Illegal employment

Supervision of the Foreign Nationals Employment Act (Illegal employment)

Valid work permit

Allowing illegal employees to work takes place at the expense of legal workers. It makes it more difficult for legal workers to find work. This can also result in legal workers being unable to find any work and becoming dependent on unemployment benefits. Moreover, illegal employees are often underpaid, their working conditions and accommodation are often below par and employers often evade paying social security contributions and payroll taxes for them.

This leads to unfair competition with bonafide employers, which is socially very undesirable. That is why the Foreign Nationals Employment Act (Wav) expressly prohibits employers and private individuals to employ foreigners who do not have free access to the Dutch labour market without a valid work permit.

During checks, the Netherlands Labour Authority inspectors ask the people present at the work location to identify themselves. In doing so they establish whether the employers or private individuals must hold work permits for these employees. If this is the case, the Netherlands Labour Authority will check whether these permits are indeed present. If the permits cannot be produced, this constitutes illegal employment, which is a serious violation of the Act and punishable with severe fines: € 8,000 for each illegal employee. Private individuals have to pay € 4,000 for each illegal employee.

Obligation to co-operate

The ‘Obligation to co-operate’ is included in the Foreign Nationals Employment Act. This requires employers to co-operate in establishing the identity of their employees. If this co-operation is not forthcoming, the Netherlands Labour Authority can impose a fine equal to the fine for illegal employment.

Co-operation in intervention teams

Many checks are performed by so-called intervention teams. In these cases the Netherlands Labour Authority works in a team with different partners; for example with the Police, the Institute for Employee Benefit Schemes (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UWV), the municipalities or the tax and customs administration. In addition to the search for illegal employment, inspectors also check for fraud (such as undeclared work) and illegality. Because the fines for these offences are cumulative, this can result in a total fine even higher than the fines mentioned above.


The Netherlands Labour Authority also investigates tips from third parties who report violations of the Foreign Nationals Employment Act.

Exploitation and human trafficking

The Netherlands Labour Authority has a role in detecting exploitation and human trafficking. When people are forced to work in unsafe situations, are paid too little, or must work for too many hours on end, they are being exploited. If this is accompanied by coercion or is the result of misleading, it may be a case of human trafficking.

There may be a case of exploitation or human trafficking if an employee, for example:

  • is required to do dangerous and unhealthy work;
  • is not in possession of his own passport;
  • is being abused, blackmailed or threatened;
  • must repay a high debt to the employer;
  • does not have access to his own bank account;
  • lives on commercial premises;
  • does not know the address of where he lives.

Human trafficking and exploitation occur in all sectors and are not limited to the prostitution industry. Where possible, the Netherlands Labour Authority herself takes action. It also passes on indications of exploitation and human trafficking to other services, such as the Social Information and Investigation Service and the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Centre CoMensha.

Victims can also address the Coordination Centre directly:

If you are being underpaid, or are working under bad conditions, you can also make a complaint to the Netherlands Labour Authority.