Reform of notice periods

The Act of 12 April 2011 on the new termination rules for employment contracts implemented new notice periods for both white-collar and blue-collar employees.  The new rules will apply to new employment contracts starting on or after 1 January 2012.

The Act of 12 April 2011 is aimed at closing the gap between blue-collar and white-collar employees. Recently, the Belgian Constitutional Court declared the difference in notice periods between these categories to be unlawful, and ordered the Government to rectify the situation by July 2013.

According to the new Act, standard notice periods will apply based on the seniority of the employee.

For blue-collar workers, the notice required to be given by employers to terminate employment will vary between 28 days and 129 days, depending on their length of service. Blue-collar workers wishing to terminate their employment will have to give between 14 or 28 days’ notice, again depending on length of service.

In the case of white-collar workers, employers wishing to terminate employment will also have to apply standard notice periods, based on length of service:

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From 1 January 2012 until 31 December 2013, each additional year of service after 7 years will add 30 days to the notice period.

As from 1 January 2014, each additional year of service after 7 years will add 29 days to the notice period.

White-collar employees wanting to end their employment will have to give between 45 and 180 days notice, depending on length of service.

The only exception to the standard notice periods concerns  white-collar employees whose starting salary exceeds a specified amount ( €61,071 per annum for 2011, a figure which will be reviewed annually).  In such cases it will still be possible for the parties to agree a notice period, provided the agreement is concluded before the start of employment.

It follows that, in the case of employment contracts starting on or after 1 January 2012, Labor Courts will no longer be able to determine notice periods.  Instead, the courts will merely have to enforce the notice periods stated in the Act of 12 April 2011.

Social elections 2012

Pursuant to the Act of 28 July 2011 the next social elections will take place between 7 and 20 May 2012.   We have prepared the timetable below to help employers prepare.

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