hours Act: this applies to self-employed persons if the safety of third parties is at stake, like with transport.
The Working Conditions Act
The Working Conditions Act is aimed at preventing accidents and occupational illnesses. The employer must map out the risks in a Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RIE), draw up a plan of action and, where necessary, adapt to new insights. There also needs to be a policy in the context of social safety. Like the prevention of discrimination, sexual intimidation, aggression, bullying and violence.
Every company must employ at least one health and safety officer. If the company employs a maximum of 25 employees, the employer is allowed to hold this position themselves. The health and safety officer therefore forms a team, together with the company doctor and other occupational health providers.
The regulations in the Dutch Civil Code determine whether and, if so how, compensation can be claimed following a breach of the Working Conditions Act by the employer, for example in the event of an accident or occupational illness. Legally speaking, this is a lot easier for an employee than a self-employed professional.
The Working Hours Act: exceptions and amendments
Rules are laid down in the Working Hours Act for working hours and rest periods. Exceptions are included herein for certain sectors, as well as specific rules for children, working round the time of a pregnancy and night shifts. If the rules cannot be observed, the employer must seek alternative solutions and, for example, hire extra manpower, or reduce the travel time by offering overnight stays in the vicinity of the location.
The Working Hours Act is based on maximum working hours and minimum rest periods. In this regard, it does not matter for how many employers and/or clients you work those hours. For example, if you also work as a self-employed professional in addition to being employed. Those hours also count! If an employer does not abide by the rules, the employer risks incurring a fine or punishment. That is why it states in a number of collective labour agreements that the employer requires permission for other activities.
The Working Hours Act does not apply to employees who earn more than three times the minimum wage on an annual basis, unless it concerns dangerous work. In addition, performing artists, among others, are excluded from the Working Hours Act.