Hiring staff as an eenmanszaak: what you should know

You are about to hire your first employee as a sole proprietor. You are not the first one: 1.4 million Dutch ‘eenmanszaak’ owners hire staff. How did they deal with issues like trial periods, collective labour agreements (caos), and subsidies?

There is a lot to arrange when you become an employer for the first time. How do you make a smooth transition from entrepreneur to employer? Take a look at the 7 questions the KVK Advice Team is asked most frequently. 

1. Do I have to notify anyone that I am becoming an employer?

Yes, you have to notify the Tax Administration (‘Belastingdienst’) and KVK when you become an employer for the first time. This is what you do: 

  • First, you need to notify the ‘Belastingdienst’ (in Dutch). They will issue a payroll tax number. You need this number, because you have to withhold payroll taxes from your employee’s wages and file payroll tax returns.  
  • Then, you notify KVK that you are hiring staff by filling in this form. That way, if a client requests an extract of your business, the details are correct.  

2. Can I hire staff as an ‘eenmanszaak’? 

Yes, you can hire staff as an eenmanszaak. There is no limit to the number of employees you can hire. Your legal structure does not change. 

Obligations and risks

As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for the business and any debts. If you offer employees an employment contract, you are personally liable for making the salary payments and withholding the wage taxes. To avoid personal financial problems, find out what the obligations and risks of hiring staff are. Calculate the cost of hiring an employee, so you know that you can afford to.  

3. How do I know whether a cao applies to my business? 

Employers’ and employees’ organisations agree on wages and other employment conditions in a collective labour agreement: a cao. Caos apply to specific businesses or business sectors. You have to follow the agreements laid down in a cao in these cases:

  • If you have agreed upon the cao with the unions (‘vakbonden’) yourself. 
  • If you are a member of an employers’ organisation that has drawn up a cao.
  • If the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) has declared a cao binding for your business sector.

Find a cao 

You can find a list of active caos (in Dutch) on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Use it to find out if a cao applies to your business. 

Hard to find staff? Use these tips

Finding staff is a challenge at the moment. But it is not impossible, according to experts and fellow entrepreneurs. For example, you could try Open Hiring, or recruit foreign personnel. 

4. What do I put in an employment contract? 

You put down the arrangements you agree on with your employee in an employment contract. The most common employment conditions are:

Cao (collective labour agreements)

The employment conditions are usually also part of a cao. If the cao and the employment contract contradict each other, the cao is leading. You can make additional arrangements, for instance for travel costs or bonuses. 

No cao

Is there no cao that applies to your business sector? Then draw up the employment conditions with your staff yourself. Be aware that you have to pay minimum wage and observe the minimum holiday entitlement, among other legal provisions for employment conditions.  

5. How long can a trial period be?

When you agree on an employment contract of 6 months or more, you can set a trial period. During this period, you can get to know each other. Both you and your employee can immediately end the contract during this period. A trial period only applies when you put it down in writing. It is not required. 
Maximum trial period duration:

  • For temporary contracts of up to 2 years or contracts without an end date: 1 month. 
  • For permanent contracts or temporary contracts of over 2 years: 2 months. 
  • For a contract of less than 6 months: no trial period is allowed.

Read more about the different types of employment contract (in Dutch).

Determine your management style

Your management style is how you manage your employees. How do you motivate and stimulate them, so you all work towards the same goal? Professor Kodden warns you about six pitfalls to avoid, if you want to hang on to your staff

6. Can I hire foreign staff?

Yes, you can hire foreign staff. It may be hard to find suitable employees in the Netherlands due to personnel shortage; or perhaps you do a lot of business with a certain country, and want to hire an employee from there. 
If you do, you have to reckon with additional obligations and regulations. For one, you do have to try and find staff inside the EU first, before you look beyond European borders. And you will probably need to apply for a work permit from UWV. 

7. Can I hire personnel with a subsidy or scheme? 

Yes, there are several subsidies and schemes for hiring personnel. For example: you may be able to make use of the Labour costs compensation scheme (LKV) or the Low-income benefit (LIV) when you hire interns, elderly employees of over 56, or disabled employees.
You can also employ a person with a UWV benefit. You may offer this person a trial placement of 2 months with continued benefits. During this period, you do not pay wages. If both parties are satisfied, you can offer the employee an employment contract after the trial placement.  
Read more about subsidies and allowances for employers.

Starting as an employer

In the video series ‘Beginnende Bazen’ (starting as an employer), 3 entrepreneurs share their experiences with hiring a first employee. In the third episode, they give tips for a smooth hiring process. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles available.

Tips for starting employers | Beginnende Bazen