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Headline Labour & Employment: Council of Ministers approves draft bill on unified employment status

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On September 27 2013 the Council of Ministers approved a draft bill introducing a unified status for blue-collar and white-collar workers. Although the text has not been finalised, the draft bill constitutes another step forward in the re-shaping of Belgian dismissal law and the abolishment of the 'carenz' day (the first unpaid day of illness).

The minister of labour had previously presented a compromise proposal to the social partners (for further details please see our Client Memo of 19 July 2013 "Compromise proposal: a step towards single employment status"). The draft bill elaborates further on the concisely drafted compromise proposal. The draft bill also contains several provisions that were not included in the compromise proposal, such as the abolishment of trial periods.

Although it is perhaps too early to discuss all the features of the draft bill, the following provisions are of particular note:

- New notice periods will apply to all employees as of January 1 2014. In principle there will be separate tables containing the notice periods for dismissal by the employer, resignation by the employee and counter notices. Exceptional (ie, shorter) notice periods will be provided for certain industries.

- For employees who begin employment before January 1 2014, the notice period will be calculated in two parts: the first part on the basis of seniority acquired before January 1 2014 and the second on seniority acquired after this date.

- The principle of retention of acquired rights will apply for the period before January 1 2014. For this period, notice periods for higher level white-collar employees (to which no strict legally established periods apply) will be calculated according to a fixed rule of one month for each started year of service, irrespective of the starting date of employment. Deliberations as to whether the Claeys formula (used to determine the notice period for employee dismissals) applies would thus become a thing of the past.

- Longer notice periods (ie, longer than the new statutory periods) will no longer be agreed in sector-wide collective bargaining agreements. However, this will remain possible in individual employment agreements and collective bargaining agreements concluded at company level.

- As the new notice periods will be limited during the first months of employment, the trial period will be abolished in most cases. Trial clauses that were entered into before January 1 2014 will continue to apply.

- The draft bill also makes provisions for acceptable grounds for dismissal, the allocation of part of the notice period to improving the employability of employees and sectoral supplements. However, the practical application of these provisions will partly depend on the social partners.

- The carenz day will be abolished and restricted measures will be provided for with a view to avoiding abuses.

Do not hesitate to contact us, should you in the meantime wish to discuss certain aspects of the new legislation and the possible impact on your concrete situation.

 

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