Public Servants (Standardisation of Legal Status) Act (WNRA)



The Public Servants (Standardisation of Legal Status) Act (WNRA) is due to enter into force on 1 January 2020. The principal impact of this Act is that the (legal) status of public servants will be made equal to that of private sector employees from a labour law perspective. The Act stipulates that employees of public universities, who at present still fall under public service law, will in future also fall under the labour law of the Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek or BW). This is already the case for the employees of the VU Amsterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen and Tilburg University. 


Approach for universities

The introduction of the WNRA will require various laws, regulations and agreements to be amended, including the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) for Dutch Universities. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has prepared the sector for the introduction of the act in consultation with the universities and employees' organisations. Various groups of experts have been working together to identify what would be necessary to ensure our sector would be compliant with the WNRA. Together, these experts representing the fourteen universities will ensure that the introduction will go as smoothly as possible. Our sector has the advantage that due to the three special universities a lot of civil law has already been incorporated into our collective labour agreement. As such, the changes to our sector are less drastic than they are for other public sectors such as for the national government and the municipalities. 


Amendment of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities

The VSNU continues to engage in a dialogue with the employees' organisations with regard to terms of employment. On 20 June 2019, the parties to the collective labour agreement concluded a new CAO agreement regarding a new Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities and adopted a new CAO text. This collective labour agreement is a technical translation of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities 2017-2019. It specifically relates to technical and legal amendments, rather than substantive innovations. The amendment of the CAO also led to the revision of the numbering of the various sections of the CAO – please see the correlation table for an overview. This CAO is effective from 31 December 2019 until such time that an agreement has been reached between the parties to the CAO regarding a new substantive collective labour agreement. 


The new CAO text will become available on the usual CAO page as of 31 December 2019.


Impact on employees of public universities

If you are an employee of a public university, then then WNRA will impact your (legal) status from a labour law perspective. The principal changes are outlined below:

  • Unilateral appointments will be replaced by bilateral employment contracts;
  • Terms of employment that have been agreed with employees (salary, end-of-year bonus, holiday-hours, pension and other CAO schemes) will not change as a result of the new law. 
  • Public law employment status regulations will be replaced by a collective labour agreement. Given that the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities has already been in force for the special universities for a number of years, this change will have no noticeable effects. 
  • In future, conflicts between the employer and the employee will be dealt with by a civil court rather than by an administrative court. The objection proceedings under the General Administrative Law Act will no longer apply. 
  • A revised dismissal procedure. 

The VSNU will keep you up to date on the implementation of the WNRA and any new developments via this web page.