Act on the Normalisation of the Legal Status of Civil Servants (Wet normalisering rechtspositie ambtenaren)

Starting on January 2020, the University of Twente will shift from the Central and Local Government Personnel Act to labour law in response to the Act on the Normalisation of the Legal Status of Civil Servants (Wet normalisering rechtspositie ambtenaren or Wnra). Below you will find an overview of the frequently asked questions concerning the Wnra and what this means for you as a University of Twente employee. If your question has not yet been addressed, contact wnra-hr@utwente.nl. All new frequently asked questions will be added to the FAQs.

Wnra general

Wnra, a new legal status per 1-1-2020, what does this mean for me as a UT employee?The Act on the Normalisation of the Legal Status of Civil Servants (Wet normalisering rechtspositie ambtenaren or Wnra) enters into effect on 1 January 2020. From this moment labour law will apply rather than the Central and Local Government Personnel Act. This shift in policy is a result of the Wnra, which aims to align the legal status of civil servants as far as possible with that of employees in the public sector. As several Dutch universities already apply labour law, the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO NU) is already primarily based on labour law. This will, therefore, have a limited impact on your daily activities. Terms of employment which currently apply to you as a UT employee, such as your salary, end of year bonus, number of leave days, pension, etc. will not be affected by the new law. 

Will this affect my appointment?
Per 1 January 2020 UT staff will receive a bilateral employment contract which new employees will be asked to sign. At this moment, you have a unilateral employment contract that is only signed by UT as an employer. For you, it means that your appointment will automatically be converted to an employment contract on 1 January 2020. This conversion will take place automatically in accordance with the law. You will therefore not be asked to sign a contract.

What is the difference between an appointment and an employment contract?
An appointment is a one-sided legal act for government employers. It is a ruling under the General Administration Act (Algemene wet bestuursrecht), which only requires a signature on behalf of the government employer.

An employment contract is two-sided and is based on the agreements reached between employer and employee. An employment contract is therefore signed by both the employer and the employee. In practice, the differences between an appointment and an employment contract are not great at the university. After all, staff are not appointed against their will, and application process and (employment conditions) interview are conducted prior to employment.

Can staff choose to uphold their appointment?
No, this is not possible, the Wnra does not provide the option to choose to maintain an appointment rather than switch to an employment contract. It is also not possible to object to the automatic conversion of your appointment to an employment contract.

As university staff, will we receive a different Collective Labour Agreement?
No, we will continue to work with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. Consultations with unions concerning the Collective Labour Agreement will continue after 1 January 2020. The implementation of the Wnra warrants several adjustments to the Collective Labour Agreement.

  • A distinction will be made between the types of holiday leave. This includes the statutory holidays, non-statutory holidays and compensation days. The number of leave days remains unchanged. This is required as this differentiation also applied within labour law.
  • Additionally, the following matters will be removed from the Collective Labour Agreement: the disciplinary measures, dismissal provisions for public universities, including objection to a dismissal decision and the assessment commission for reorganisation dismissal.

The Collective Labour Agreement will now always be complemented with several regulations unique to the UT which are formed in consultation between the Executive Board and local union representatives or with the University Council. Each of the UT’s regulations will also be adjusted in line with the Wnra in consultation with the participation and the University Council. We will ensure that this has been done before 1 January 2020 and that the regulations will be available on the UT website in the ‘Personnel Handbook’.

Do we, as university employees, get different rules and regulations?
A number of regulations have been changed as a result of the Wnra. For most schemes, it only concerned technical changes. Larger substantive changes can be found in the: Leave Regulations, the Jubilee regulations, the PhD charter and the PdEng charter and the Assessment regulations:

Leave Regulations
In the new CAO NU, a distinction is made between statutory and non-statutory holiday hours and compensation days. The number of hours remains the same, but the distinction does have consequences for the expiry periods and for the possibility of putting in hours in the Optional Model for Employment Conditions. Statutory holiday hours expire on 1 July of the calendar year following the calendar year of accrual. Holiday hours above the statutory minimum expire 5 years after the entitlement has been accrued. In addition, the 96 extra hours in the context of the flexible working hours are no longer considered as holiday hours but as compensation hours. This distinction creates a number of differences. For example, outstanding compensation hours expire at the end of each calendar year. These changes have been adjusted in the web application for leave registration from 2020.

Jubilee regulations
The adjustments are related to the fact that, as a result of the Standardization of the Legal Status of Civil Servants Act (Wnra ), employees of the UT in are no longer civil servants as defined in of the Civil Servants Act. Because of that civil service status, it was possible for tax purposes to add up the service of different government employers for the calculation of the length of service for the jubilee benefit and to pay the bonus net. Now that the university sector is expressly exempted from the new Civil Servants Act, it is no longer possible for tax purposes that, if the service period of previous government employers is included, the bonus is paid out net. In the new Jubilee Regulation, the UT gives you the option to opt for:

  • a gross bonus based on ABP service time (for example, the employee must then have 25 years of service that counts for the ABP pension) or:
  • a net benefit based on UT service time (the employee must have been employed at the UT for 25 years).

Once you have made a choice, this choice is fixed and cannot be changed.

Charter for PhD Candidates and Charter for PDEng Candidates
The assessment procedure in the Charters for PhD and PDEng Candidates is simplified. The changes stem partly from the Wnra, partly from experience with the Charters in practice and partly from advancing insight.

The changes concern - in brief - the following:

  • After 6 to 9 months, an assessment is made by the qualifier committee. Previously, this committee gave advice, after which the promoter made the assessment. The committee, of which the promotor is part, now does the assessment.
  • After an inadequate assessment and an improvement process, a second assessment takes place by the qualifier committee (instead of, as it used to be before, an advice from the committee and then an assessment by the promoter).
  • The “evaluation” has been changed to an “assessment”. In practice, the difference turned out to be unclear and difficult to implement.
  • The assessment process has been further simplified by removing the opinion procedure, determining the assessment by the dean and the possibility of objecting.
  • The Charter includes the possibility to offer a PhD candidate with additional educational tasks an employment contract for the maximum period of six years.

Assessment Regulations
The assessment procedure has been greatly simplified. The assessment authority has been transferred from administrator to hierarchical supervisor and the possibility of objecting has lapsed .

Will I still be a civil servant?
No, it is expected that after 1 January 2020 all employees of the universities will no longer be civil servants. Information on this question is available in various places on the internet. It does not always state clearly how it is arranged for teaching staff and that can cause confusion. The reason for this is that a specific legislative proposal for educational staff was not submitted until the end of 2018. This bill stipulates that the Civil Servants Act will no longer apply as of 1 January 2020 to teaching staff. It is expected that the bill, which has already been adopted by the Second Chamber, will also be adopted by the First Chamber. In that case, from 1 January 2020, employees of the universities will no longer be civil servants.

Will this impact our pension fund?
We will remain under the ABP (Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds).

Will the loss of my civil servant status impact my social security?
If you are working for the UT but residing and/or working (secondary position) abroad, the Wnra may impact your social security and tax contributions. It is possible that the social security legislation of the country in which you live/work applies. This may result in alternate entitlement to benefits in the event of illness, unemployment, disability, old age, death, and taking out a new insurance policy. The HR department at the UT will assess whether this applies to you based on a questionnaire. This was sent to all staff with a registered residential address abroad and/or with German or Belgian nationality. The questionnaire is based on that of the Dutch tax department and Sociale Verzekerings Bank (SVB). To identify the country of residence, an address or certificate of residence from the local government is not sufficient. An individual’s centre of vital interests must be identified (questions concerning sports, etc.). Employees who would rather not complete the questionnaire may also submit the required information to HR, at their own expense. This is: a certificate of residence (issued by the relevant tax office) and an A1 statement (from the relevant country). If you did not receive the questionnaire and live or work abroad, inform us of this via wnra-hr@utwente.nl

Can I be fired more easily if I am no longer a civil servant?
The notion that a public employee can be dismissed more readily than a civil servant is unfounded. An employer must always have reasonable grounds for dismissal, under both administrative law for employees in the public sector and private labour law. This will remain the case after implementation of the Wnra.

Procedures will change for an employer who wishes to dismiss an employee. Pre-Wnra regulations stipulate that an employer may the decision to dismiss an employee, and employees may contest that decision. That is the so-called retrospective review, if an employee receives notification of a (planned) dismissal. Post-Wnra regulations dictate that the employer must first consult the UWV or the district judge for a so-called preventative dismissal assessment. Without a dismissal permit for the UWV or dissolution via the district judge, employment may not be terminated by the employer. This preventative dismissal assessment does not apply to some situations, such as where employees with a temporary contract or employees due to retire; in such a case, the employment contract expires by default.

Why were civil servants granted a special legal status, and why will this now change?In the 1920s, the reasons behind granting civil servants a special legal status were primarily constitutional. The idea was to protect civil servants from political arbitration. An independent body of officials was deemed necessary for a stable state and for unbiased enforcement of the legal order. For this reason, the people found it necessary for civil servants to receive a unilateral appointment. At the time, it was also thought in forming a contract with the government, a civil servant would be on equal footing with the government; an undesirable situation as the government represented “authority”. A (bilateral) employment contract was therefore viewed as unsuitable. These notions stemming from the 1920s concerning the separate status of civil servants are no longer considered relevant. An additional argument also apples from a government standpoint for the alignment of legal status: it is costly and inefficient to uphold two legal systems (within their current scope) simultaneously for the regulation of two similar legal matters.

What will happen leading up to implementation of the Wnra?
Together with other universities, in 2018 the UT began with preparations for the implementation of this act. The Collective Labour Agreement will be adjusted in line with the Wnra, and the UT’s employment regulations will be aligned with the Wnra. HR staff will receive additional training, processes and procedures within the administrative systems will be adjusted, and staff will receive information concerning the Wnra via the staff portal, for example. A project team will ensure that the implementation of the act goes as smoothly as possible within the UT.

Who can I contact for additional information?
If you have questions concerning the Wnra which are not addressed above, you may send an email to wnra-hr@utwente.nl. Unfortunately, we are unable to answer all questions personally; all questions will be bundled and processed in this FAQ.

Working abroad

Will the loss of my status as a civil servant impact my social security?
If you are working for the UT but residing and/or working (secondary position) abroad, the Wnra may impact your social security and tax contributions. It is possible that the social security legislation of the country in which you live/work applies. This may result in alternate entitlement to benefits in the event of illness, unemployment, disability, old age, death, and taking out a new insurance policy. The HR department at the UT will assess whether this applies to you based on a questionnaire. This was sent to all staff with a registered residential address abroad and/or with German or Belgian nationality. The questionnaire is based on that of the Dutch tax department and Sociale Verzekerings Bank (SVB). To identify the country of residence, an address or certificate of residence from the local government is not sufficient. An individual’s centre of vital interests must be identified (questions concerning sports, etc.). Employees who would rather not complete the questionnaire may also submit the required information to HR, at their own expense. This is: a certificate of residence (issued by the relevant tax office) and an A1 statement (from the relevant country).

Why do I need to report personal information on the ‘questionnaire country of residence’?
To determine the country in which you are taxable and qualify for social insurance schemes, the country of residence must be identified. To identify the country of residence, an address or certificate of residence from the local government is not sufficient. An individual’s centre of vital interests must be identified (questions concerning sports, etc.). Employees who would rather not complete the questionnaire may also submit the required information to HR, at their own expense. This is: a certificate of residence (issued by the relevant tax office) and an A1 statement (from the relevant country).

With whom will the ‘questionnaire country of residence’ form be shared?
We may request your permission to share the form with the tax department and/or the SVB if we think that your situation may change concerning taxation and/or social security. We will always request permission. This form will not be shared without your permission.

I will be finalising my employment with the UT before 1 January 2020. Am I still required to complete the ‘questionnaire country of residence’ form?
No, if your employment will cease before 1 January 2020, you are not required to complete the form. If this is the case, we would like to receive an email from you indicating that you will no longer be employed by the UT and will therefore not be completing the form. If your employment is unexpectedly extended, please inform us of this promptly.

I have not received a questionnaire, but I do live or work abroad. What should I do?
If you live or work abroad but did not receive the questionnaire, inform us of this via wnra-hr@utwente.nl.