The EU reinforces the protection of whistleblowers

Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of EU law (or “whistleblowers”) was published on 26 November 2019.

This Directive requires, among others, that all companies with more than 50 employees and public sector entities establish internal procedures to facilitate and ensure rapid follow-up on reported breaches. To ensure the effectiveness of the system, the Directive also provides for serious protection against retaliation to whistleblowers.

The Member States must transpose it by 17 December 2021 at the latest.

Material scope of application

The Directive aims to protect persons reporting:

1. breaches or abuses of EU law in the following areas:

  • Public procurement
  • Financial services, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing
  • Product safety
  • Transport safety
  • Protection of the environment
  • Radiation protection and nuclear safety
  • Food and feed safety, animal health and welfare
  • Public health
  • Consumer protection
  • Protection of privacy and personal data, and security of network and information systemsbreaches harming the EU’s financial interests

2. given their negative impact on the proper functioning of the internal market, breaches relating to EU competition rules and corporate tax rules.

3. The Directive provides that Member States may extend the scope of protection to other areas.

Personal scope

The Directive applies to reporting people in the private or public sector who acquired information on breaches in a work-related context including, at least, the following:

  • Workers;
  • Self-employed service providers, including freelances, contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers;
  • Shareholders and members of the management body of a company;
  • Volunteers and unpaid trainees;
  • Persons working under the supervision and direction of contractors, subcontractors and suppliers;
  • Job applicants;
  • Persons whose employment relationship has ended.

The measures of protection foreseen by the Directive shall also apply to:

  • Facilitators (i.e. those who support the whistleblower when reporting);
  • Third persons connected with the whistleblower and who may suffer retaliation in a work-related context, such as colleagues or relatives; and
  • Legal entities that the reporting person owns, works for or which are otherwise connected with the whistleblower in a work-related context.

Conditions for protection

According to Article 6 of the Directive, whistleblowers benefit from the protection offered by the Directive provided that:

  • They had reasonable grounds to believe that (i) the information reported is true at the time of reporting and (ii) that this information falls within the scope of the Directive.
  • They reported either internally or externally or made a public disclosure in accordance with the Directive.

Internal and external reporting channels

In order to efficiently protect whistleblowers, Members States must ensure that:

  • All public entities and private companies with 50 or more employees set up effective internal reporting channels, ensuring confidentiality of the whistleblowers (“internal reporting channels”)
  • The national authorities designated as competent to investigate reports also establish external reporting channels enabling reporting of complete and confidential information; (“external reporting channels”)

Whistleblowers are generally encouraged to use internal channels first, but they can choose whether to report directly externally to the competent authorities.

The Directive furthermore specifies that the recipient of reporting must diligently follow up on the reports and provide feedback to the reporting person within a reasonable timeframe not exceeding three months or, for the external reporting, six months in duly justified cases.

Public disclosure

According to Article 15, whistleblowers can make public disclosure and report to the media only if:

  • No appropriate action was taken within the foreseen timeframe in response to their internal or external reporting

Or

  • They reasonably believe that:
  • There is an imminent or manifest danger for the public interest;
  • There is a risk or retaliation or a low prospect for the breach to be effectively addressed due to the particular circumstances of the case (e.g. evidence may be destroyed or collusion of authorities)

Protection measures

The Directive provides for a prohibition of retaliation in all its various forms, e.g. dismissal, negative performance assessment, intimidation, harassment, discrimination or unfair treatment; damage, including to the person’s reputation, or financial loss, blacklisting.

Moreover, adequate remedies shall be taken in case of retaliation, including reversal of the burden of proof in proceedings and interim relief pending the resolution of legal proceedings.

Whistleblowers should also not incur liability for breach of NDAs provided that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the reporting or public disclosure of such information was necessary for revealing a breach, and provided that no criminal offence was committed.

Members Sates also keep the possibility to introduce or maintain more favourable provisions in their national regime.

Sanctions

Member States shall provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties applicable to natural or legal persons that:

  • hinder or attempt to hinder reporting;
  • retaliate against persons protected by the Directive;
  • bring vexatious proceedings against these persons;
  • breach the duty of maintaining the identity of reporting persons confidential.

Safeguards for concerned persons and the credibility of the system

The Directive also implements measures of protection for the “concerned person(s)”:

  • Persons concerned by the reports fully enjoy the presumption of innocence, the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial, and the rights of defence;
  • Competent authorities shall ensure, in accordance with national law, that the identity of the persons concerned is protected as long as investigations triggered by the report or the public disclosure are ongoing.
  • Member States shall provide for effective and proportionate sanctions to dissuade malicious or abusive reports.

Entry into force and implementation in Belgium

This Directive shall enter into force on 16 December 2019, and Member States shall transpose the Directive by 17 December 2021, with a possible extension until 17 December 2023.

Given that Belgium, unlike France, Sweden or Italy, does not already have a comparable general system, the way in which transposition will be handled by our future government should be closely observed. We will keep you informed…

***

Pierre Van Achter
pierre.vanachter@simontbraun.eu
+32 2 543 70 80

Élections sociales 2020 : 10 rappels-clés

Les prochaines élections sociales auront lieu entre le 11 et le 24 mai 2020 (jour Y). Toutefois, la procédure électorale – qui dure plus de 150 jours – commencera dès le mois de décembre 2019.

Vous trouverez ci-après quelques rappels pour vous aider dès les étapes préalables à l’organisation des élections proprement dites qui, rappelons-le, peuvent désormais être organisées de façon électronique.

1. Dans quelles entreprises organiser des élections sociales?

Un conseil d’entreprise (CE) doit en principe être instauré dans les entreprises occupant en moyenne 100 travailleurs tandis qu’un comité pour la prévention et la protection au travail (CPPT) doit être instauré dans les entreprises occupant en moyenne 50 travailleurs.

Nouveauté ! La période de référence pour calculer le taux moyen d’occupation s’écoule désormais du 1er octobre 2018 au 30 septembre 2019 pour les travailleurs liés par un contrat de travail ou contrat d’apprentissage, et le 2ème trimestre de l’année 2019 pour les travailleurs intérimaires (sauf s’ils remplacent un travailleur fixe).

L’occupation moyenne des travailleurs est calculée, sauf pour les intérimaires, en prenant le nombre total de jours calendriers enregistrés en Dimona pour chacun de ceux-ci entre le 1er octobre 2018 et le 30 septembre 2019, à diviser par 365.

2. L’entreprise = l’UTE

– Les élections sociales doivent être organisées au niveau de l’unité technique d’exploitation (UTE) définie à partir de critères économiques et sociaux. Cette notion d’UTE ne coïncide pas nécessairement avec celle d’entité juridique. Une entité juridique peut ainsi être composée de plusieurs UTE et inversement.

Concrètement, c’est l’existence d’une certaine autonomie en matière économique et sociale qui déterminera le niveau auquel le CE et le CPPT devront être mis en place. En cas de doute, les critères sociaux prévalent sur les critères économiques.

– La loi ne précise pas ce qu’il y a lieu d’entendre par « critères économiques et sociaux ». On se réfère ainsi à la jurisprudence rendue en la matière.

Les critères économiques sont notamment : l’identité d’activités, une comptabilité commune, des services juridique et administratif communs, une politique économique et budgétaire commune, une direction composée de façon identique, un actionnariat commun, etc.

Les critères sociaux se rapportent quant à eux aux éléments suivants : emploi de langues communes, direction et politique du personnel commune, règlement de travail identique, organisation d’activités communes, système d’évaluation et de promotion similaire, politique salariale identique, intranet commun, etc.

– En fonction des cohésions existantes sur le plan économique et social au sein d’une même entreprise, plusieurs entités juridiques peuvent former ensemble une seule UTE. La législation détermine à cet égard les conditions en vertu desquelles plusieurs entités juridiques sont présumées, jusqu’à preuve du contraire, former une seule UTE. Ces présomptions sont les suivantes :

  • soit les entités juridiques font partie du même groupe économique ou sont administrées par une même personne ou par des personnes ayant un lien économique entre elles, soit ces entités juridiques ont une même activité ou bien leurs activités sont liées entre elles;
  • soit il existe certains éléments indiquant une cohésion sociale entre ces entités juridiques, comme notamment une communauté humaine rassemblée dans les mêmes bâtiments ou des bâtiments proches, une gestion commune du personnel, un règlement de travail ou des conventions collectives de travail communes ou comportant des dispositions similaires.

– Inversement, il est possible qu’une entité juridique doive être scindée en plusieurs UTE. Ce faisant, il se peut que les UTE qui en découlent (ou à tout le moins certaines d’entre-elles) n’atteignent isolément pas le nombre d’effectifs requis en vue de l’organisation d’élections sociales.

La loi impose toutefois aussi l’organisation d’élections sociales dans les entreprises qui – en tant qu’entités juridiques (en non plus en tant qu’UTE) – occupent en moyenne 50 ou 100 travailleurs. Dans ces cas, il conviendra de suivre une procédure dite de « regroupement » des UTE d’une même entité juridique jusqu’à ce que celles-ci atteignent les seuils de 50/100 travailleurs.

3. Catégories de personnel représentées

Au terme des élections sociales, des travailleurs représenteront leurs collègues au CE et au CPPT. Cette représentation sera répartie entre les différentes catégories de travailleurs présents dans l’entreprise : employés, ouvriers, jeunes travailleurs (s’il y a au moins 25 travailleurs de moins de 25 ans au jour des élections) et cadres (si au moins 15 cadres sont occupés au jour X).

Les « cadres » sont définis comme étant les employés qui exercent dans l’entreprise une fonction supérieure, réservée généralement aux titulaires d’un diplôme d’un niveau déterminé ou à celui qui possède une expérience professionnelle équivalente. Les personnes qui appartiennent au personnel de direction ne peuvent par ailleurs être considérées comme des cadres.

Les cadres sont en réalité des personnes qui exercent une fonction « supérieure », du fait de l’autorité qu’ils exercent ou simplement en raison du contenu de leur tâche. La fonction de cadre implique une certaine autonomie décisionnelle dans l’exécution du travail, certaines compétences de direction et/ou des responsabilités importantes. Cette notion sera appréciée in concreto et dépendra de la nature de l’entreprise ainsi que de sa structure.

4. Début de la procédure – Première communication et décision

La procédure électorale débute à X-60 (soit entre le 13 et le 26 décembre 2020 en fonction de la date d’élections choisie), c’est-à-dire au plus tard le 60ème jour précédant l’affichage de la date des élections au sein de l’entreprise (jour X).

A cette date, l’employeur doit communiquer aux travailleurs ainsi que, le cas échéant, aux CE et CPPT, toute une série d’informations, dont la liste des fonctions de direction et les critères économiques et sociaux qu’il entend prendre en considération en vue de la détermination de l’(ou des) UTE.

Débute alors une période de 25 jours dite de « consultation » avec le CE et/ou le CPPT ou, à défaut, avec la délégation syndicale. Au cours de cette période, seront notamment évoqués les critères retenus par l’employeur ainsi que son intention d’éventuellement diviser une entité juridique en plusieurs UTE ou inversement de (ne pas) regrouper plusieurs entités juridiques en une seule UTE.

A l’issue des 25 jours (soit à X-35), l’employeur communique sa décision écrite dans laquelle il indique le nombre d’UTE qu’il a décidé de retenir ainsi que leur description. Un recours peut être introduit contre cette décision par les travailleurs et/ou leurs organisations syndicales.

5. Personnel de direction = ?

Comme expliqué ci-avant, à X-60, l’employeur doit communiquer la liste des fonctions de direction présentes au sein de l’entreprise. Cette première annonce devra être confirmée au jour X-35 (soit entre le 7 et le 20 janvier 2020 en fonction de la date d’élections choisie). L’employeur désignera parmi ce personnel de direction ceux qui siégeront au CE et/ou au CPPT à ses côtés. Ceux-ci ne pourront donc poser leur candidature en tant que représentant des travailleurs et n’auront pas le droit de voter.

La loi organisant les élections sociales définit le personnel de direction comme « les personnes chargées de la gestion journalière de l’entreprise qui ont pouvoir de représenter et d’engager l’employeur, ainsi que les membres du personnel directement subordonnés à ces personnes, lorsqu’ils remplissent également des missions de gestion journalière ».

Il s’agit, dans la pratique, des deux niveaux les plus élevés dans la hiérarchie de la structure du personnel qui sont chargés de la direction journalière de l’entreprise.

Pour pouvoir évaluer ces deux niveaux, il y a lieu d’examiner les circonstances de fait et la pratique journalière de l’entreprise. En d’autres termes, analyser qui se charge de la direction journalière, effective, indépendante et continue de l’entreprise, le titre de la fonction n’étant en soi pas déterminant.

Pour cet exercice, l’organigramme de l’entreprise peut constituer un outil d’aide important.

Depuis les élections sociales de 2016, les personnes de confiance ne peuvent plus représenter l’employeur au sein du CE et du CPPT ni se présenter comme candidat. Elles bénéficient ainsi du même statut que les conseillers en prévention.

6. Combien de mandats ?

Le nombre de mandats à attribuer dépend du nombre de travailleurs occupés au jour X. En fonction de ce nombre, le nombre de mandats effectifs à attribuer sera de :

Nombre de mandats effectifs Nombre de travailleurs au jour X
4 Moins de 101
6 101 à 500
8 501 à 1000
10 1001 à 2000
12 2001 à 3000
14 3001 à 4000
16 4001 à 5000
18 5001 à 6000
20 6001 à 8000
22 Plus de 8000

Il y aura par ailleurs un nombre équivalent de mandats suppléants. Il est enfin possible d’ajouter des mandats supplémentaires pour les cadres.

Le nombre de mandats une fois défini, il convient de répartir ceux-ci entre les différentes catégories de personnel. La priorité est donnée aux jeunes travailleurs, ensuite la répartition se fait proportionnellement par catégorie de travailleurs dans l’entreprise, étant entendu que chaque catégorie doit disposer d’au moins un mandat.

7. Quels candidats ?

Pour être candidat, il faut remplir un certain nombre de conditions le jour du vote (Y):

  • être lié par un contrat de travail ou d’apprentissage;
  • être occupé dans l’UTE où ont lieu les élections;
  • avoir au moins 18 ans (16 ans si l’on est candidat jeune travailleur) et ne pas avoir atteint l’âge de 65 ans (25 ans si l’on est candidat jeune travailleur);
  • ne pas être membre du personnel de direction ni être conseiller en prévention;
  • appartenir à la catégorie de personnel pour laquelle on se porte candidat (jeune travailleur, ouvrier, employé, cadre);
  • avoir une ancienneté minimale soit de 6 mois ininterrompus, soit de 9 mois discontinus en 2019 dans l’entité juridique ou dans l’UTE que forment plusieurs entités juridiques.

8. Qui a le droit de vote ?

Auparavant, seuls les travailleurs disposant d’au moins trois mois d’ancienneté bénéficiaient du droit de vote. Nouveauté ! A présent, l’intérimaire se voit également accorder le droit de vote chez l’utilisateur.

Pour cela, l’intérimaire doit remplir deux conditions cumulatives :

  1. il doit avoir travaillé en tout au moins trois mois consécutifs ou, en cas de périodes d’occupation interrompues, compter en tout au moins 65 jours ouvrables de travail, pendant la période allant du 1er août 2019 à la date d’affichage de l’annonce de la date du scrutin (à savoir le « jour X » – donc en février 2020) ;
  2. au cours de la période qui débute le jour X pour se terminer le 13e jour avant la date des élections (à savoir le jour Y-13), il doit avoir été occupé durant au moins 26 jours ouvrables.

On prend à cet égard en compte l’occupation dans l’entité juridique de l’utilisateur ou dans l’UTE de l’utilisateur qui est constituée de plusieurs entités juridiques.

9. Protection contre le licenciement

Les candidats et les représentants du personnel élus au CE et au CPPT sont protégés contre le licenciement. Ils ne peuvent être licenciés que pour un motif grave préalablement reconnu par les juridictions du travail ou pour des raisons d’ordre économique ou technique préalablement reconnues par la commission paritaire.

Cette protection débute à la date X-30 (soit pour les élections 2020, entre le 12 et le 25 janvier 2020), date à laquelle l’employeur n’a pas encore connaissance des listes des candidats, celles-ci devant lui être transmises pour le jour X+35. On parle ainsi de « protection occulte ». Elle prend fin à la date d’installation des candidats élus lors des élections sociales suivantes.

Compte tenu des sanctions financières attachées au non-respect de cette protection (jusqu’à 8 ans de salaire), chaque employeur devra, dès le début 2020, être extrêmement prudent aux licenciements dont il décide. En effet, tout travailleur licencié peut se porter candidat aux élections et bénéficier de ce fait, de façon rétroactive, d’une protection contre le licenciement.

10. Recours judiciaires

Des recours spécifiques peuvent être formés à plusieurs moments au cours de la procédure d’élections sociales (au jour X-28, au jour X+21, au jour X+52, au jour X + 61 et au jour Y+15). Des délais très courts doivent être respectés à cet égard et en principe aucun appel n’est possible. Nous pouvons vous fournir une assistance particulière à cet égard si nécessaire.

***

Pierre Van Achter

Pour plus d’informations ou une assistance spécifique, n’hésitez pas à contacter l’auteur: +32 (0)2 533 17 36 ou pierre.vanachter@simontbraun.eu

Variable remuneration: two recent decisions of the Supreme Court to keep in mind

1. Variable remuneration and computation of the indemnity in lieu of notice

To calculate an indemnity in lieu of notice, not only the remuneration to which the employee is entitled when the employment contract is terminated is taken into account but also the benefits that were granted according to the employment agreement. The Law of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts, explicitly provides that where remuneration or benefits are entirely or partly variable, one should take into account to calculate the variable part, the average over the previous 12 months, or the part of those 12 months during which the employee was in service.

In its judgement of 6 May 2019, the Court of Cassation explained that this rule does not have as a consequence that any variable remuneration or benefit paid during the 12 months prior to the dismissal forms part of the remuneration and benefits at the time of dismissal.

According to the Court, when a bonus had been paid in the year prior to dismissal and the individual employment agreement stated that granting the bonus in a certain year did not entitle the employee to a bonus in any consecutive year, the judge may consider, according to specific circumstances (in the case at hand,  the fact that no one in the same category of staff received a bonus due to the company’s negative economic results), that the employee was not entitled to a bonus at the time of the dismissal, even if the employer had not yet informed the employee that he would not be granted a bonus for that year.

Therefore, the Court concluded that even if the variable remuneration was paid over the previous 12 months, it should not be taken into account for the computation of the indemnity in lieu of notice, given the absence of a right to a variable remuneration at the time of dismissal.

2. Variable remuneration paid by a third party are subject to social security contributions

Based on the general definition of the employment contract, remuneration is the counterpart for the work performed.

The Law of 12 April 1965 on the protection of the workers’ remuneration applies a much broader “remuneration” definition, being all salary in cash or benefits in kind to which the employee is entitled by virtue of his employment chargeable to the employer.

According to the Supreme Court in its decision of 20 May 2019, these two definitions are not exclusive.

The remuneration granted to employees as the counterpart for the work performed in the framework of their employment contract qualifies as remuneration subject to social security contributions.

Hence, according to the Court, premiums paid to employees by a third-party (in the case at hand, a distributor), who is not their employer, are subject to social security contributions, if it is received as a result of the work performed in the execution of their contract. It is therefore not necessary for the Court to examine whether the employees cannot assert a right to these premiums to their employer or, in other words, if these premiums are chargeable to the employer or not.

This decision confirms the last position of the National Security Office in its last administrative instructions (version 2019/2).

***

Pierre Van Achter

pierre.vanachter@simontbraun.eu
+32 (0)2 533 17 41

 

Has the ECJ just killed the Belgian judicial restructuring procedure by transfer under judicial supervision?

The Belgian judicial restructuring procedure by transfer under judicial supervision (“PRJ 3 / WCO 3”) regulates the transfer of all or part of the debtor’s undertaking under the supervision of a judicial trustee.

One of the main added-values of this Belgian procedure is the “right of option”, which allows the transferee to choose which transferor’s employees it wishes to keep on after the transfer, provided that this choice is dictated by economic, technical or organisational reasons entailing changes in the workforce (article XX.86 §3 of the Economic Code; former article 61 § 3 of the Business Continuity Act).

On 14 August 2017, the Antwerp Labour Court of Appeal referred a preliminary question to the ECJ on the compatibility of the Belgian provision with articles 3 and 4 of Directive 2001/23 relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfer of (parts of) undertakings (also called “TUPE Regulation”). This question has been raised in proceedings launched by an employee (Mrs Christa Plessers), who has been dismissed further to the transfer of her employer’s company under judicial supervision and is asking for her reinstatement in the transferee’s company.

Condemnation of the Belgian procedure by the ECJ

In order to answer this question, the ECJ had to determine whether:

  • the “right of option” granted to the transferee falls under the exception laid down in article 5 §1 of Directive 2001/23, which requires that the transferor (1) is subject to a bankruptcy proceeding or any analogous insolvency proceeding that has been instituted in view of the liquidation of the transferor’s assets, and (2) is under the supervision of a competent public authority;

and if not,

  • whether articles 3 and 4 of Directive 2001/23 preclude the Belgian “right of option”.

The ECJ decided on 16 May 2019 that the choice granted to the transferee by the Belgian law does not meet the cumulative conditions laid down in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/23 and that, consequently, transfers carried out in such circumstances must comply with articles 3 and 4 of Directive 2001/23.

The ECJ emphasised that “dismissals which occur in the context of the transfer of an undertaking must be justified by economic, technical or organisational reasons relating to employment which do not intrinsically relate to that transfer”.

Yet, article XX.86§3 of the Economic Code does not impose upon the transferee to justify its choice with regard to the transferor’s employees who are made redundant.

As a result, according to the Court, the application of current article XX.86§3 of the Economic Code could seriously threaten the principal objective of Directive 2001/23, i.e. to protect employees against unjustified dismissals in the event of a transfer of undertaking.

Therefore, the ECJ decided that Directive 2001/23 has to be interpreted as prohibiting the transferee to choose the employees it wishes to keep on after the transfer.

What is the impact of this decision under Belgian law?

Given the ruling of the ECJ, it becomes complicated for the Belgian courts to interpret article 86 §3 of the Economic Code consistently with Directive 2001/23.

However, and as the ECJ pointed out itself, in accordance with EU law, the Belgian courts will not have to discard their own national provisions. As a result, as long as article 86 §3 of the Belgian Economic Code is not amended, it seems that the sole possibility for employees who have been dismissed in the framework of a transfer under judicial supervision will be to sue the Belgian State to claim compensation because (i) it did not correctly implement Directive 2001/23, or (ii) the national courts did not correctly interpret article 86 §3. However, in that second case, the dismissed employees will also have to prove that they suffered damages due to this wrongful behaviour. In other words, they will have to prove that they were not dismissed for economic, technical or organisational reasons, which might be a difficult task.

Conclusion: is it the end of the PRJ3/WCO 3?

By considering that current article 86§3 of the Belgian economic Code does not comply with Directive 2001/23, the ECJ might have sounded the death knell of the PRJ3/WCO3.

As mentioned before, the main advantage of such a proceeding is precisely to allow the transferee not to keep all the transferor’s employees but only the chosen ones. In addition, under this proceeding, the transferee can also modify the working conditions of the transferred employees. Even if this second principle of the Belgian legislation was not referred to the ECJ, one can expect a similar ruling, which would make the PRJ3/WCO3 completely useless.

In any case, the Belgian legislator will have no choice but to modify the Title V of the Economic Code to make it consistent with Directive 2001/23. This modification might be included in the coming (and more significant) reform of the Belgian insolvency law to implement the Directive on preventive restructuring frameworks, second chance and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures, whose final text has just been approved (15 May 2019) by the Parliament and the Council.

To be continued with our next government…

***

Fanny Laune & Pierre Van Achter

20170615

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Feasible and manageable work – Summary overview of the new Belgian law

The law on feasible and manageable work of 5 March 2017, also known as the Peeters law, was published in the Belgian State Gazette on 15 March 2017. It contains a whole series of measures which modernize and innovate our labour law.

Below is a schematic overview of these provisions.

Measure

In short

Entry into force

Implementation

Annualization of the small flexibility

The reference period for the calculation of the working time is now automatically set at one year (one calendar year or any other period of 12 consecutive months). The derogation from normal working hours of max. 5 hours per week and 2 hours per day remains unchanged.

A shorter reference period may be maintained if a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) or the working rules provide so before 31/1/2017.

1/2/2017

The introduction procedure remains the same, with the exception of an additional simplification in case of introduction of the small flexibility via CBA. In this case, the provisions can be automatically added to the work regulations without having to follow the modification procedure.

100 voluntary overtime hours

100 voluntary overtime hours may be worked per year with payment of a supplement but without compensatory rest.

Possibility at industrial level to increase the quota up to 360 hours.

 1/2/2017

Via an individual written agreement with the worker, valid for 6 months (renewable).

Increase of the internal limit of hours within which the worker may work overtime without compensatory rest

The internal limit now rises to 143 hours regardless of the reference period.

Possibility of increasing this limit at the industrial level.

1/2/2017

 Applies automatically.

 “Floating Schedule”

A “floating schedule” can be set up for full-time or part-time workers (with a fixed schedule), i.e. a schedule in which the worker can determine the start and the end of his working day and his breaks, provided that he/she respects fixed ranges and certain moving ranges.

Limits:

• Daily: 9 hours

• Weekly: 45 hours

 1/2/2017

Implemented by CBA or the working regulations.

Existing floating schedules included in a CBA or the working regulations before 30/6/2017 are maintained and may deviate from the regulations.

The employer is obliged to set up a time tracking system and to add an appendix to the working regulations containing all the rules applicable to the floating schedules.

Night work in e-commerce

Introduction of a legal exemption to the prohibition of night work for the performance of all logistical and support services related to e-commerce.

1/2/2017

The specific procedure for the introduction of a working regime with night work (between 24 and 5 hours) must be followed.

Simplification of part-time work

      Abolition of the obligation to have all part-time working schedules in the working regulations:

  • fixed hours: mention in the employment contract
  • variable schedules: mention of a general framework in the work regulations is sufficient

      Variable schedules must no longer be displayed physically;

      Preservation can be done in both paper and electronic formats;

      Possibility of replacing the “derogations register” with a time tracking system;

      the credit for overtime hours is raised (42 hours instead of 39 hours).

1/10/2017

Adaptation of the work regulations within 6 months of the entry into force.

Occasional

Telework

Possibility for the worker to ask his employer to telework on an occasional basis for personal reasons or for force majeure reasons, as long as his function and/or his activity allows it.

The worker must file his request in advance and within a reasonable time.

1/2/2017

By means of an agreement between the employer and the worker relating to equipment, technical support, accessibility and possible handling of costs.

The framework within which occasional telework may be requested may also be regulated by a company-wide CBA or in the work regulations.

Career saving account  

The career saving account allows the worker to save time in order to later transform it into a leave during his career.

The time that can be saved is:

       voluntary overtime hours;

       the conventional holidays;

       the hours worked in addition to the average weekly working time and which may be transferred at the end of the reference period in a floating schedule;

       overtime for which the worker has the option to take compensatory rest or not.

1/8/2017, unless the National Labour Council (“NLC”) concludes a CBA

The NLC has 6 months from 1/2/2017 to elaborate the outline of this measure. A Royal Decree may extend this period by 6 months.

The law provides for an introduction via a CBA concluded at the industry level or, in the absence of such a CBA, via a CBA concluded at the enterprise level.

Donation of conventional leave

Scheme that allows the workers to offer (on a voluntary, anonymous and disinterested basis) conventional holidays to a colleague whose child is seriously ill and has taken all of his holidays.

Statutory holidays cannot be donated.

1/2/2017

The law provides for an introduction via a CBA concluded at the industry level or, in the absence of such a CBA, via a CBA concluded at the enterprise level or, in the absence of a trade union delegation, via the working regulations.

Interim employment contract

for an indefinite duration

The framework-contract between the interim agency and the temporary worker in which assignments with one or more users are foreseen can also be concluded for an indefinite period.  

1/2/2017

This scheme can only be applied if a CBA is concluded within the Joint Committee of Interim Work.

New interprofessional training objective

The current interprofessional training target of 1.9% of the global wages is converted into an average of 5 training days per FTE per year as part of a growth path.

1/2/2017

The objective must be implemented at industry or enterprise level.

A supplementary scheme is foreseen if the training days are not allocated by means of a CBA or an individual training account: as of 1/1/2017 at company level, a right to 2 training days on average per FTE per year.

For more information or specific support, please contact Pierre Van Achter at +32 (0)2 533 17 36 or via email: pierre.vanachter@simontbraun.eu

 

Serious cause and proportionality principle

According to Article 35 of the Law of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts, each party can terminate the employment agreement without notice period or termination indemnity for serious cause. A serious cause is defined as the serious breach which renders the continuation of the professional relationship immediately and definitely impossible.

In a order rendered on 12 January 2015, the labour court of appeal of Liège had decided that the serious breach alleged to the worker, namely diverting advantages that were intended for the clients of her employer to her own benefit (i.e., bonus points for a value of € 55.00), was not reasonable, according to the proportionality principle, in comparison with the sanction of losing her job without notice or compensation.

In its appreciation, the labour court of appeal of Liège had added a condition to the law by pursuing a proportionality test between the serious breach committed by the worker and the consequences of the corresponding sanction.

In its decision of 6 June 2016, the Supreme Court challenged this position. According to the Supreme Court, by linking the assessment of whether it was possible for the employer and the worker to pursue their professional collaboration despite the occurrence of a serious breach (which is the legal criterion of the serious breach) to the criterion of the proportionality between this breach and the loss of employment, the labour court of appeal of Liège violated Article 35 of the Law of 3 July 1978.

From what supersedes follows that when assessing the existence of a serious cause, one should solely take into account the impact of the shortcoming on the relationship of trust that should exist between parties to the employment relationship and the impossibility or not to definitively continue the collaboration. The possible disproportion between the breach alleged to the worker and the consequences of the sanction of being dismissed for serious cause should not be taken into account by the judge.

For more information, please contact Pierre Van Achter at +32 (0)2 533 17 36 or pierre.vanachter@simontbraun.eu