In principle, an employment contract may be written or verbal. Yet, the following employment contracts and/or clauses (without limitation) must be in writing: (1) training clause; (2) non-competition clause; (3) employment contracts entered into for a fixed term or for a specific project; (4) part-time contracts; (5) temporary work or temporary agency work; (6) working from home; (7) arbitral clauses for high-paid employees with high management responsibilities, and (8) in certain cases, employment contracts entered into with a foreign worker.
For some of these exceptions, the contract must be signed before the employee actually starts his activity. Sanctions for failure to comply with the written contract requirement range from the nullification of the clause or contract to the creation of a legal presumption that the contract has been entered into for an indefinite term (open-ended employment contract).
Without prejudice to the above-mentioned stipulations, the law does not impose the inclusion of particular clauses in the employment contract. However, the mandatory legal and regulatory conditions, as well as the conditions within collective bargaining agreements are generally deemed to form an integral part of the employment contract, and no clause may validly depart from these conditions.
As the transposition of the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive by the Act of 7 October 2020 imposes an obligation of information regarding essential elements of the employment conditions, it is recommended to include most of these elements in the written employment contract.
Uniquely characteristic to Belgium is that, when in written form, an employment contract must be drafted in French, Dutch or German, depending on the location of the employer’s operating unit. If the operating unit where the employee works is located in the Flemish region, the employment contract must be drafted in Dutch. If this operating unit is in the Walloon region, the employment contract must be drafted in French and if the location is in the German-speaking region, the contract must be in German. For the Brussels region, the employment contract must be either in French or Dutch depending on the language used by the employee.
Nonetheless, in the particular context of a cross-border employment contract, the European Court of Justice rendered a landmark decision stipulating that the principle of freedom of movement for employees requires the parties to be able to draft their contract not only in the official language of the Region of the workplace. Consequently, the Flemish Decree on the use of languages in social relations has, to a certain extent, been amended accordingly. This means that for employees who are employed in Flanders, next to the Dutch version, an English version of the contract can be added.