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Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba

Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba


In the BES Islands, the termination of employment is governed by the Termination of Employment Agreements Act BES and the Civil Code of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.

Lawful Grounds for Dismissal

Employers can terminate employment contracts based on:

  • Economic Reasons: Restructuring, financial difficulties, or termination of the business.
  • Employee Performance or Conduct: Including poor performance, incompetence, or misconduct.
  • Disability or Long-Term Illness: Inability to perform the job due to prolonged health issues.
  • Mutual Agreement: Both parties agree to end the employment relationship.

Notice Requirements

The mandatory notice period depends on the length of employment:

  • Less than five years: One month.
  • Five to ten years: Two months.
  • Ten to fifteen years: Three months.
  • More than fifteen years: Four months.

Severance Pay

In specific circumstances, employees may be entitled to severance pay (transition payment). This typically applies when the dismissal is due to economic reasons or the employee's disability or illness. The calculation of severance pay is complex and based on factors like salary and length of service.

Additional Considerations

  • Dismissal Approval: For most terminations, employers must obtain prior authorization from the Department of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW).
  • Court Dissolution: Employees or employers can petition the court to dissolve the employment agreement if there are valid grounds that prevent continuation.
  • Immediate Termination: This is only permitted in cases of serious misconduct or urgent reasons, and immediate notice must be given to the other party.


In the Netherlands, anti-discrimination laws have been extended to the BES islands. These regulations protect individuals from discrimination based on various characteristics such as race, religion or belief, political opinion, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, and marital status. This list is not exhaustive and other grounds may potentially be protected as case law develops.

Redress Mechanisms

Victims of discrimination in the BES islands have several avenues for redress:

  • Anti-discrimination service: A specialized anti-discrimination service has been established on the islands. This service provides free help and advice to those who have experienced discrimination, support in filing complaints, and mediation when possible.

  • Netherlands Institute for Human Rights: Individuals can ask the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights to issue a binding opinion on their discrimination case.

  • Legal proceedings: Discrimination victims also have the right to file a lawsuit in a civil court. Courts can order measures such as cessation of the discriminatory behavior and compensation for damages.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in the BES islands have a legal duty to foster inclusive workplaces free from discrimination. This includes:

  • Proactive prevention: Employers must implement policies and procedures designed to prevent all forms of workplace discrimination and harassment.

  • Training and awareness: Employers should provide employees with regular training on anti-discrimination law, promoting a culture of respect and equality.

  • Fair hiring and promotion: All employment decisions should be made based on merit and objective criteria, unrelated to protected characteristics.

  • Complaint handling: Employers should implement a robust system for investigating and addressing internal discrimination complaints promptly and confidentially.

  • Reasonable accommodations: Employers should make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or specific needs based on religion or belief.

Working conditions

The islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, also known as the BES islands, operate under similar labor standards as per Dutch law. These standards cover aspects such as work hours, rest periods, and ergonomic requirements to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.

Work Hours

The legal maximum workweek is 45 hours, averaged over a four-month period. Overtime work is permitted with employee consent and requires compensation at a rate of 1.5 times the regular wage.

Rest Periods

Workers are entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours between workdays. All employees must receive at least one uninterrupted rest day per week, typically on Sundays. Employees are legally entitled to paid vacation leave, accruing at least three times the contracted number of working days per week, with a minimum of 15 days annually.

Ergonomic Requirements

While specific ergonomic regulations are not readily available online, it is likely that Dutch occupational safety and health legislation applies to the BES islands. This legislation emphasizes the employer's responsibility to provide a safe work environment, which includes ergonomic considerations to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Health and safety

The BES islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba) prioritize worker well-being through a comprehensive health and safety framework. This framework outlines employer obligations, employee rights, and the role of enforcement agencies.

Employer Obligations

Employers hold primary responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. This includes conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implementing preventive measures to minimize risks.

Employers must provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary and train them on its proper use. Additionally, they are obligated to offer training on health and safety procedures specific to the workplace.

Employers should design workplaces and workstations ergonomically to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This may involve providing adjustable furniture, promoting proper lifting techniques, and offering regular breaks for tasks requiring repetitive motions.

Employers must report work-related accidents to the relevant authorities and ensure employees receive prompt medical attention when needed.

Employee Rights

Employees have the right to a workplace free from foreseeable risks to their health and safety.

Employees have the right to refuse work they believe is unsafe, provided they have reasonable justification for their concern.

Employees have the right to receive information and training on health and safety hazards and procedures relevant to their job function.

Enforcement Agencies

The Labor Inspectorate (Inspectie SZW) of the Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland (RCN) is responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations in the workplace. The Inspectorate conducts workplace inspections, investigates complaints, and issues fines for non-compliance.

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