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Managing coronavirus: guidance for employers in the Netherlands

Written by
Bronsgeest Deur Advocaten, leading law firm in the Netherlands specialised in HR and employment law.
What should be the approach of Dutch employers towards the Corona virus? In this article you will find information on what an employer can or should do in order to limit the risks of infection. This article was updated on 2 March to reflect new information.  

The employer’s duty of care

Pursuant to their statutory duty of care, employers are obliged to ensure their employees have a safe and healthy (work) environment. An employer would therefore be wise to obtain sufficient information regarding the coronavirus outbreak as well as any (possible) measures taken by the government. Based on that information, employers can respond appropriately to any possible coronavirus outbreak.

The RIVM (the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) has published a number of guidelines on its website to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We would urge employers to monitor the advice issued by the RIVM carefully.

Instructor endorsement following the duty of care employer

Based on the instructor endorsement of the employer, employers can urgently request employees to heed the RIVM guidelines mentioned above. The rules in the GDPR also allow an employer to ask its employees whether they have recently visited a risk area, such as Italy or China. After all, an employer would have to ask this type of question to comply with its statutory obligation to establish a safe and healthy work environment.

Is an employer allowed to have an employee medically tested?

If a suspicion arises that an employee has been infected with the virus, an employer is, not allowed to (medically) test an employee, for example by taking the employee’s temperature, under the law implementing the GDPR in the Netherlands.


Strictly speaking, an employee is entitled to come in for work. However, in the event  of a possible infection with the coronavirus, an employer has urgent justification to send the employee home; to prevent that employee from infecting others, among other reasons.

In principle, an employee may not stay at home on his own initiative for fear of infection, only if there is a well-founded fear of infection.

In the event of an employee’s possible infection, we would recommend employers to send the employee in question home, and request that employee to continue his or her duties from home, provided that the employee has access to an adequate home office that complies with the requirements set out in the Dutch Health and Safety Act. If an adequate home office is not available, the employer may send the employee home without any obligation to work, while of course remaining entitled to full pay and benefits. An employer could impose this type of measure, for example, for the quarantine period, currently set at 14 days. In view of this, it might be advisable for employers to investigate whether employees are able to work from home.

If an employee is actually affected by the coronavirus and is therefore unable to work, he or she is entitled to sickness benefit.

Business trips

As far as business trips are concerned, employers should comply with the travel advice published by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is currently a negative advisory notice in place for travel to China and the northern regions of Italy. Careful consideration must be given to whether trips to those regions are absolutely necessary. Moreover, employees are allowed to refuse to travel to risk areas if the local working conditions do not comply with the regular health and safety requirements under which they usually work.

With regard to employees who are currently in the risk areas because of a business trip or because they are temporarily working in this area on their employer’s orders, it may be advisable to repatriate people, because the situation there is no longer safe.

What if an employee is on holiday and cannot return home because of measures related to the coronavirus? In principle, he or she is not entitled to salary. In this case, the employee could take holiday or unpaid leave. If an employee actually becomes infected with the coronavirus on holiday, he or she will be entitled to sick pay.

Closure of schools

If the schools close and children have to be taken care of, the employee is entitled to continued payment of salary during this so-called ‘emergency leave’. In this short period of time, the employee can arrange alternative childcare. If this is not possible, the employee will need to take leave in consultation with the employer. This is usually unpaid.

Consequences of an employer breaching its duty of care

Employers must be vigilant and active where there is an obvious risk. Employers need to implement an adequate policy aimed at preventing employees from getting infected with the coronavirus. This means employers should take sufficient precautions to protect employees.

If an employee is taken ill while at work because an employer failed to take (timely) precautions, the employer should allow for the possibility that this employee will hold the employer liable for any and all damages incurred or to be incurred in future. It would therefore be wise for employers to take precautionary measures proactively and not wait for any of its employees to potentially become infected with the coronavirus.

Reduced working hours UWV (Employee Insurance Agency)

If an employer is severely affected by the coronavirus and there is temporarily less work, the employer can apply for a reduction in working hours and employees can be eligible for part-time unemployment benefit (WW). It is not possible to apply for this for temporary or on-call workers.



Aimée Peterse
Associate - Netherlands
Bronsgeest Deur Advocaten