Currently, everyone is experiencing the effects of the Coronavirus, be it at work or in your education. Luckily you still have rights, which guarantee, for example, that your pay will not be interrupted or that you do not have to work in unsafe conditions. Unfortunately, many workers and students are not aware of their rights. That is why we decided to publish a summary of the relevant rights of students and workers regarding the Coronacrisis. However, some rights fall short. That was already the case, but during this public health crisis, it becomes even more problematic. We will explain not only what your rights are but also in what important cases the law does not suffice and what you can do about it.
Working students have the same rights as other workers when it comes to their job. These rights will be explained below. There are some other rules that apply to their studies as well.
The ‘BSA’ will be abandoned for this year. BSA stands for ‘Binding Negative Study Commendation’ which is a very misleading term for the fact that if you do not pass enough exams during your first year, you will be kicked out and banned from your education. Luckily, this rule will be abandoned for this year. Next year you still have to pass the exams that are required for the first year BSA.
You will be able to loan extra money from the Dutch government (DUO). You can apply for this on the website of DUO: www.duo.nl. For foreign students, this is not as straightforward since there are specific conditions for when you can use the Dutch system of student loans. These are explained here: duo.nl/particulier/student-finance/eligibility.jsp
Students need more support. Companies that lose revenue because of government measures against the spread of the Coronavirus will get compensated for their losses. Students who do not pass one or more exams, do not get back their tuition fees. They will certainly not be compensated for losing half of the education year. That translate into half a year delay to start your career or at least get a full-time job that pays the bills.
That is why CJB demands that all tuition payments will be stopped immediately and for all levels of education (MBO to university). Furthermore, we demand that everybody gets back the tuition that they paid for the months of February and March. Do you agree with this? Then contact us so that we can demand this together.
We will first explain the rights that all workers have, regardless of their specific job or contract, be it zero hours or forty hours, permanent or temporary, young or old. More detailed information (in Dutch) can be found on the website of the trade union FNV: www.fnv.nl/corona. The google translate plugin that some web-browsers provide works to get some idea what is talked about at least, but feel free to contact us if you have questions.
Important: if you do not feel well your boss can NOT force you to come to work. Call in sick and isolate yourself if you have one of these symptoms: sneezing, stuffed nose, coughing, sore throat or fever (above 37.5 degrees celsius).
Everyone, including someone with a zero-hour contract, is entitled to continued payment of wages for illness. An exception can only be made in the first six months of your job, but this must be explicitly stated in your contract (“exclusion from continued payment of wages”). That means that if you report as being ill because of e.g. a runny nose, as stipulated by the Coronavirus measures, your employer must continue to pay your wages. But be aware: the employer is allowed to use ‘waiting days’ (wachtdagen). That means that the first, and sometimes even the second, day of sickness is unpaid. Afterwards, sick-pay is not 100% of your salary. By law, only 70% is mandatory, with a minimum of the national minimum wage. But in many collective labor agreements (‘CAO’ in Dutch) there are additional regulations about this which increase the percentage. Still, there is a financial incentive to keep working when sick. This is unacceptable in such a situation.
The CJB therefore demands sick-pay of 100% (of the wage) and a ban on ‘waiting days.’ As long as workers go to work sick because they cannot afford to stay home, we will not solve this crisis! We call on all workers to bring this up with their boss. We call on the unions to make an even stronger commitment to politics and to fully support workers who want to take action!
Your boss can not force you to take vacation days, even if there is no work for you. Your wage has to be paid. The government made a temporary emergency fund to save jobs: ‘NOW’ in Dutch (Temporary Emergency Measure Bridging for Retention of Work) which compensates companies for losses if they have to pay workers who have nothing to do.
If you are unable to go to work due to government measures, for example shut-downs in public transport or childcare, your boss still has to pay 100% of your wage. This is called ‘emergency pay’ (‘calamiteitenverlof’ in Dutch). But be aware: this emergency pay is only for short term situations and cannot be used for longer than a couple of hours, maybe days, depending on the situation. In the meantime, you have to arrange a solution, for example, alternative care or transport.
Your boss is not allowed to keep any kind of medical information about you. For example, it is forbidden to check your temperature. You are allowed to refuse this and it should not be a reason to send you home.
Unfortunately, your duty to your work does not change. Even if you fall under the risk groups (old age, pre-existing diseases) or you care for friends or family members in risk groups, you are still obliged to show up to work. This is very bad! You can try to get permission to work from home if you believe that it is technically possible. If your boss does not cooperate, get advice from the FNV about possibilities to enforce this together with your colleagues. The CJB is also ready to help you with this. You can also try to get an exception through a consultation with the company doctor, but the chance of success is limited. We therefore call on all workers to show solidarity with the vulnerable people in our society.
Do not accept this unnecessary danger and stand up for paid leave for all at-risk workers! Again, you can do this by talking to your boss, putting pressure on him collectively (with your co-workers) and also through political action. The FNV is a good place to look for support with this and the CJB is also ready to help you (no membership required).
You can still be fired if there is no more work for you. You are then simply entitled to severance pay and unemployment benefits (WW) which is usually higher than social assistance. With the NOW, the intention is that bosses will keep everyone employed because they can get subsidies for the salaries (labor costs) if their profit decreases. An employer can make use of this subsidy only if no worker is fired during the period of receiving the subsidy. Unfortunately, not extending contracts and no longer using temp agency workers or on-call workers (with zero-hour contracts), does not count as being fired. In other words, employers can still get the subsidy even if they drop flex-workers. As a result, many young people who finance their studies, with a flexible job, will thus lose their income.
Therefore, the CJB demands that flex workers also have to be retained and paid if a company receives the NOW subsidy. Did you lose your job? Then request WW directly. But also share your story on social media (and tag the unions) and speak up! The more stories that emerge, the greater the pressure on the government and employers to provide a solution.
The list of crucial jobs is too long to be posted here completely and can still be adjusted if the circumstances ask for it. That is why we’ll just add the link to the full list here: www.rijksover-heid.nl/onderwerpen/coronavirus-covid-19/veelgestelde-vragen-over-coronavirus-en-kinderopvang/cruciale-beroepen If your job is a crucial one, then there is an emergency daycare service for your kids, even if you usually don’t make use of daycare. If there is only one parent with a crucial job, in a family with two parents, then the other parent is expected to take care of the kids. However, this is not a strict rule and the other parent can also ask daycare centers for help.
But there is another side to this. You are still expected to go to work even if you have mild symptoms. Your work is apparently more important than ensuring the highest possible protection from infections for you and your colleagues. Here’s how it works. Generally, everybody has to stay home if they experience one of the symptoms such as a running nose, sore throat, coughing, or higher temperatures (37.5 to 38 degrees Celsius). In your case, you have to have at least higher temperatures in combination with one of the other symptoms. Only then you are allowed to call in sick. If you’re in doubt, call your employer or company doctor!
What is a safe workspace?
Your boss has to ensure that you have a safe workspace if you are unable to work from home. A safe workspace is a space where the advice of the government and the RIVM are being followed, and where the risk of infection is kept to a minimum. Some possible measures are:
- Distributing working times so that fewer people work together at the same time
- Markings on the floor to keep enough distance
- Additional hygiene products
- Cleaning protocols to ensure that tools are cleaned before and after usage
- Getting time to wash your hands every 30 minutes
- Allowing fewer workers or customers to avoid overcrowding
Is your workspace unsafe? Get in contact with your boss directly. If your boss doesn’t listen, take collective action with your colleagues. In that case, it is a good idea to ask the FNV for advice. The CJB can also help you with this in terms of strategy and approach and also to illustrate how the union can help you. Your employer has to provide you with certain guidelines and materials when you work from home. These are mainly concerned with ergonomic matters, such as sitting upright. Since so many people suddenly have to work from home, these work environments are not closely monitored. In any case, your boss must provide the necessary materials to do your work, for example for a good working laptop. In principle you are also entitled to a keyboard and a mouse.
Rights of migrant workers
Migrant workers have the same rights as other workers, as described above. They can also find useful information on the government website in the following languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, Papiamento, Papiamentu, Polish, and Turkish. Here is the link: www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/publi-caties/2020/03/14/coronavirus-communicatiemiddelen-preventie-en-publieksvragen-anderstalig
Another topic that is relevant for migrant workers is whether or not they have a health insurance card. Your boss is allowed to sign you up for health insurance and take the costs off of your salary. But in that case, you then have to be provided with a health insurance card.
Congratulations, now you are more prepared to face this situation.
What to do next? Educate your friends, family, colleagues and coworkers about their rights during this time.
Are you a student? Join CJB in demanding that:
- all tuition payments be stopped immediately
- everybody gets back the tuition that they paid for the months of February and March
Are you a worker? Join CJB in demanding:
- sick-pay of 100% (of the wage) and a ban on ‘waiting days’
- workers form at-risk groups get paid leave
- employers receiving the NOW subsidy do not cut flex jobs
- If you do not feel well your boss can not force you to come to work, call in sick
- Your boss can not force you to take vacation days, even if there is no work for you
- Do not accept unnecessary danger, such as unsafe workplace, and stand up for paid leave for all at-risk workers by:
-talking to your boss
-putting pressure on him collectively (with your co-workers)
-through political action