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Improving the boardroom gender balance: new rules in the Netherlands

Written by
Bronsgeest Deur Advocaten, leading law firm in the Netherlands specialised in HR and employment law.
A new legal amendment approved by the Dutch Senate will enforce more balanced ratios of men and women in the top ranks of large companies and introduce reporting requirements on whether this is achieved.

The Dutch Senate has approved an amendment to the law enforcing a more balanced ratio of men and women in the top ranks of large companies. A bill introduced by caretaker Minister Dekker (Minister for Legal Protection) and Minister Van Engelshoven (Minister for Emancipation) was adopted with 49 votes in favour out of 75 seats.

The bill requires large public and private limited companies to publish ‘appropriate and ambitious targets’ for the ratio of men to women on boards of directors, supervisory boards, and in the highest echelons of management. These must be reported to the Social Economic Council (SER). If targets are not met, an explanation of the reasons for this must be provided.

Balanced composition also means that the supervisory board of a listed company should consist of at least one third men and one third women. This applies to new appointments and any new appointment in violation of this rule will be null and void. However, this does not affect the validity of the decision-making process.

The idea behind the two amendments is that equality of opportunity will be increased, and that diversity leads to better decisions and thus better company results. The law will be evaluated after five years to see if expectations have been met. It is expected that the change in the law will take effect on 1 January 2022 and will remain in force for a limited period of eight years.

Christine Daniels
Associate - Netherlands
Bronsgeest Deur Advocaten