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This Past Quarter’s Notable, International Employment Law Changes And What To Look For Down the Road: Belgium

On January 1, 2014, new dismissal rules under Belgian law took effect.  These changes will require a complete review of your company’s Belgian employment contracts and policies.  The following is a short summary of the main changes.

1. New notice periods

There are new notice periods for blue-collar and white-collar employees.  The length of the notice period will now depend entirely on seniority (years of service), without any influence from criteria such as the age, the salary levels or the employee’s position. Also, where previously the notice periods were different for blue-collar versus white-collar employees, they are now the same for both.

The new harmonized notice periods will apply as of January 1, 2014 to employment contracts concluded as of that date, but also to current employment contracts for the period of employment starting as of January 1, 2014.

The new rules represent a significant increase in notice periods for blue-collar employees, but remain relatively the same for white-collar employees – except those with low seniority or more than 20 years’ seniority, where it will be less.  Importantly, the never-ending discussion on the statutory minimum notice and the “Claeys” formula, going forward, is over.

The notice periods that will apply to new contracts after January 1, 2014, or for any seniority accrued starting January 1, 2014, under the old contracts for both types of employees is as follows:

Seniority (as from  January 1, 2014)

Notice Period

From 0 to less than three months

2 weeks

From three to less than six months

4 weeks

From six to less than nine months

6 weeks

From nine to less than twelve months

7 weeks

From twelve to less than 15 months

8 weeks

From 15 to less than 18 months

9 weeks

From 18 to less than 21 months

10 weeks

From 21 to less than 24 months

11 weeks

From 2 years to less than 3 years

12 weeks

From 3 years to less than 4 years

13 weeks

From 4 years to less than 5 years

15 weeks

From 5 years to less than 6 years

18 weeks

From 6 years to less than 7 years

21 weeks

From 7 years to less than 8 years

24 weeks

From 8 years to less than 9 years

27 weeks

From 9 years to less than 10 years

30 weeks

From 10 years to less than 11 years

33 weeks

From 11 years to less than 12 years

36 weeks

From 12 years to less than 13 years

39 weeks

From 13 years to less than 14 years

42 weeks

From 14 years to less than 15 years

45 weeks

From 15 years to less than 16 years

48 weeks

From 16 years to less than 17 years

51 weeks

From 17 years to less than 18 years

54 weeks

From 18 years to less than 19 years

57 weeks

From 19 years to less than 20 years

60 weeks

From 20 years to less than 21 years

62 weeks

From 21 years to less than 22 years

63 weeks

From 22 years to less than 23 years

64 weeks

From 23 years to less than 24 years

65 weeks

From 24 years to less than 25 years

66 weeks

Continue to add 1 week per year of additional service.

2. Trial Period

The concept of a trial period (or what we may refer to as a probationary period) disappears for employment contracts concluded after January 1, 2014.

3. Outplacement

Under the previous rules, only employees 45 years of age or older were entitled to outplacement.

Under the new rules, the right to outplacement has been extended to all employees dismissed who would be entitled to 30 weeks’ notice or severance (i.e. 9 years of seniority or above).  The outplacement service must be equal in value to four weeks’ salary.

Coming down the road (in two short weeks) in Belgium:

To further harmonize the employment status of blue and white-collar employees in Belgium, on April 1, 2014, employers will be required to demonstrate proper motivation for dismissal of any blue or white-collar employee with more than six months of continuous service.  Until now, an employer in Belgium was not required to provide a reason for an employee’s dismissal, unless the employee was being terminated for “serious cause” or where the employee enjoyed certain protections from dismissal.  Furthermore, blue-collar employees used to be entitled to a termination indemnity of six months’ salary where the dismissal violated Article 63 of the Employment Contracts Act.  White-collar workers were not granted this same protection.  These differences in treatment upon termination are now abolished and both categories of employees will enjoy the same rights.

Specifically, an employer must provide a justified rationale for the termination of any employee.  Unjustified dismissals, those unrelated to the employee’s skills and abilities or own conduct, or unrelated to the operational requirements of the undertaking, and a dismissal a reasonable employer would not have made, may be disputed before the labor court.

Copyright © 2020, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 80
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About this Author

Terese M. Connolly, Labor and Employment, Sheppard Mullin
Associate

Terese M. Connolly is an associate in both the International and Domestic Labor and Employment Practice Groups in the firm's Chicago office. 

Areas of Practice

Ms. Connolly regularly assists multinational companies in navigating the wide range of employment related issues that arise when managing a global workforce. Additionally, she advises companies on employment related issues that arise in cross border transactions.

Ms. Connolly specializes in providing advice and...

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