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Headline Labour & Employment: Unified status: don’t forget to modify your work rules!

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The Act of 26 December 2013 introducing a unified employment status for white-collar and blue-collar workers has entered into force on 1 January 2014.

This Act clearly constitutes a major reform of labour law and requires everyone, be it employers, employees, HR responsibles or legal counsels practicing social law, to leave the traditional thinking patterns behind, in particular with regard to the termination of the employment contract.

The Act introducing a unified employment status also offers a good opportunity to verify whether the work rules are complete. It is well known that the Act of 8 April 1965 on establishing work rules sets out the mentions that must be included in the work rules (art. 6) as well as the mentions the employer is free to insert (art. 10).

Among the mandatory provisions, we find a.o. « the duration of the notice periods or the rules for determining the notice periods or the reference to the relevant legal and regulatory provisions » (art. 6, § 1, 4°, a). As the act introducing a unified employment status mainly provides for new rules regarding notice periods, a modification of the work rules will be necessary, unless in case the work rules would merely refer to the applicable legal and regulatory provisions. Taking into account that the probationary period has been abolished, the work rules will also have to be modified in this respect.

Among the optional provisions which usually appear in the work rules, we find a.o. the provisions regarding the absence of the employee due to incapacity to work caused by illness or accident (except for occupational diseases and accidents at work) and the obligation to immediately inform the employer and, as the case may be, to hand over a medical certificate.

The act introducing a unified employment status provides for an additional supervision possibility by stating that « a collective bargaining agreement concluded, either within a joint committee or subcommittee, or outside a joint body, or the work rules can determine a part of the day of up to four consecutive hours between 7 am and 8 pm, during which the employee must be available for an examination by the examining physician at her/his domicile or place of residence as communicated to the employer» (new article 31, § 3, second subparagraph Employment Contracts Act).

Pursuant to the (new) article 31, § 3/1 Employment Contracts Act, an employee who is absent during the availability period “without a valid reason” can be deemed to have evaded medical examination. In such a case, the employer is allowed to refuse to pay guaranteed salary for the days of incapacity to work preceding the day of examination.

The establishment of a time range during which the employee must be available for medical examination, is optional. Such an availability period can be included in the work rules, within the limits of this new rule.

The work rules will, as the case may be, have to be modified with due observance of the legal procedure provided to this end.

We are of course at your disposal to verify your work rules and to answer each question that could arise as a result of the entry into force of the Act introducing a unified employment status.