Effective 1 January 2013, all Belgian companies with more than 20 employees must have in place an employment plan for older workers, for the purpose of maintaining or increasing the number of employees aged 45 or more.

The Belgian government wishes to make Belgian companies aware of the value of older employees, with a view to maintaining and promoting their employment.

To this end, the Omnibus Act of 29 March 2012 (published in the Belgian State Gazette on 6 April 2012) and new national Collective Bargaining Agreement No. 104 of 27 June 2012 (hereinafter "CBA No. 104") provide for an obligation for Belgian companies to have in place a so-called employment plan for older employees, as from 1 January 2013.

Scope

Such a plan will be required for all Belgian companies that employ more than 20 people on 1 January 2013 (based on the total number of full-time equivalents, including temp workers, on the first calendar day of 2013).

The number of employees will be re-calculated every four years. Thus, if a company does not reach the threshold on 1 January 2013 but does so thereafter (e.g. in the second half of 2013 or in 2014, 2015 or 2016), no employment plan for older employees need be set up. The next calculation will take place on 1 January 2017.

Content of the plan

The employment plan for older workers can be either a one-year plan or a long-term plan.

CBA No. 104 includes a non-exhaustive list of measures the plan can contain, such as measures providing for the selection and hiring of older employees, development of the skills and capabilities of older employees (including by means of specialised training sessions), and the offering of new positions adapted to the capabilities and competences of older workers (by way of internal assignments, adjusted working time and conditions, etc.).

Information (and consultation) of the employee representative bodies

Belgian companies with at least 50 employees must submit a draft plan to the employee representative body or, in the absence thereof, to the employees directly, for an opinion, which must be rendered within two months.

If the Belgian company chooses not to follow this opinion, it should justify its decision.

Belgian companies with 20 to 50 employees and no employee representative body need only inform the employees directly of the plan (no opinion is required).

Model plan and practicalities

CBA No. 104 provides a model employment plan for older workers, which contains a number of obligatory mentions, such as the duration of the plan, areas for action, the person within the company responsible for executing the plan, etc.

It is advisable to start drafting a plan in the coming weeks or months and submit the draft to the employee representative body, if any, or to the employees directly, as soon as possible. In this way, it is possible to ensure that the final plan will be ready by the beginning of 2013.