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Home carer goes to court to demand pension and unemployment benefits

Ms. Kollmann, a home care worker in the Netherlands, is demanding pension and unemployment benefits from the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). An exception in the law means that home carers working for private individuals are not automatically entitled to benefits under social security schemes.

‘A strange situation’, says Emma van der Vos, PhD candidate at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security, Leiden University, on Dutch online news site NOS nieuws. ‘The same rules apply to all people who work in the Netherlands, except for the home carer. The position of these workers is even worse than that of temp workers, and their position is bad as it is.’ According to Van der Vos, this places too much of a burden on those working as a home carer. ‘Generally, people are not good at estimating their own risks and so this is collectively organised for almost everyone. Except for this group. And if you don’t have much money, then you’re happy to get every euro you can earn.’

Ms. Kollmann worked as a home carer for someone who ultimately had to move to a care home. When she wanted to apply for unemployment benefit because she had lost her job, it appeared that she wasn’t entitled to it. Contrary to almost all workers in the Netherlands, people who work by way of the Regeling dienstverlening aan huis (a regulation covering services provided at home) are not automatically entitled to things like social security benefits. They have to make provisions for these themselves. According to Kollmann, many people do this work out of love for their fellow human beings. ‘It’s not work that’s going to make you rich. But you still need to be able to make provisions for the future’.

Shifting the responsibility fully to the home owners is not the solution. Van der Vos: ‘It is feared that people will decide to do the work themselves, so that there’s less work for this group. Or that it would become too complicated and expensive, so that these jobs become black market jobs again’.

Van der Vos therefore argues that the current regulations should be supplemented with a collective pension and insurance system similar to what is currently being considered for all self-employed persons without employees, known as ZZPérs in the Netherlands. ‘By doing so, this group would no longer be unprotected at the bottom of the labour market, and at the same time the work stays affordable and accessible.’

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