25 October 2023, by Abi Carter

Dutch retailers struggling to fill vacant positions are increasingly relaxing Dutch language requirements and hiring English-speaking candidates, NOS reports.  

Zeeman, Hema, Jumbo and more happy to hire English-speaking workers

Several large retail chains in the Netherlands told NOS that they were happy to give jobs to people who do not (yet) speak Dutch. This relatively recent development is down to the tight situation on the labour market, where scores of companies are struggling to find suitable candidates, but it also reflects the companies’ desire to fulfil diversity requirements and acknowledge the modern makeup of Dutch society. 

A spokesperson for Zeeman told NOS that the requirement for employees to speak Dutch was changed this year, “because the labour market has become so tight”. English-speaking people can therefore be hired by stores, so long as the branch manager is able to communicate with them. They said the change was making it easier to fill positions. 

It’s not only Zeeman relaxing requirements: large chains like Hema, Jumbo, Plus, Lidl, Aldi and Albert Heijn also said they were in the habit of hiring English-speaking employees, especially in major Dutch cities where they have more non-Dutch speaking customers. “It is important that our store staff reflects society,” a Hema spokesperson told NOS

Dutch still required in stores where staff need to give advice

However, despite worker shortages, some stores have chosen not to scrap Dutch language requirements due to operational reasons. Representatives from drugstore chains Etos and Kruidvat, as well as liquor store chain Gall & Gall, told NOS that their employees must speak Dutch “because of the advisory function” of their roles. For instance, drugstore employees must be able to advise customers on medicines. Dutch is also required for sales staff at hardware store Gamma, so they can provide advice. 

The discount store Action also wants to make sure that Dutch-speaking customers can always be understood, and so does not deploy employees who cannot speak Dutch on the shop floor. However, they do hire English-speaking employees for other roles like shelf-stacking. 

Praxis has taken a different approach to its competitors: recognising that it is important that staff can provide advice, but also needing to fill positions, they operate a “buddy system” in larger stores, where non-Dutch-speaking staff are partnered up with a buddy who can help them learn Dutch.

At small independent retailers, on the other hand, the trend is still that Dutch is almost always required. 

Thumb image credit: Henk Vrieselaar / Shutterstock.com

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