Belgium: Overview of Upcoming Social Belgian Legislation
Author: Chris Van Olmen
The Belgian government is currently working on several important new and amending laws and rules regarding employment law. Below, we provide a concise overview and an estimated timeline for their implementation.
- Labour deal
In February 2022, we wrote about the Labour Deal of the Belgian federal government. This political deal included measures regarding:
- The introduction of a 4-day work week;
- The creation of a right to disconnect for employees;
- A 7-day notice period for flexible work schemes;
- The possibility for a dismissed employee to request an employer for a transition project to another job;
- An individual right to training days for employees;
- Better protection for platform workers;
- Relaxation of conditions for evening work in e-commerce; and
- Plans for diversity monitoring in sectors and companies.
Most of these measures will be introduced by an Act concerning diverse employment provisions. This draft legislative proposal has not yet been submitted to parliament. The entry into force of the future act is planned for 1 September 2022.
- Reform of the reintegration procedure for long-term ill employees
Most of these measures are supposed to be introduced by an Act concerning diverse employment provisions. This draft legislative proposal has not yet been submitted to parliament and the social partners have given a very divided advice on the draft proposal which makes it more difficult for the governing majority to pass it without amendments. The entry into force of the future act is planned for 1 September 2022, which only seems realistic if the parliament can vote on it before the summer recess.
This reform will be accompanied by other measures, such as:
- Sanctions for long-term ill employees who refuse to cooperate.
- Sanctions for employers with a high rate of long-term ill employees.
- The abolishment of the possibility of an employer to demand a medical certificate of the employee on the first day of absence due to medical reasons.
These reforms are based on several draft legislative proposals (acts and royal decrees). The act(s) still has/have to be submitted to parliament and there is no planned date for the entry into force. In any case, the social partners have given a positive advice regarding the proposal, except concerning the new sanctions for employers and employees.
- Transposition of the EU Whistle-blowing Directive
The Federal government will submit legislative proposals to parliament regarding the transposition of the EU Whistleblowing Directive in the private and public sectors (separate acts). Both the private and the public sector system will significantly expand the material scope of the protection offered by the EU Directive. As the Directive should have been transposed by 17 December 2022, the authorities feel the pressure of the EU Commission to speed up the process and the goal is to approve the legislation before parliament’s summer recess of (half) July.
- Transposition of the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive
The federal government is also preparing the transposition of the EU Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive. The draft legislative proposal contains several measures including:
- The obligation to communicate a written document regarding the essential working conditions to the employee on the first day of the employment.
- Communication obligation in case of posting of workers to another country.
- Prohibition of exclusivity clauses (with exceptions).
- Obligation for employer to pay for mandatory trainings.
- Right to request a more secure form of employment.
- Maximal duration of a probationary period.
- Measures regarding the predictability of work shifts.
- Protection against retaliation.
Although the Directive needs to be transposed by 2 August 2022, the planned date of entry into force is 1 November 2022. The proposal also needs to be submitted to parliament, but some institutions still need to give their advice.
- Transposition of the Work-Life Balance Directive
The last 2019 EU Directive that needs to be transposed is the Work-Life Balance Directive. This would result in a new act and two royal decrees, which include:
- A new care leave of 5 days;
- The possibility to apply for flexible working arrangements;
- A more extensive protection against dismissal for ‘caring’ employees;
- A sanction for not granting birth leave;
- A new protection against the non-renewal of a temporary contract on the grounds of pregnancy, childbirth or taking converted maternity leave;
- A duty to give reasons when refusing certain forms of leave and postponing parental leave.
Also, this draft legislation has not yet been submitted to parliament and although the EU Directive should be transposed by 2 August 2022, here again the advice of several institutions is still required.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
- There are several major reforms and innovations of Belgium employment law on its way.
- Some are the result of political deals between the governing parties; others form the transposition of EU Directives.
- Employers should keep a close eye on the dates for the planned entry into force and try to prepare themselves for the new obligations.