Long awaited freelance insurance plans run into opposition
The government is likely to run into a lot of resistance with its plans to introduce compulsory invalidity insurance for the country’s 1.2 million freelancers.
Freelancer association ZZP Nederland has described social affairs minister Karien van Gennip’s plans as ‘unnecessary and unrealistic’ and labour market experts also suggest the measure will be difficult to implement.
Research by freelance organisations in the Netherlands suggest up to 80% oppose measures to bring in compulsory insurance. And a petition launched to ‘say no’ has already been signed over 20,000 times.
‘There is little support for the measure and this could make it difficult for the minister,’ Tilburg labour law market professor Ton Wilthagen told news website Nu.nl.
Van Gennip’s plan is one of a string of reforms ministers want to introduce to reduce sham self-employment and make the current benefit system more sustainable. Currently only around 20% of people classified as self-employed have any form of insurance to cover them financially if they become unable to work.
Self-employment has surged in recent years, particularly in education, healthcare and the construction industry. In addition, unions want to see platform-based agencies employ staff on formal contracts rather than hire them in as freelancers with no benefits.
As yet, details about how the insurance system will work are sketchy. The scheme will be administered by the benefits agency UWV and will include an opt out clause for people who can show they have appropriate cover. They may, however, have to pay a ‘solidarity fee’ to help finance the state-run system.
Officials suggest the premiums could be some 8% of income up to a maximum and that the payments would kick in after a year. The payment itself would be maximized at minimum wage level, or just below €2,000 a month pre tax.
Charles Verhoef, chairman of Zelfstandigen Bouw, the construction industry association for freelancers, told Nu.nl he did not think the plan would work, and that it will make freelancers more expensive to hire in.
‘We are not against compulsory insurance per se, but let freelancers decide for themselves who to insure themselves with,’ he said. ‘The cabinet should focus on the conditions which freelancers have to meet.’
‘There are enough affordable alternatives out there,’ he said. ‘The compulsory insurance is going to cost a freelancer around €200 a month for a benefit the equivalent of basic welfare. That is not achieving anything.’
The government’s scheme will not come into effect before 2027 at the earliest. The plan to introduce the insurance was launched in 2019 as part of the government’s package of pension reforms, which have also not yet come into effect.
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