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A year ago, I fled from my hometown Kharkiv in Ukraine to the Netherlands to escape the Russian invasion. I had to leave everything behind: my new apartment, my friends and especially my parents. They insisted I go because I’m a young woman and the invaders are ruthless. My parents chose to stay and defend the country against the aggressors.
In the Netherlands, I was taken care of by an organization that put me in touch with very nice people who had a guesthouse in the back of their garden. Because I’d grown accustomed to working from home as an IT professional during COVID, I thought I could easily continue my job from there. Due to all the stress from the war, however, I found it increasingly hard, and eventually, I resigned. I decided that it would be better for me to find an employer in the Netherlands, get to know more people here and push my professional boundaries.
After polishing my resume and Linkedin profile, my job hunt progressed very well. I was quickly invited to multiple interviews. Last week, after great conversations with a young internet company, I received an offer to come and work there. A couple of days ago, they sent me the contract and the collective labor agreement.
Unfortunately, there are a few things about the contract that are quite disturbing to me. For example, it contains a ban on doing freelance work without the employer’s permission, under penalty of a large fine. Is this common in the Netherlands? Do they just want to know if I’m working with someone else and does it only apply if I sign a contract with others? I want to work for a company full-time, but I’d also like to do this one freelance project in my spare time. Should I then tell them about it? If I work on a project outside of working hours, isn’t that my own business?
The contract also mentions an exceptionally long notice period of two months. Is that allowed? In Ukraine, it’s two weeks. If I ever decide to choose another company, I’ll first have to stay with them for another two months! Can I request the contract be amended?
The headhunter answers:
It’s very good to see that there are so many great opportunities for you and I can well imagine your choice overload. A notice period of two months is indeed long but in accordance with the collective labor agreement. Do note that this longer notice period also protects you. It gives you time to look elsewhere upon termination by the employer and it gives the employer some assurance that you can finish your projects.
What is not stated in the contract, but is relevant in this context, is that in the Netherlands, an employer can’t just terminate a contract. They need a good reason or permission from the Dutch government agency for employee insurance UWV to dismiss you. And when you want to start a new job, you can always ask for a shorter notice period. Whether this request is granted, depends on the circumstances.
You have to ask yourself what you really want. If you want to work for this company, you have to be open about the freelance project. I can imagine that they won’t be very thrilled about it. They would rather have you commit to them 100 percent. If you want to do the project no matter the cost, it may mean that they’ll forgo hiring you.