FAQ determining a fee or salary

What is a reasonable rate for the work that you do or have done? This is one of the most frequently asked questions. Look carefully at the guidelines and costs, and properly assess how much time is needed to do the requested work. Observe rules of fair practice and lay down agreements in an employment contract or offer/commission contract.

Salary or fee

If it concerns work in gainful employment, then you are talking about a salary. Negotiations are often about a gross salary: the pay from which taxes and national insurance contributions have not yet been deducted. In addition, you may discuss benefits like a pension, reimbursement of expenses and training. The employee receives a net salary, the employer still pays a percentage of employer’s contributions in addition to the gross salary.

In the case of commissioned work, we are talking about a fee. The party accepting the assignment has to arrange and pay all kinds of insurances himself/herself. With regard to equal pay, the hourly rate for a self-employed person must therefore be considerably higher than the gross pay of an employee.

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What does the collective labour agreement (cao) say?

Collective labour agreements include, among other things, agreements about pay, working hours and pension. They also include something about trainee allowances and minimum rates for self-employed persons sometimes. Even if no collective labour agreement is applicable to the work or the assignment by law, you can find information therein about standard fees.

Collective labour agreements are concluded between employers’ organisations and trade unions. 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 everyone who works in the sector. This applies, for example, to the Collective Labour Agreement for Theatre and Dance (Cao Toneel) and the Collective Labour Agreement for Architectural Firms (Cao Architectenbureaus). A company collective labour agreement applies to the organisation in question.

Guidelines and recommended rates

Trade unions and professional associations sometimes publish recommended rates and guidelines. These are not laid down by law, but following the guidelines is sometimes stipulated as a grant requirement.

It’s not always easy to find clear guidelines for each sector or for each assignment. You should therefore regularly investigate yourself what is reasonable and customary for the work, the sector and the country in which you are working. Ask colleagues or peers, for example, what they ask for similar work.

In the Netherlands, there are, among other things, guidelines for exhibiting visual artists, conductors and composers. The Kunstenbond designed a rate checker for the self-employed. You should also look for other sources: there is also, for example, a film crew fees calculator app. In the US, WAGE publishes fair fees for various disciplines.

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Advice and information

Time and expenses

Whether it concerns a monthly salary, hourly rate or fee: always think about the factors time and costs. If costs have to be incurred, agree who will pay which costs.

How much time is the work expected to take? If it concerns employment: can the work be done in the number of days per week/ the period for which a contract is drawn up? In the case of an assignment for which a fixed amount is agreed: how many hours is the assignment expected to take and how much consultation is also involved? Is the fee divided by the total number of hours reasonable?

The Collective Labour Agreement for Theatre and Dance (applicable until the end of 2021) states that if a self-employed without employees (zzp'er) is assigned to a position that falls under this collective labour agreement where the work situation is almost the same as that of an employee, this collective labour agreement is the basis for the fee. That means that the (hourly) rate that is agreed must at least be equivalent to the salary level associated with the position, plus at least 40%.

The collective labor agreement for architectural offices 2019-2021 has been declared generally binding. This means that the provisions apply to all employers and employees at architectural firms in the Netherlands. A new feature is the so-called "mirror determination" for assignments from architectural firms to contractors. The provision means that a self-employed person for comparable work in comparable working conditions receives at least 150% of an employee's gross hourly wage. This percentage is based on the costs that a self-employed person must incur for professional practice. This also includes a reservation for disability and pension provision.