How does parental leave in the Netherlands work?

We walk you through what it looks like.

Man holding a baby

If you’re looking to hire in the Netherlands or just added a new team member working out of the “country of many names,” you need to understand that parental leave is an integral part of the Dutch employment law.

Even though it still isn’t as generous as the UK, where you can get as much as 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave.

Work-life balance is essential to the average Dutch citizen—the 2019 OECD Better Life Index rates the Netherlands as the best country in the world for optimal work-life balance.

In this guide, we walk you through the basics of parental leave in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and explain how you can stay on the right side of the law. We also point you to resources that can help if you have more questions so you can get going on your new international hire.

The basics of parental leave in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has had a parental leave policy in force since 1991. But the legislation has gone through some changes between then and now.

The initial iteration of the leave act was an unpaid six-month part-time parental leave for employees. Due to low uptake by parents, the legislation changed to:

  • A 26-week part-time leave Dutch employees could access over six years in 1995
  • This was further extended by another two years (eight years in total) by 1996

By 2001, the government streamlined the leave policy to:

  • A 16-week paid maternity leave
  • Two days paid paternity leave
  • And an unpaid parental leave for a maximum of 26 weeks on a part-time basis over eight years (the employer can reject this as it isn’t a statutory right)

In the case of an adoption, parents can take up to six weeks of leave. But must give their employee a three-week notice before the start of the vacation. They are at liberty to take the break all at once or spread it out.

Parents can apply for an adoption allowance from the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV)and receive 100% of their salary—set at a maximum of €4,660.59 gross monthly.

All this still hasn’t increased the number of parents who access parental leave. And in a move to encourage more parents to take parental leave, the Dutch government wants to introduce a new regulation that comes into effect on August 2, 2022.

The new regulation guarantees all parents at least nine weeks of paid parental leave. The government pays 70% of the parent’s wages—reimbursable if taken during the first 12 months after childbirth. Parents are also guaranteed 17 weeks of unpaid parental leave, for a total of 26 weeks.

Parents must meet the following conditions to claim parental leave in the Netherlands:

  • Individuals must live or work (self-employment counts) in the Netherlands
  • Individuals must insure themselves under the Health Care Insurance Act (ZVW).

How long is maternity leave in the Netherlands?

Graphic that says "Length of maternity leave in the Netherlands"

Let’s get into the nuts-and-bolts of maternity leave the Dutch way.

According to the Dutch maternity leave law, the mother is entitled to 16 weeks of leave. The law splits it into a four to six-week leave—called pregnancy leave—taken before delivery and a 10-12 week leave—called maternity leave—taken after childbirth.

If the baby is born before the due date, the mother starts her 16 weeks leave a day after birth. The same applies if the mother gives birth after her due date.

In the event of multiple births, the policy extends the maternity leave period by four weeks. If the baby is hospitalized immediately after delivery for any reason, maternity leave starts a day after the doctors discharge the mother and baby from the hospital.

Is maternity leave in the Netherlands paid?


Both the pregnancy leave and maternity leave periods are 100% paid.

The Dutch law expects that employees get their full salary—capped at €219.28 per day. It is taxable. If the mother takes the nine-week parental leave during the first year after birth, they get 50% of their salary.

If the employee falls ill before the pregnancy leave, they get a sickness benefit that equals their salary. And if they can’t work at the end of their maternity leave due to the pregnancy, they receive the same sickness benefit for up to 104 weeks.

Self-employed mothers get a benefit from the Maternity Benefit Scheme for the Self Employed. The amount paid depends on the total income for the year before childbirth and must not exceed the minimum wage.

How long is paternity leave in the Netherlands?

Graphic that says "Length of paternity leave in the Netherlands"

Fathers or partners (including same-sex partners) are entitled to a paid full work week (five days) paternity leave after childbirth. The father or partner must take the leave within four weeks of delivery. 

They can access an additional unpaid five-week paternity leave within the first six months of childbirth. They also have the option of spreading the leave period over those six months instead of taking it at a swoop.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Before the new regulations, the policy granted partners a five working day leave. And if you go back to the early 2000s, fathers or partners only had a two-day paid paternity leave.

Is paternity leave in the Netherlands paid?

During the first five days of paternity leave, employers pay employees their full pay.

If the father or partner takes up the additional unpaid five-week leave, they can claim benefits from the UWV pegged at 70% of their standard pay. They are also entitled to a nine-week paid parental leave—50% paid.

Where can I go if I have more questions about parental leave in the Netherlands when hiring employees?

If you need more information on leave schemes in the Netherlands, the government’s business website is a great place to start.

They do an excellent job of explaining every aspect of their leave policy. You can also contact the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency if you would rather speak to a human. The UWV also has an employee portal for employers who would instead process issues such as reporting a leave of absence or a pregnancy.

Another option worth exploring is the European Union’s website.

If this all sounds overwhelming, Oyster can take away all the regulatory headaches of hiring an international hire. Like an EOR, Oyster facilitates cross-border employment on behalf of your company but with the added benefit of being fully automated, self-serve, and free to start. In addition to compliant, local contracts, Oyster manages payroll and benefits for your team around the world, empowering you to truly care for your team members, regardless of their location.

That way, your people leaders can focus on what matters most—your employees.

Final thoughts

Setting up a parental leave policy is beneficial to employers and employees alike. 

For employees, they can take some time off work to recuperate from the rigors of pregnancy, bond with the newborn, or take care of their mental health. For employers, it’s a great way to keep employees motivated and fired up. It’s also an incentive to attract and recruit top talent.

Running a consistent distributed benefit program can sometimes be overwhelming. You can consider getting a team of global HR experts to manage the convoluted laws and regulations that come with a distributed benefits program.

To learn more about how to hire and pay employees in the Netherlands, check out this global hiring guide.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving global workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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