Lawyer embassy staff in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Our Dutch lawyer for employment and dismissal law in Amsterdam has been giving legal advice to embassy staff since 1997. Personnel working for a foreign embassy should take into account that a wage claim for arrears of salary in The Netherlands is not always paid. Our Amsterdam employment lawyer discusses the immunity principle that applies to the enforcement of judgments on foreign states in the following.
Court-ordered wage claim against a foreign state
A court-ordered wage claim against a foreign state may fail if payment is not made voluntarily. In normal cases, an awarding judgment, which requires payment of arrears of salary, can be executed by the bailiff on behalf of the employee.
However, no enforcement action can be taken by a lawyer on property belonging to a foreign state if the property is for the public service of that country. Examples are embassy property, such as the bank account. The rationale behind this is that one sovereign state should not interfere with the public duty performance of another sovereign state. This may give rise to diplomatic incidents.
Law of nations and bailiffs at embassies
For this reason, Art. 13a of the General Provisions Act provides that the jurisdiction of the court and the enforceability of judgments is limited ‘by the exceptions recognized in international law’.
Art. 3a of the Bailiffs Act imposes an obligation on bailiffs to report to the Minister of Security and Justice any official acts that may be in conflict with the obligations of the State under international law. This may, for example, concern the collection of arrears of salary from a foreign embassy. The Minister may prohibit the bailiff from executing the judgment. No attachment of the embassy’s property may then take place.
The prevention of international (diplomatic) entanglements between sovereign states is (unfortunately) of a higher order than the interest of an employee who wrongfully does not receive his salary.
It is established case law of the European Court of Human Rights that this does not constitute a violation of art. 6 ECHR.
Summary proceedings against embassy employee for dismissal and salary arrears and vacation pay
An employee who had been employed by a foreign state in the Middle East since March 13, 2013, was confronted with a case in summary proceedings brought by our lawyer in labour law Paul Snijders. The employee had been ill for a long time, and had not been paid all that time. Vacation pay had also never been paid to the employee by the embassy. The employee had sued the country in question in summary proceedings.
Immunity of embassies in The Netherlands
The foreign state had argued in summary proceedings, among other things, that there was no urgent interest in this wage claim and that the employee, who was employed by the embassy as a driver, would not be authorized to sue the country in question.
Defenses rejected by the court The Hague
These defenses were rejected by the court in The Hague (Den Haag), also in appeal. The claims for payment of back wages and vacation pay were upheld by the subdistrict court in The Hague. Increased by the statutory increase and statutory interest, this all together amounted to a considerable sum in unpaid salary, of several tens of thousands of euros. Nevertheless, this claim could not be executed by the bailiff because the foreign state invoked the principle of immunity.
Diplomacy and foreign embassy
Only diplomatic cooperation could still offer a solution. Fortunately, there are also many embassies that do respect foreign judgments.
Employees who want to work for a foreign embassy should take into account that they could miss out on a salary claim.
Contact lawyer embassy staff in Amsterdam
For more information and legal advice about wage claims in employment law, including claims by staff of foreign embassies, please contact our specialized lawyer in employment and dismissal law in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Paul Snijders.