The Netherlands Will Make Working From Home A Legal Right

With the pandemic came a new model of working life, as many of us traded the office space for a home desk. Now, those in the Netherlands are taking steps to making working from home a legal right.

If there was one thing to emerge from the global pandemic, it was the opportunity to assess our current working routine and lifestyle. Where many of us had come to embrace the daily grind and hustle culture, wearing the phrase “I’m too busy” like a badge of honour, the pandemic offered a rare moment of pause and reflection. Suddenly, we realised just how important our daily lifestyle is when it comes to our health and wellbeing. The thought of trading an office space for a home desk may have presented challenges at the start, but as we adjusted to days free of a morning commute and office attire, the idea of ever returning was one we wouldn’t dare entertain. Now, it appears that those in the Netherlands are taking matters a step further, even going so far as to make working from home a legal right. 

According to reports, the Dutch parliament’s lower house has since passed legislation that would make working from home a legal right. Under the guidelines, it’s suggested that the onus will be shifted to employers to only reject work from home requests with a valid reason. Should the legislation be approved by the Senate, the Netherlands will become one of the first countries in the world to issue remote working flexibility a place within its law. It was introduced by Steven van Weyenberg and Senna Maatoug, who said the legislation has already gone on to receive widespread support. 

The work from home bill reflects an amendment to the country’s Flexible Working Act 2015, which had previously given workers the opportunity to request changes in the number of hours worked, their work schedule and place of work. New legislation will now mean that employers have to consider work from home requests from employees and, should they deny such requests, valid reasons will need to be given. 

It marks an incredible shift in working conditions, which have already seen greater flexibility in the Netherlands even prior to the pandemic. As Women’s Agenda reports, “According to Eurostat, 14 per cent of workers in the Netherlands worked from home two years before the pandemic.” 

It’s a far cry from current working conditions here in Australia, where employers are urging workers to return to the office. Despite rising cases of Covid-19 and influenza that have placed greater demands on health care workers and hospitals this winter, major businesses across Australia continue to ignore calls from the government health officers to encourage employees to work from home. Rather, they want to see the return of office culture. 

But it appears Australia isn’t alone in its drive to see a return to normalcy, particularly as it applies to working conditions. In the United States, Elon Musk made headlines earlier this month after issuing an ultimatum to staff at Tesla that they must return to the office 40 hours per week, or leave their jobs. Certainly, it seems like the Netherlands are on track to not only see greater improvements to working conditions, but greater productivity from workers too as they are afforded the flexibility to ensure the work day best suits their lifestyle. 

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