Dutch labour law and foreign employees

When is Dutch labour law applicable to your employment contract? In general, all agreements of employees based in the Netherlands whose working activities are performed in or from the Netherlands, are governed by Dutch labour law. Dutch courts generally have jurisdiction over cases concerning employment contracts when working activities are performed in or from the Netherlands.

Companies with no registered office or limited activities in the Netherlands will sometimes offer their employees in the Netherlands employment contracts with choice of law and choice of jurisdiction clauses, preferring (sometimes even exclusively) the employers' native jurisdiction and law. Having to take legal action abroad and under foreign law can obviously be detrimental to the employee. In several situations, Dutch labour law might be applicable to the contract nevertheless.


If the contract is viewed as an employment contract under European law, choice of jurisdiction clauses are only valid under strict circumstances. A contract is viewed as an employee contract when the following requirements are fulfilled:

  • hierarchic structure between employee and employer;

  • a long-lasting connection between employee and employer;

  • a dedicated position in the organization of the employer.

If the agreement between parties is deemed to be an employment contract under European law, standard jurisdiction falls to the country where 'the labour is usually performed'. A choice of jurisdiction clause can only be valid when the clause adds other optional jurisdictions to the standard jurisdiction. If jurisdiction is taken away from the country that serves as the standard option by the clause, the clause is invalid under European law.


A choice of law clause can only be enforced by putting it in writing (i.e. in the employment contract). In general, a choice of law clause is perfectly viable, even if employees are being subjected to a clause that invokes the law of a foreign country. When a contract is deemed to be an employment contract, however, the judge presiding over the case might still need to enforce certain parts of Dutch labour law (so-called 'mandatory provisions'), even if the law of another country is applicable. Mandatory provisions under Dutch law are provisions that can not be deviated from by contract, choice of law clauses of otherwise. Examples of mandatory provisions under Dutch labour law:

  • minimum wages and holiday allowance;

  • statutory fines due to late payment of salaries;

  • obligation to provide the employee with payment slips.