In the Netherlands, everyone who pays taxes contributes to the Dutch social security system. In return, most people can claim different government benefits, including family benefits, maternity and paternity leave, unemployment benefits, long-term care, sick leave, and disability benefits. These provide a lot of support and security, but they might seem slightly complicated at first. Find out more about what benefits you can claim after moving to the Netherlands.
Your Rights and Benefits
Everyone living in the Netherlands has certain rights and responsibilities. If you are an EU/EEA citizen or you have a residence permit, you usually have the same rights to social security benefits as Dutch nationals. They also depend on the type of work contract you have. In order to receive these benefits, almost everyone is responsible for contributing to the social security system by paying income tax. However, be aware that claiming social security benefits might lead to the withdrawal of your right to reside in the Netherlands.
Social security in the Netherlands is divided into two groups: national insurance and employee insurance. There are four national insurance schemes: child benefit (AKW), old-age pension (AOW), survivor benefit (Anw), and the Long-term Care Act (Wlz). Employee insurance, on the other hand, covers three additional areas: unemployment benefits (WW), sick leave (Ziektewet), and disability benefits (WIA), each of which is detailed individually below.
National insurance (volksverzekeringen) is required by everyone living in the Netherlands. It covers four different social benefits and is managed by the Sociale Verzekeringbank (SVB). The first of these benefits is child benefit (AKW): financial support entitled to anyone with a child or children under 18. Old-age pension (AOW) is the Dutch state pension, which anyone who lives or works in the Netherlands can claim at pension age (67 from 2024 onwards). Survivor benefit (Anw) gives financial support to anyone whose partner has died, and to children who are orphaned. Finally, the Long-term Care Act (Wlz) reimburses care that is not covered by health insurance, for those who need a lot of regular care or support.
Employee Insurance Agency (UWV)
The remaining kinds of benefits are detailed below – these are covered not by national insurance but by employee insurance. The organisation that handles this is called the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). They manage everything related to unemployment, welfare, and extended sick leave, and they can help you in case your job is in danger. If you have a sponsor for your residency permit, note that you can also lose this if you lose your job.
Unemployment Benefit (WW)
The first benefit covered by employee insurance is unemployment benefit. If you lose your job or become partly unemployed in the Netherlands, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits (WW). You can only claim this if you have worked at least 26 out of the 36 last weeks, you are under 65, and you are able to work.
The length of time you receive this benefit depends on how long you were previously employed in the Netherlands. Each year that you worked entitles you to one month's benefits. These can last for at least three months and up to a maximum of 38 months. The monthly amount is calculated based on your salary during the last year of employment. You receive 75% of this amount for the first two months of benefits, and then 70% after that.
Calculate what unemployment benefits you can receive at the UWV website or apply now (both available in Dutch).
Sick Leave (Ziektewet)
The second employee insurance benefit is sick leave. This is not the same as sick days when you take a day or two off during a temporary illness. Check your contract to find out if your employer will still pay you as normal for these days. There is no maximum amount of sick days you can take, but if you take many during the year, you might have to talk to human resources to explain why you are ill so often.
On the other hand, sick leave is for longer-term illness. For example, a major physical injury, burnout, or other mental health reasons that may prevent you from working. During this time, your employer must pay you 70% of your salary for a maximum of two years. You don't have to apply for this yourself.
Find out more at the UWV website (in Dutch).
Disability Benefit (WIA)
Finally, the third element of employee insurance is disability or invalidity benefit (WIA). This is for people who are unable to work (or earn much less) long term due to illness or disability. After two years of sickness benefit, if you are still unable to work, or you are only able to earn 65% or less of your previous income, then you may be able to claim WIA.
There are two kinds of disability benefits: the Return to Work for Partially Disabled Persons (Werkhervatting Gedeeltelijk Arbeidsgeschikten, WGA) and Full Invalidity Benefit Regulations (Inkomensvoorziening Volledig Arbeidsongeschikten, IVA). Find out more at the UWV website (in Dutch).
Employee Insurance for Freelancers
These benefits are only given to contracted employees. If you are a self-employed person, known as a freelancer or ZZP'er, you do not profit from the same benefits as a regular employee. For this reason, you may want to consider signing up to a private insurance company to receive benefits from a social security fund to cover sickness, unemployment, or disability.