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Introduction

Belgian employment law

Belgium has fairly extensive protective labour laws, as enacted by Parliament. Moreover,collective bargaining between the so-called ‘social partners’, i.e. the employers’ organisations and the trade unions, plays a very important role in the shaping of the rules of labour law.

Case law, in particular that of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court,can have considerable influence on the application of labour and employment law in practice. In Belgium, labour courts deal with disputes in relation to employment relationships. Enforcement of labour law provisions may also be initiated by other authorities, including the labour inspectorate or tax and social security authorities.

The Social Inspectorate also provides information to employers and workers, gives advice, arbitrates and verifies whether labour law and the various collective labour agreements are complied with.

 

Key Points

  • Collective bargaining agreements are entered into on national or industry level between the trade unions and employers’ organisations or on company level between the trade unions and an individual employer. They include provisions with regard to wages and working conditions.
  • Belgian labour law is characterised by stringent language regulations. All labour documents and labour-related communications with the employees must be conducted in either Dutch, French or German, depending on the location of the employer’s operating unit. The sanction is the nullity (with the exception of the Brussels and German regions where the sanction is the replacement of the document).
  • As a rule, termination of an employment contract is not subject to any prior administrative or court approval in Belgium. The calculation of notice periods is based on the seniority of the employee. Moreover, all employees have the right to ask for the concrete reasons which have led to dismissal.
  • Well-being and anti-discrimination have an increased importance in Belgian labour relations. For example, the way psycho-social risks are dealt with on the work floor was adapted to a great extent in 2014.
  • The Belgian labour market is characterised by a high insider-outsider effect (especially for migrant workers, older workers and people an alliance of employers’ counsel worldwide with disabilities) and low professional mobility because of high minimum wages and high levels of protection offered by labour law provisions and the social security system.

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