Minister Plasterk of the Interior is pushing ahead with the legislative proposal to reduce the remuneration cap under the WNT from 130 to 100% of a minister’s salary (WNT Remuneration Cap Reduction Act) as of 1 January 2015. My colleague Henk Hoving already pointed out in his article from 29 July the legislative proposal that was submitted for this on 1 July 2014. It is certainly high time for a new update.

After the Council of State voiced quite a bit of criticism regarding the legislative proposal, concerns have also recently been expressed from the sectors involved. One of these concerns is the fear that institutions in the public and semi-public sectors will not be able to attract capable directors and/or senior managers. Minister Plasterk showed some sensitivity to this concern and responded to this in the third memorandum of amendment (amendment of the legislative proposal) of 14 October 2014.

The concession provides for a broadening of the exception possibility that already exists for individual cases pursuant to section 2.5 of the Senior Officials in the Public and Semi-Public Sector (Standards for Remuneration) Act (WNT). In his cover letter for the memorandum of amendment the minister wrote that it has not emerged against the background of the current law that open vacancies have not been able to be filled and that to date no use has been made of the authority to permit an exception. However, in view of the reduction in the remuneration cap to 100%, the minister may have to accept this exception more readily. An amendment has therefore been proposed which will make it possible to not only allow an exception for individual candidate and current officers, but also for vacancies ‘for certain positions at certain institutions’.

The memorandum of amendment provides further insight into the minister’s intention. The current possibilities for an exception are limited to independent administrative bodies governed by private law. This will be scrapped and the scope of section 2.5 WNT will be broadened to include other institutions falling under paragraph 2 of the law. This makes the scope of the possibility of exception much greater. It will also include private-law legal entities such as housing associations and institutions in education and healthcare. However, the functional exception may not exceed the current standard of 130%.

Something out of one’s own pocket?

It all sounds wonderful, but will this really serve much purpose in practice? The exception cannot be determined or just agreed on by the parties themselves; it is a request to the minister. The minister can allow the exception ‘in accordance with the opinion of the cabinet’. So it does not seem as if it will be that easy to secure an exception. The cabinet’s conviction that salaries in the public and semi-public sectors need to be further standardised, despite significant criticism from the Council of State and the relevant sectors, does not prompt much confidence that an exception will be readily allowed

By Jokelien Brouwer-Harbach