Looking Ahead 2024: Belgium
2024 is an important year for the political and social elections. The European, federal, regional and local political levels organise elections. In May, the workers of companies with 50 or 100 employees will elect their representatives to health & safety committees and/or works councils. From a legislative perspective, the first months of 2024 will be characterised by the finalisation of the last legislation of the current government, while little to no new rules are expected in the second half of the year. Below, we give an overview of the most important upcoming evolutions to consider.
1. Social elections 2024
Companies with 50 or more employees need to establish a health and safety committee. If they reach the threshold of 100 or more employees, a works council needs to be formed. The employees are represented in these social dialogue bodies by their elected employee representatives. Companies have the legal obligation to organise the elections following a set of complicated and very strict rules. The elections themselves will take place between 13 and 26 May 2024, but the preparations start way earlier. The so-called occult period, during which employees can be protected by election candidates without the employer knowing, can start on 14 January 2024. Therefore, dismissing anyone can be considered very dangerous for the coming period.
2. Reform of the Social Penal Code
The Social Penal Code of 2010 has been updated many times during the last decade, but in 2017, the Advisory Council of Social Penal Law published an extensive evaluation report. Based on this and other practical and political ambitions, a draft act was introduced in 2023 to reform the code. It is expected that the federal parliament will approve the reform before the end of the legislature. The main reforms are:
- The introduction of a fifth level of sanctions (for the worst crimes) with penal fines of 600 to 6000 euros (6400 to 64000 euros after the legal multiplication) and administrative fines of 400 to 4000 euros (3200 to 32000 euros after the legal multiplication). Level 4 will lose its prison sentence as a sanction. Only Level 5 will feature the possibility of imposing a prison sentence of 5 months up to 3 years.
- A reshuffle of sanction levels for the different infractions in order to make the system more coherent and logical.
- The explicit provision of alternative sanctions (electronic detention, community service, probation, etc.).
- A new sanction which includes a prohibition to compete in a public tender procedure.
- New rules regarding repeat crimes.
3. Obligation to register information regarding professional trainings as of April 2024
With the Act of 20 October 2023 (published on 1 December 2023), the legislator has introduced the Federal Learning Account (FLA). The FLA has the purpose of giving workers access to information regarding their individual right to training, based on the Labour Deal Act of 2022. As of April 2024, employers will need to provide adequate information regarding the trainings on the Federal Learning Account through the www.mycarreer.be website. Find more information here.
4. Act to regulate the motivation for dismissals in the public sector
Starting in 2024, employers in the private sector must motivate a dismissal upon the request of the dismissed employee based on the collective bargaining agreement no. 109. As this CBA does not apply to employers in the public sector, a decade-long discussion followed by whether these employers had a similar obligation (the Constitutional Court ruled that they do). The federal legislator will now finally intervene in the matter to create a distinct set of rules for the public sector. The envisaged motivation system is pretty similar to the private sector. However, the public sector employers will have an obligation to motivate the dismissal on their initiative and not upon request. The legislative proposal has not yet been introduced in the federal parliament, but this is expected at the beginning of 2024.
5. Impact of the Deliveroo judgement
On 21 December 2023, the Labour Court of Appeal of Brussels ruled that Deliveroo riders were employees and not self-employed workers, as Deliveroo claimed. Together with the application of the rebuttable presumption of an employment contract for platform workers introduced by the Labour Deal Act of 2022 and the expected approval of the Platform Work Directive, this judgement might lead to stricter protection for digital platform workers. However, Deliveroo has announced their intention to submit an appeal before the Supreme Court that might deliver its verdict in 2024 (although 2025 seems more likely).
6. As of January
Just like every year, lots of new rules entered into force on 1 January 2024, amongst which are:
- Restriction of reductions in social security contributions for first hires (more info);
- Expansion of the flexi-job system (more info);
- New obligations and rights regarding incapacity during paid annual leave (more info);
- Employers will have to pay an additional complement on top of the unemployment benefits paid by the government when a company uses the system of temporary unemployment for economic reasons;
- Employers will receive a premium of 1725 instead of 1000 euros if they (re)employ a worker who was on a long-term incapacity to work due to medical reasons; and
- The new Act of 17 December 2023 regarding the minimum work conditions for parcel deliveries (minimum compensation, maximum distribution times, registration obligations, and also for self-employed providers) and chain responsibility enters (partially) into force at the beginning of January.