The Belgian government has recently announced agreement on the reform of the rules applicable to the termination of employment contracts . Under the current rules a distinction is made between manual workers and white-collar employees, the latter enjoying substantially more extensive statutory rights with regard to notice of termination.

The new rules, which still have to be formally adopted but which are normally due to enter into force as of 1 January 2014, provide for a uniform system of notice of termination for both manual workers and white collar employees.

For the first 2 years of service the new statutory notice periods will now be calculated in weeks and increase up to 11 weeks for two years of service. Between 2 and 5 years of service the notice increases by a further 1 week for each additional year of service. Between 5 and 20 years of service the notice is a further 3 weeks for each year of service with a maximum of 62 weeks. Over 20 years of service the notice is a futher week for each additional year of service.

Under the new rules, on average the required statutory notice is 3 months per period of 5 years of service. This represents a substantial increase in the rights of manual workers and a reduction for the rights of most white collar employees, in particular those with long periods of service.

The new rules for workers will be phased-in over a period of up to 5 years. It seems likely that certain sectors (notably construction) may be exempted from the new rules. For white collar employees the new rules will only apply to new contracts and employee’s rights under existing rules will be preserved.

Charles Price