In the January briefing, we highlighted changes to the notice periods of blue and white collar workers in Belgium and harmonisation as regards their respective access to sick pay  (both now being entitled to full pay from the first day of absence, subject to certain conditions).  As part of the various reforms affecting these workers, an outstanding issue was that of dismissal and the conclusion of a Collective Bargaining Agreement by the National Works Council which would set out the relevant  justifications for the termination an employment contract. 

The result, the Collective Bargaining Agreement n° 109, came into force on 1 April 2014 and introduces new rights for employees dismissed on or after this date.

The Agreement provides that the employee has the right:

  • to know the reason or reasons for the termination of their employment;
  • to receive additional compensation in the event of a “manifestly unfair dismissal”.

In limited circumstances, the employer will not be obliged to communicate the reasons for termination including:

  • During the first six months of employment;
  • In respect of employees working as interim/students;
  • Retirement;
  • Upon closure, restructuring or collective dismissal;
  • It has arisen pursuant to a specific termination procedure introduced in the law.

The right to be informed of the reason for dismissal is not automatic but only arises upon employee request. The employee must send a written request by registered post to the employer, within 2 months of the employment ending if the employee is not required to work a period of notice, or otherwise, within 6 months of the start of a notice period (providing this does not exceed 2 months from the effective date of termination).  The employer must provide written reasons within 2 months of receipt of the employee’s request. 

If the employer fails to respond to the employee’s request within 2 months, compensation equivalent to 2 weeks’  salary will be payable to the employee. In the case of a dismissal deemed “manifestly unfair”, additional compensation of between 3 and 17 weeks’ salary could be due.