Belgium’s Largest Joint Committee Reaches a New Agreement on Employment and Working Conditions – Deadlines for Employers to Act Are Tight!
Against the background of industrial unrest in other sectors, the social partners of Joint Committee 200 –the Committee representing the largest number of employees in the country, more than 480.000 in total – have quietly come to an agreement on employment and working conditions. The most important provisions of the agreement are summarized within this post.
As of 1 December 2021, both minimum wage scales and actual gross monthly wages will increase by 0.4%.
Employees who are currently paid the minimum wage scales must receive the increase as of 1 December 2021. It can be granted through a salary increase or cash bonus of at least that amount and/or the provision of other benefits of equivalent purchasing power.
If the increase is awarded as a one-off premium, a single payment of 0.4% of salary, that payment must be made in the period 2021-2022, by 31 December 2022 at the latest. It must also be paid in succeeding years so that the benefit of the increase is not lost. The total cost (including employers’ social security contributions) of the actual increase and/or other benefits is counted for the 0.4%. If the increase is provided by an annual lump sum, it is important to set clear rules on the entitlements of employees who leave the company mid-year.
If a company wishes to award an equivalent benefit in full or partial replacement for the cash increase, this will require an agreement with the union delegation by 30 November 2021 at the latest, so you have less than a week to agree it. In companies without a union delegation, it is sufficient to inform the employees individually and in writing about the intended provision of the equivalent benefit by that same date.
To give employees who have contributed to corporate growth in the difficult working conditions of the pandemic a share in that outcome, a small one-off corona bonus is required to be paid by successful employers by no later than 31 December 2021, in the form of consumption vouchers ( a type of gift voucher that was introduced last year and which aims to support industries most affected by the pandemic, such as retail, restaurants, movie theaters etc.). For these purposes, “successful” means that the company meets two conditions:
a positive operating profit achieved in calendar years 2019 and 2020; and
the turnover or gross margin (if the turnover is not available) has increased over the same period by at least 5%.
The corona bonus is to be granted to employees who are in service on 30 November 2021, pro-rated to the time they were employed by that employer between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2021. Certain periods of absence such as annual leave, the first 60 days of absence due to illness and maternity leave are treated as full attendance. For part-time employees, the premium is pro-rated to their working regime on 30 November 2021.
The amount to be paid depends on the percentage increase in turnover or the gross margin:
the increase is at least 5%: EUR 125;
the increase is at least 10%: EUR 250.
If any sort of corona premium or bonus has already been awarded at company level, it may be deducted from the above amount.
A written communication about the calculation and payment of this bonus must be sent to the union delegation or, if there is no union delegation, to the employees direct by 15 December 2021 at the latest.
Mobility and other agreements
From 1 July 2022, the bicycle allowance will be increased from EUR 0.10 to EUR 0.20 per kilometre actually cycled with a maximum of EUR 8 (max. 40 km round trip) per working day.
The JC200 agreement also contains new provisions on the so-called bridge pension, career breaks and end-of-career arrangements (allowing employees above the age of 55 to reduce their working time by 1/5th).
The agreement contains a number of strict deadlines for implementation. Missing them will significantly reduce a company’s flexibility to tailor to its own best interests the benefits provided for in it.