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End of contract in Belgium

When ending an employment contract in Belgium, certain guidelines and procedures need to be followed to ensure that the termination process is conducted in compliance with labour laws and regulations. 

In this guide, we will cover several important factors you need to know when ending a contract in Belgium, such as notice period, post-termination restraints, transfer of undertakings and more.

Termination of employment contracts in Belgium typically involves serving a notice period or making a payment of an indemnity in lieu of notice. Sometimes, employers combine both methods, where a notice period is served followed by the payment of an indemnity.

The notice period depends on the length of service of the employee. See the calculation of the minimum notice period in Belgium below: 

  • 0-3 months service: 1 weeks’ notice
  • 4 months: 3 weeks’ notice
  • 5 months: 4 weeks’ notice
  • 6 months: 5 weeks’ notice
  • 6-9 months: 6 weeks’ notice
  • 9-12 months: 7 weeks’ notice
  • 12-15 months: 8 weeks’ notice
  • 18-21 months: 10 weeks’ notice
  • 21-24 months: 11 weeks’ notice
  • 2< years: notice continues to build each year, capped at 65 weeks’ notice.

Instead of serving a notice period, it is possible for employers to provide a payment in lieu of notice in certain circumstances. For example, the dismissal of a pregnant employee requires the employer to pay compensation in lieu of notice.

Severance pay in Belgium

Severance pay is applicable only when termination occurs without notice from the employer. The amount of severance pay to be paid by the employer is fixed and variable, depending on the employee’s seniority within the company, ranging from 2 to 8 years of wages.

For example, employees with less than one year of service may be entitled to up to 3 months’ salary in severance pay, while employees with more than 20 years of service may be entitled to up to 17.5 months’ salary.

Probation period in Belgium

Probationary periods are not allowed under the employment law in Belgium. Since January 2014, the Unified Employment Status Act has abolished probation or trial periods, except for students, temporary workers, and temporary agency workers. Therefore, employers in Belgium cannot have a defined trial period or probation period in their employment contracts. Instead, notice periods are required when either the employer or employee wishes to terminate employment.

Termination of employment in Belgium

In Belgium, both employers and employees have the right to terminate the employment contract at any time. Employees in Belgium can only be dismissed for specific reasons, such as poor performance, misconduct or violation of company policies, redundancy, incapacity, and expiration of employment or fixed-term contracts. 

Meanwhile, termination grounds are subject to limitations. It is not permissible to terminate an employee in Belgium based on discriminatory factors, such as race, gender, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Employees who engage in whistleblowing activities are also protected from termination. 

Termination process in Belgium

The termination process in Belgium can vary depending on the employment agreement. The strictest form of dismissal is dismissal with notice, which requires providing advance notice to the employee. 

Some sectors have additional termination processes outlined in collective bargaining agreements. These procedures may provide specific information and consultation rules, adding an extra layer of protection for employees. 

  • Employee termination. When an employer in Belgium wishes to terminate an employment contract, they must provide the employee with written notice informing them of the termination date and the length of the notice period. Employers must follow the statutory or contractual notice period, providing ample time for the employee to prepare for the end of the employment relationship.
  • Employee resignation. Employees in Belgium are also required to provide notice when resigning from their position. The length of the notice period for employees is typically defined in the employment contract or through applicable labour regulations.

    When an employment contract comes to an end, employers in Belgium must pay all wages that are still due to the employee. According to Article 11 of the Wage Protection Act, these wages should be paid without delay and on the first payday following the contract’s end, at the very latest. In Belgium, employers and employees may mutually agree to shorten or waive the notice period under specific circumstances, provided both parties consent to the arrangement in writing.

Notice period for termination

In cases of dismissal, the termination notice period can vary based on different factors such as the length of service and the classification of the worker. For employees who have been employed for at least six months, they have the right to know the reason for their termination.

Termination pay in Belgium

In cases where a certain percentage of the workforce in a business is made redundant, collective agreements generally entitle them to additional compensation beyond average unemployment benefits. However, employees dismissed for serious cause or resign may not immediately qualify for unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, in certain cases, employers may place an employee on garden leave during the notice period, where the employee is required to stay away from the workplace while still receiving their full salary and benefits.

Post-termination restraints in Belgium

Under the law, post-termination restraints such as non-compete and non-solicitation are generally allowed, but their enforceability is subject to strict conditions. If deemed reasonable, employers may enforce post-termination restraints that protect their legitimate business interests.

Non-compete clause in Belgium

Non-compete clauses have specific conditions, including those related to salary level, scope of application, and duration. Typically, the duration should not exceed 12 months, except in the case of “international non-compete clauses” with a geographical scope beyond the Belgian territory. The employee may receive a non-compete indemnity equal to half of the remuneration due for the non-compete period if the employer does not explicitly waive the non-compete obligation in a timely manner. However, this exception does not apply to non-competes in employment contracts for sales representatives.

Customer non-solicitation clause in Belgium

It is generally permissible, but only enforceable if reasonable.

Employee non-solicitation clause in Belgium

It is generally permissible, but only enforceable if reasonable.

When considering implementing post-termination restraints, employers in Belgium should carefully assess the necessity and appropriateness of such measures based on the specific circumstances of their business and the role of the departing employee. The agreement on post-termination restraints must be in writing, either at the conclusion of the contract or during its duration. It is essential to strike a balance between protecting the company’s interests and respecting the rights of the employee.

Waivers

While waivers are enforceable, employees can only sign a settlement agreement regarding their acquired rights and not their future rights.

Transfer of undertakings in Belgium

In the context of workforce management, the transfer of undertakings in Belgium involves an automatic transfer as per the EU Acquired Rights Directive/Collective Bargaining Agreement no. 32, in the event of a business sale or a change in service provision. Following such a transfer, there are strict limitations on altering the terms and conditions. Moreover, there is a responsibility to keep employee representative bodies informed and consulted. In cases where there are no representative bodies, the information must be directly provided to the employees. It is important to note that any dismissal related to the transfer is considered unfair unless it is due to valid economic, technical, or organisational reasons.

Minimise risk with our end-to-end global employment solutions

Employment contracts can end for various reasons and avenues. However, you need to thoroughly understand the rules and regulations governing the end of employment to avoid potential financial and legal risks.

At CXC, our comprehensive compliance solution ensures your business is protected throughout the entire employee lifecycle, from onboarding to offboarding, regardless of the circumstances.

Speak to our team and we will provide the insights and guidance you need to ensure compliance in your global hiring process.

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