The draft interprofessional agreement: set in stone?

On 26 February 2019 the social partners concluded a draft interprofessional agreement, setting forth a number of elements including:

  • The wage norm (i.e. the maximum margin for the development of labour costs) for the period of 2019 – 2020 is set at 1.1%. A generally binding collective bargaining agreement will be concluded in the National Labour Council to formalize this
  • The minimum wage will increase by 1.1% on 1 July 2019 on top of the indexation
  • A working group will be appointed to draft propositions by 30 September 2019 to increase the guaranteed average minimum wage
  • The social partners want to stimulate employees and employers to opt for public transportation and use alternative ways of transport by, e.g.:
    • using the mobility budget that was voted in parliament on 28 February 2019
    • using the bicycle allowance
    • increasing the employer’s lump sum contribution to the price of public transportation of employees. The lump sum amounts set forth in collective bargaining agreement n° 19octies will be increased up to 70% as from 1 July 2019 and as from 1 July 2020 collective bargaining agreement n° 19octies will also apply to travel from the employee’s residence to work if the distance is less than 5 kilometres
    • in the future, developing a new system in view of sustainable mobility options which simplifies the existing possibilities
  • The number of voluntary overtime that an employee can perform per year is increased from 100 to 120 hours
  • By 30 September 2019 an interprofessional arrangement will be sought to find a solution to use part of the indemnity in lieu of notice to enhance employability as defined in accordance with article 39ter of the act of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts
  • With regard to unemployment with company allowance the social partners refer to the agreement concluded on 18 December 2014; and
  • The allowances will increase as well. The lowest allowances will increase by 2.4% while the highest allowance will increase by 1.1%

As the draft agreement has currently only been accepted by the christian and liberal trade union organisations (i.e. “ACV/CSC” and “ACLVB/CGSLB”) and the third trade union organisation (“ABVV/FGTB”) has refused the draft agreement, the government has now made a conciliation proposal. In case the parties cannot be reconciled, there is a risk that no interprofessional agreement will be concluded for 2019-2020. Nevertheless, even in the scenario that no interprofessional agreement would be concluded, it cannot be excluded that several elements of the agreement would still be executed via law or royal decrees, as was the case during previous years when no agreement was reached.

A legal framework for the mobility budget since 28 February 2019

We already told you in our article of January 2019 that on 3 December 2018 the government had submitted a draft law introducing a mobility budget aimed at introducing a broader system than the mobility allowance (or “cash for car”, in force since 1 January 2018).

The mobility budget aims to change the mentality of employees, to encourage them to completely or partially forego their company car and to choose more environmentally friendly means of transportation instead. In order to do so, the mobility budget is divided into three pillars which can be combined by the employees1:

  • Use of an environmentally friendly (ecologic or electric) company car; and/or
  • Use of so-called sustainable means of transportation; and/or
  • Allocation of the entire mobility budget in cash, or the remaining balance after having used part of this budget in the first or second pillar (unfavourable treatment)

The entry into force was planned for 1 January 2019. On 28 February 2019, the House of Representatives approved the draft law on the introduction of a mobility budget.

Therefore, since 1 March 2019, employers can provide their employee with a mobility allowance, and with a mobility budget. At the time of drafting this article, i.e. on 12 March 2019, the draft law has not yet been published in the Belgian Official Gazette, however.

A few clarifications

With regard to the tax component, the text adopted by the house provides that, subject to exceptions, the mobility budget cannot be cumulated with a bicycle allowance and an indemnity covering commuter travel.

This means that, if an employer continues to reimburse travel expenses for an employee that is also benefiting from a mobility budget, the indemnities will be requalified as “normal remuneration” and, hence, will be fully subject to tax (and to social security contributions, see below).

However, the adopted text is silent regarding the social component of the treatment of this mobility budget. The draft Royal Decree completing article 19, §2 of the NSSO implementation decree of 28 November 1969 provides, however, that the exemptions from social security contributions for certain indemnities can no longer apply in case they are cumulated with the mobility budget. It concerns the exemption for travel expenses and for the mileage allowance with regard to commuter travel by bicycle (and with regard to the provision of a bicycle with its accessories), including maintenance fees and garage expenses.

Finally, the legislation also clarifies that the mobility budget shall be "treated in the same way as the private use of the company car, for the application of legal, regulatory and conventional provisions (…)."

From now on, employers can offer eligible employees to benefit from a mobility budget within the confines of the law. It provides companies with a nice opportunity to take on a more environmentally-friendly approach, while offering their employees bespoke solutions that are tailored to their needs.

 

Work regulations do not need to mention the family allowances fund anymore

Since 1 January 2019, employees have the right to choose the family allowances fund they want to be affiliated with and the employer is thus no longer obliged to enrol its employees into a family allowances fund. As a consequence, work regulations no longer have to mention the family allowances fund the employer is affiliated with.

For work regulations adopted in the future, this information will no longer need to be included.

For currently applicable work regulations, it is recommended to delete the reference to the family allowances fund. This modification can be made using the simplified procedure provided by the Act of 8 April 1965.