CMS Expert Guide to employment termination law and legislation

Global comparison

1. Dismissal of employees

In Belgium, a distinction is made between blue-collar workers and white-collar workers. Blue-collar workers provide manual labour; white collar workers provide intellectual labour.

The main difference between these two statutes were the lengths of the notice periods, which were equalised on 1 January 2014.

Today, the distinction between blue-collar workers and white-collar workers is still made in the method of payment of remuneration, the calculation of notice period in case of employment before 1 January 2014, and some working conditions.

1.1 Reasons for dismissal

The Employment Relationship Act (‘Zakon o delovnih razmerjih’ or ‘ZDR-1’) distinguishes between ordinary and extraordinary termination of the employment contract. Ordinary termination is termination with notice period, which is only possible due to a business reason, reason of fault, incapacity to work, inability to work due to disability, or the unsuccessful completion of a probationary period, any of which render continuation of the employment under the conditions of the existing employment contract impossible.

A business reason occurs when the performance of certain work is no longer required under the conditions of the current employment contract due to economic, organizational, technological, structural or similar reasons on the employer’s side.

Reasons of incapacity are: non-achievement of expected work results because the worker has failed to carry out the work in due time, professionally and with due quality, or non-fulfilment of the conditions for carrying out work as stipulated under the law and executive regulations issued on the basis of law due to which the worker fails to fulfil or cannot fulfil the contractual or other obligations arising out of the employment relationship.

Extraordinary termination is termination without notice period and is only possible if:

  • it is based on one of the exhaustively provided reasons in ZDR-1; and
  • taking into account all the circumstances and interests of employer and employee, continuation of the employment until the end of the notice period or until the expiry of the employment contract is considered impossible; and
  • it is given within 30 days of establishing the reason for extraordinary termination, and within six months of the occurrence of that reason.

The Belgian legal system does not differentiate specific reasons for dismissal. The main distinction is between a “regular” dismissal with compensation (period of notice or indemnity in lieu of notice) and a dismissal with serious cause (summary dismissal). A dismissal because of business reasons falls under the normal dismissal with compensation.

According to Collective Bargaining Agreement n° 109, the employer does not have to state the motives for a regular dismissal on his own initiative, but only if the employee makes a written request.

If an employee requests the employer’s motive for the dismissal, the employer needs to prove that the dismissal was “based on reasons which are related to the capabilities or the behaviour of the worker or which are based on the operational necessities of the company… and which would have been decided upon by a normal and reasonable employer”.

If the employer fails to provide this proof, the dismissal will be considered a “clearly unreasonable dismissal” and the employee will then be entitled to a gross indemnity equal to between three and a maximum 17 weeks’ remuneration (at the determination of the labour courts).

1.2 Form

Termination notice must be given in writing, providing for an explanation of the reasons for termination and pointing out possible legal remedies available the employee and his rights regarding unemployment insurance.

In case of ordinary termination of an employment contract due to reason  of fault, the employer must, before serving the employee with termination notice, give the employee a written warning regarding fulfilment of his obligations and the possibility of termination if he fails to comply. Such a warning can be issued within 60 days of establishing the breach and within six months of the occurrence of the breach. If employee commits another breach of this or any other obligation from the employment, within a year after the warning and if such breach is serious enough, the employer may terminate the employment contract.

In case of ordinary termination given by employer due to reason of fault or incapacity (or in case of extraordinary termination), the employer must notify the employee in writing about the initiated proceeding before serving the employee with a termination notice. The notification must include details of the alleged violations of the employee’s obligations or his / her alleged incompetence and thus provide the employee the opportunity to defend him- / herself within a reasonable period. The notice must be given at least three business days prior to the date of the hearing during which the employee can present his / her defence. The employer is (in some exceptional cases) released from such duty if it would be unreasonable to expect it to provide the employee such an opportunity. The employee can also request that a representative of his trade union and / or his legal representative are / is present at the hearing.

Not applicable.

1.3 Notice period

Ordinary termination

The notice period depends on the length of service with the respective employer. As a general rule, the statutory minimum notice periods (unless otherwise determined by a collective bargaining agreement, employer's by-laws or an individual employment contract) are:

  1. in case of unsuccessful completion of a trial period: seven days;
  2. in case of ordinary termination by the employee:
    • 15 days for employees with less than one year of service and
    • 30 days for employees with more than one year of service;
  3. due to ordinary termination by the employer due to business reasons or incapacity:
    • 15 days for employees with less than one year of service;
    • 30 days for employees with more than one year of service; and
    • for employees with two or more years of service, the 30-day notice period increases for two days for each year of employment with the employer but cannot exceed 60 days. For employees with 25 years or more years of service, the notice period is 80 days, unless otherwise provided by a collective bargaining agreement.      

If the employment contract is terminated due to employee fault, okthe statutory notice period is 15 days.

Extraordinary termination: there is no notice period.

Bankruptcy, liquidation proceeding, winding down of the employer or a compulsory settlement.

In a bankruptcy procedure, the bankruptcy administrator may terminate employment contracts of employees who have become redundant due to initiation of the bankruptcy procedure with a 15-day notice period.

In case of winding down of the employer for other reasons, the notice period is 30 days.

In the event of confirmed compulsory settlement, the employer may terminate the employment contracts of those employees who have been characterized as redundant in the redundancy programme with a 30-day notice period. Compulsory settlement (or compulsory composition) is a proceeding for an insolvent debtor which: (i) enables financial reorganisation of the debtor; and (ii) assures partial payment of the creditor’s claim, both aimed at ensuring the further operation of the debtor.

Notice must be given in writing and must comply with the mandatory language requirements applicable in Belgium.

The employer gives notice to perform, either by registered mail or through a bailiff (“gerechtsdeurwaarder” / ”huissier de justice”). If the employee gives notice to perfom, he can also request the employer to sign a duplicate of the notice letter. The notice letter must specify the length of the notice period and the day on which the notice period begins.

For termination with immediate effect, there is no specific form of notice (except for a dismissal for serious cause). Nevertheless, a registered letter or a letter signed for receipt by the employee is recommended for reasons of proof.

Termination of an employment contract of unlimited duration

Employment agreement with performances before 1 January 2014

For the determination of the applicable notice period, two distinct periods will be considered:

  1. before 1 January 2014, and
  2. on or after 1 January 2014.

The notice period includes results before and after 1 January 2014.

Period before 2014

For white-collar workers employers to give notice, seniority acquired before 1 January 2014 will qualify for a notice period of:

  1. either a notice of three months per started period of five years of seniority for white collar-workers earning EUR 32,254 gross or less; or
  2. one month per year of service for white-collar workers earning more than EUR 32,254 gross with a minimum of three months.

For blue-collar workers, the following scheme is applicable for the calculation of the first part of the notice period (calendar days):

In certain industry sectors, different notice periods were applicable for blue-collar workers. These periods need to be applied in the first step of the calculation.

The notice period if the white-collar worker gives notice is:

  1. 1.5 months in the first five years of employment and three months  in case of a seniority higher than five years for white-collar workers earning EUR 32,254 gross or less; or
  2. 5 months per period of five years of service with a maximum of 4.5 months for white-collar workers earning more than EUR 32,254 gross or a maximum of 6 months for white-collar workers earning more than EUR 64,508 gross.

If the maximum (3, 4.5 or 6 months) referred to above is reached, the notice period corresponds to this maximum and, thus, it is not necessary to calculate the notice for the period from 1 January 2014 (see below).

Period from 1 January 2014

For the period as from 1 January 2014, fixed notice periods based on the seniority of the employee (white and blue-collars)  – as from that date – apply.

Attention: if notice is given by the employee, the sum of the notice period before 1 January 2014 and as from 1 January 2014 is limited to 13 weeks.

Employment agreement with performances from 1 January 2014

For the termination of employment agreements with performances as of 1 January 2014, the aforementioned notice periods, applicable for the second part of the calculation, will apply. Exceptions were made for some industries (e.g. construction sector).

Agreements on the notice period

Since 1 January 2014, individual negotiations before the termination of the employment contract have no longer been possible when dealing with the notice period or indemnity in lieu of notice for white-collar workers. However, valid agreements on termination modalities, existing on 31 December 2013 and concluded at an individual level remain valid and enforceable.

Since 1 January 2014 it has only been possible to deviate from the legal notice periods by means of a company-level collective labour agreement.

Following termination, parties may negotiate the notice period or the indemnity in lieu of notice.

Special terms

Different notice periods apply in case of counter-notice by the employee whose employment contract was previously terminated by the employer and who wishes to leave the employer earlier for a new job. These notice periods are limited to four weeks.

If notice is given to an employee in order to terminate the employment agreement from the first day following the month in which the employee attains the statutory pension age, the basic terms apply with a maximum notice period of 26 weeks.

Protected employees

Some categories of employees have special statutory protection against dismissal and are entitled to additional compensation if dismissed (e.g., employees that filed a harassment or discrimination complaint, employees with a political mandate, employees on parental leave).

These categories of protected employees may not be dismissed for reasons related to the grounds on which they are protected. In most cases, the employee can claim damages equal to six months’ remuneration on top of normal notice requirements when the employer is unable to prove that the reasons for the termination are unrelated to the grounds for the protection.

Incapacity to work

If employee is absent due to incapacity to work after the notice of termination has been given, the employer may immediately terminate the employment agreement upon payment of indemnity in lieu of notice corresponding to the remaining notice period. In such case and under certain conditions, the period covered by the guaranteed salary is deducted from the remaining notice period.

Termination of an employment contract of limited duration (fixed-term or well-defined job)

Fixed-term contracts expire automatically on the date agreed by the parties; consequently, no notice of termination needs to be given or indemnity offered in lieu of notice.

If the parties continue performances after the employment contract term has expired, the contract will be subject to the same rules as an employment for unlimited duration.

A fixed-term contract can also be terminated before the agreed term unilaterally by either party or even during a period of incapacity to work.

Since 1 January 2014, each party has been able to terminate the contract by giving notice during the first half of the agreed term of the contract (limited to a maximum of 6 months); the notice period has to end within this first half of the agreed term (or the period of 6 months referred to above).

Notice must be given in the same manner as for an employment agreement for unlimited duration and will also start to run from the Monday following the week in which notice is given. The periods of notice to be given are the same as those for termination of an employment agreement for unlimited duration.

For successive contracts for a limited period, this rule can only be used for the first contract.

If the contract ends after this first half of the agreed term, the party terminating will have to pay an indemnity in lieu of notice. This amount will be equal to the amount of remuneration that would have been paid until the end of the contract, although limited to twice the amount of the indemnity in lieu of notice that should have been paid had an employment agreement for unlimited duration been offered.

1.4 Involvement of works council

The employer must inform and consult the works council or workers’ representative in relation to the collective dismissal of a large number of employees.

Save for exceptional cases, the employer cannot terminate the employment contract of a member of a works council or a workers’ representative without the prior consent of the works council. The immunity applies for the length of the appointment and a year after the lapse of the mandate.

If the employer intends to dismiss an employee who is not a trade union member, the employer must, at the employee’s request, notify the works council / works representative in writing of its intention to terminate (ordinary or extraordinary termination) the employee’s employment contract. The works council / works representative must give its opinion within six days. Silence is deemed to mean the works council / works representative does not oppose to the termination. It may oppose the termination if it considers there are no substantial reasons for the termination or the termination procedure has not been carried out in accordance with the ZDR-1. The employer is not bound by the opinion of the works council / works representative and can continue with the termination despite a negative opinion.

The main role of the works council is to be informed and consulted about a range of economic and employment issues, although it does have some limited decision-making powers.

The employer must inform and consult the works council on cases of mergers, closures, business transfers, large-scale redundancies, etc.

Furthermore, the works council has a decisive competence in setting up the general criteria for collective dismissal.

1.5 Involvement of a union

If the employer intends to dismiss an employee who is a trade union member, the employer must, at the employee’s request, notify the trade union in writing of its intention to terminate (ordinary or extraordinary termination) the employee’s employment contract. The trade union must give its opinion within six days. Silence is deemed to mean the union does not oppose to the termination. It may oppose the termination if it considers there are no substantial reasons for the termination or the termination procedure has not been carried out in accordance with the ZDR-1. The employer is not bound by the opinion of the trade union and can continue with the termination despite a negative opinion.

An employer cannot terminate an employment contract of an appointed
or elected trade union representative without the prior consent of the trade union. The immunity applies for the length of the appointment and a year after the lapse of the mandate.

The trade union is involved in mass redundancies (see below).

The central role of the trade union delegation is to negotiate new agreements and ensure that existing ones are complied with. The trade union delegation also deals with disputes between the employer and the employees, both on an individual and collective basis.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

The employer may only dismiss an employee who is pregnant, during breastfeeding (one year after birth) or on parental leave, and for one month thereafter, only with the prior consent of the labour inspectorate, if there are reasons for extraordinary termination of the employment contract, or if proceedings for terminating the employer’s business have been initiated.

Collective dismissal and closure

There is no approval of state authorities necessary in case of collective dismissal and closure.

However, the sub-regional employment service and the federal employment services must be informed about the intention to proceed with a collective dismissal and about the outcome of the information and consultation procedure with the works council.

Protected employees

Employee members of the works council or the health and safety committee can only be dismissed for “serious cause” or for economic or technical reasons. In both cases the employer must seek authorisation in advance, either from the labour court in the case of “serious cause” or from the competent joint committee where the reasons are economic or technical.

1.7 Collective redundancies

The employer must prepare a redundancy programme if it is established that for business reasons, the work performed by a certain number of workers will become unnecessary in the next 30 days. The numbers of workers who need to be made redundant for this to apply are as follows: 

  1. at least 10 workers where the employer employs more than 20 and fewer than 100 workers; or
  2. at least 10% of workers where the employer employs at least 100 workers but fewer than 300 workers; or
  3. at least 30 workers where the employer employs 300 workers or more.

In determining which workers are to be made redundant, the employer must take the following criteria into consideration: the employee’s qualifications, work experience, performance, length of service, medical health and social status, whether the employee is a parent of three or more minors, or if
the employee is the sole provider for a family with minors. The employer can determine his own criteria instead of those provided by the collective bargaining agreement if the trade union agrees with them.

The employer must inform and consult trade unions, the works council and the National Employment Office (‘Zavod za zaposlovanje Republike Slovenije’) regarding its intention to institute mass redundancies and a redundancy programme for business reasons. The employer cannot terminate employment contracts until 30 days after the National Employment Office has been informed in detail of the mass redundancy. The National Employment Office may increase this period to 60 days.

Specific rules apply to collective dismissals or closures. The employer must respect the information and consultation procedure prior to the decision to proceed with a collective dismissal or closure.

The employees will be entitled to specific indemnities in case of collective dismissal with or without closure. Although there is no legal obligation to do so, it is quite common for social partners to negotiate and conclude a social plan.

Furthermore, the employer must take measures to re-activate the employees affected by the collective dismissal.

1.8 Summary dismissals

Not applicable.

For a dismissal with a serious cause, the contract must be terminated within three working days after the day on which the act constituting the serious cause came to the employer’s knowledge. Dismissal for serious cause should preferably be notified by registered letter.

Additionally, the employee must also be given written notice with the reasons for the termination, ultimately by registered letter within three working days after the dismissal for serious cause.

The termination must be carried out by a person authorized to dismiss the employee.

1.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

If the court finds that the employer has failed to comply with statutory requirements, it will declare the employment termination unlawful and reinstate the employee with retroactive effect (ex tunc), recognizing the employee’s period of service and other rights arising from the employment relationship.

Instead of reinstatement, the court may, at employer’s or employee’s proposal:

  1. determine that the termination was invalid and that the employment relationship lasted until the first instance judgment was issued; or
  2. recognise the employee’s period of service and other rights arising out of the employment relationship – the employee is then given the rights arising out of the employment relationship as if the employment contract had not been terminated; or
  3. award appropriate monetary compensation of a maximum of 18 months’ salary, calculated on the basis of the average monthly salary received in the final three months preceding the termination.

The employee may seek legal protection due to unlawfulness of termination within 30 days from the service of the termination notice.

In general, Belgian employment law favours a complementary indemnity (payment of damages) rather than an obligation to reinstall the employee.

1.10 Severance pay

An employee whose employment contract has been terminated for a business reason or reason of incapacity, is entitled to a severance payment. The amount depends on the number of (full) years of service with the employer (including the employment with the employer’s legal predecessors). The basis for calculation is the average monthly salary, which the employee has received or would have received if working in the last three months prior to the end of employment.

Severance pay is calculated as follows:

  • 1/5 of the average monthly salary for each year of employment with the employer if the duration of the employment is between one and ten years; or
  • 1/4 of the average monthly salary for each year of employment with the employer if the duration of the employment is between ten and 20 years; or
  • 1/3 of the average monthly salary for each year of employment with the employer if the duration of the employment exceeds 20 years.

The amount of the severance payment may not exceed ten times of the average monthly salary received in the final three months preceding the termination unless an applicable collective bargaining agreement stipulates otherwise.

In the event of termination of the employment contract for a fixed period concluded for one year or less, generally with few exemptions, the employee is entitled to severance pay in the amount of 1 / 5 of the base (base being the employee’s average monthly salary for full-time in the last three months, or during the working period prior to the termination). If the contract is concluded for a period longer than one year, the severance pay increases proportionally.

The same provisions regarding severance payment as above apply to workers whose employment contract has been terminated in a bankruptcy / liquidation / winding down of the employer or compulsory settlement proceeding. In a compulsory settlement proceeding, however, the employer and worker may stipulate in writing the manner, form or reduction of the severance payment if a greater number of jobs with the employer would be jeopardised by a full payment.

A party that terminates the employment contract without notice must pay compensation equal to the current annual remuneration (including benefits) corresponding to the notice period that should have been respected.

According to Belgian employment law, different non-competition clauses may apply.

1.11 Non-competition clauses

A non-competition clause is only valid if agreed upon in writing in the employment contract. ZDR-1 allows the use of this clause for employment contracts for indefinite term as well as for fixed term employment contracts for managerial workers. The clause can last only up to two years following termination. The clause must provide for a method of calculating the compensation to be given to the employee, otherwise it is invalid. The employee must receive at least one-third of his average monthly salary (calculated over the three months immediately preceding termination) for each month of
the restricted period. If the clause prevents the employee from gaining a comparable salary, the employee is entitled to compensation during the restricted period.

A non-competition clause may be agreed only when the employment contract is terminated by mutual agreement, due to ordinary termination of the contract by the employee, ordinary termination by the employer due to reason of fault, or extraordinary termination of the contract by the employer and if the employee has gained technical, production or business know-how and business connections while carrying out work or in connection to
his / her work. However, the non-competition clause must not prevent the employee from obtaining appropriate employment. 

The parties can mutually agree to waive the enforcement of the clause if they wish to do so.

General non-competition clause

A non-competition clause in the employment contract of an employee, not a sales representative, is only valid if:

  1. the scope is limited to similar activities and to competing companies; and
  2. the scope is limited to a well-defined geographic area in which competition may exist (limited to the Belgian territory);
  3. the duration of the clause does not exceed 12 months after the termination of the employment agreement; and
  4. the clause provides for the payment of an indemnity by the employer to the employee equal to at least 50% of the gross remuneration that the latter could have earned during the duration of the non-competition clause.

The non-competition clause is only enforceable if:

  1. it is a written agreement compliant with the mandatory language requirements applicable in Belgium;
  2. certain remuneration thresholds are met;
  3. all the validity conditions are fulfilled (territory, duration, similarity of activities and financial compensation) and
  4. the employment agreement is terminated (i) after the first six months of the execution of the employment contract and (ii) by the employee without serious cause or by the employer for serious cause.

The employer may waive the application of the clause within 15 days of the end of the employment. If the application of the clause is not waived within these 15 days, the employer must pay a non-competition indemnity to the former employee. However, the judge can mitigate the effects of a non-competition clause that is contrary to the public order.

International scope and / or R&D Department

The same conditions as the general non-competition clause apply, except for:

  1.  the geographical scope is not limited to Belgian territory,
  2. the employee who must have acquired a special knowledge in industrial or commercial matters;
  3. the duration may exceed 12 months,
  4. it is also valid in case of termination within the first six months of the execution of the employment contract or in the case of termination by the employer without serious cause. However, such derogations must be expressly provided for in a written agreement.

There is an important point regarding the waiver of a non-competition clause with an international scope. In the event of a dismissal subject to a notice period, the employer will have to inform the employee at the time of notification of any intention to effectively apply the clause at the end of the notice period. As a second step, no later than 15 days after the final termination of the employment contract, the employer will then have to waive the non-competition clause if he/she still wishes to do so. If these two steps are not fulfilled, the employer will have to pay the non-competition indemnity to the former employee.

Sales representatives

The same conditions as the general non-competition clause apply, except that   

  1. the geographical scope is limited to the area of activities,
  2.  the employer does not need to pay a lump-sum compensation,
  3. it concerns similar sales activities.
After termination of the employment

Unlike non-competition clauses included in the employment contract, post- contractual non-competition covenants are not subject to specific conditions. However, their duration, as well as the penalty in case of a breach, must be reasonable in the circumstances (seniority, salary, etc.).

1.12 Miscellaneous

The employer cannot, without the prior consent of the relevant organization, terminate the employment contracts of works council members or supervisory boards representing workers, workers’ representatives (including those on the council of an institution), or appointed or elected trade union representatives.

Other categories of protected workers include older workers, parents and disabled persons.

The employer may not terminate the employment contract of an older employee, who has reached the age of 58 or of an employee, who has less than five years until qualifying for an old-age pension due to a business reason without his written consent.

This protection does not apply if:

  1. the employee is assured a right to unemployment benefit until he fulfils the minimum conditions for receiving an old-age pension; or
  2. appropriate new employment is offered to the employee; or
  3. in the event the employee has already fulfilled the above conditions for protection against the termination of the employment contract when he concluded the respective contract, unless the contract was concluded according to item (ii); or
  4. proceedings have been initiated for terminating the business of the employer.

The employer is not allowed to terminate the employment contract of mothers during their pregnancy, while breastfeeding of children up to the age of one, or the contracts of parents during their parental leave in the form of full absence from work, and for one month thereafter. This notwithstanding, the written employment contract can be terminated with the prior consent of the labour inspectorate, if there are reasons for extraordinary termination of the employment contract, or if proceedings for terminating the employer’s business have been initiated.

The employer may terminate the employment contract of a disabled person:

  1. due to his incapacity to perform work subject to the conditions set out in the employment contract; or
  2. due to business-related reasons;
  3. but both are subject to the conditions set out in legislation governing pension and disability insurance or work rehabilitation, and the employment of disabled persons.

This does not apply if proceedings have been initiated for terminating the business of the employer.

Not applicable.

2. Dismissal of managing directors

Under Slovenian law, the managing director, that is a legal representative of the company does not need to have an employment agreement with the company, or any other type of agreement, in order to be able to represent the company.

The table below sets out the position under Slovenian law in respect to a ‘managing director’, who has been appointed for the term of office in accordance with the Slovenian Companies Act, with or without a management agreement (civil).

If the ‘managing director’ is in an employment relationship with the company, both corporate and employment aspects must be taken into account. From the employment perspective, the employer and managing director can agree to regulate their employment relationship differently than prescribed by law regarding:

  1. the conditions and limitations of fixed-term employment,
  2. working time,
  3. provision of breaks and rest periods,
  4. the remuneration,
  5. disciplinary responsibility, and
  6. termination of the employment contract.

If the parties do not agree to regulate their relationship differently, the statutory provisions apply (please see the general section above).

On 28 February 2019, the new Belgian Companies and Associations Code was adopted by the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. This reform has had various implications for the status of directors, which will be examined below.

The Belgian Companies and Associations Code confirms explicitly that company directors operate on a self-employed(independent) basis. In certain company forms, the board of directors can also delegate the powers related to the day-to-day activities of the company to a manager in charge of daily management. This manager can be a third party or a director of the company. If a director is appointed in charge of the daily management, this mandate is called “managing director”.

The daily management can be performed either on a self-employed basis (with or without a separate service agreement) or as an employee. Essential for the daily management as an employee is the relationship of subordination (i.e. power to decide what an employee must do and how it must be done). We refer to part 1 of this Guide for all aspects of the employment contract.

In this Annex, we examine the situation of a company director as well as a self-employed manager in charge of daily management. Both mandates can either be performed directly by a natural person or through a legal entity. In case of the latter, the legal entity must appoint a natural person  as legal representative who exercises the mandate and duties in the name and for the account of the legal entity.

2.1 Reasons for dismissal

The managing director of a limited liability company may be recalled at any time by a resolution of a general assembly, irrespective of whether the managing director has been appointed for a fixed or indefinite period. The conditions for the recall of the managing director are to be determined in the contract concluded between the managing director and the company (management agreement). If the company has a supervisory board, then the supervisory board appoints and recalls (dismisses) the managing director.

At joint stock companies, the supervisory board may (prior to the end of a manager’s term of office) recall (dismiss) members of the management board for the following reasons:

  1. if the member is in serious breach of his obligations; or
  2. if the member is not able to manage the operations; or
  3. if the general assembly passes a vote of no confidence in him (unless the vote of no confidence has been passed based on clearly unsubstantiated reasons); or
  4. if other economic and business reasons exist (e.g. significant changes in shareholder structure, reorganisation, etc.)

The mandate of a director of a public limited company (“SA / NV”) can in principle be revoked “ad nutum” (immediately, without indemnity and without having to give a reason for the dismissal). Henceforth, the revocability “ad nutum” is no longer a rule of public order, but a supplementary rule. In other words, this means that the revocability "ad nutum" remains the default rule, unless the bylaws, the terms of appointment of a director, or a management contract state otherwise and provide for a period of notice or an indemnity in case of dismissal.

However, in any case, the General Shareholders’ Meeting retains its right to revoke “ad nutum” a director if there are "justified grounds” for doing so. The Code does not define this concept. According to the preparatory works, it includes, for example, a serious criminal offence in the professional sphere or a tax fraud. Unlike the summary dismissal in the case of employees (see section 1), strict timing does not apply to dismissal under justified grounds. In any case, it is important to note that the director can always challenge “justified grounds” and launch proceedings before the Enterprise Courts.

The same principles were already applied for the private company with limited responsibility (‘BV / ‘SRL’) and will continue to apply.

For daily management, the procedure for the nomination and dismissal can be stipulated in the company’s bylaws, but in practice it is often regulated in a separate service agreement. If the procedure for dismissal is not specified, the mandate can be revoked “ad nutum” and no reason needs to be given.

2.2 Form

In limited liability companies, managing directors are recalled by shareholders’ resolution. In joint-stock companies, members of the management board are recalled by the supervisory board. In a one-tier system, the board of directors recalls the executive directors (if appointed). The manager / managing director must be notified in writing about the recall.

The mandate of a director can be revoked by decision of the General Shareholders’ Meeting. The mandate of a manager in charge of the daily management can be revoked by decision of the board of directors.

The revocation of both a director or a manager in charge of daily management must be published in the Official Belgian State Gazette (‘Belgisch Staatsblad’ / ‘Moniteur Belge’).

2.3 Notice period

No statutory notice period. The notice period depends on the provisions of the management contract or other contract setting out the legal basis for the (contract / letter of) appointment of the manager.

As stated above, the principle of the revocability "ad nutum" remains the default rule, unless the bylaws, the terms of appointment or a separate agreement stipulate otherwise. The same  principles apply without distinction to the NV/SA and the BV/SRL.

For the daily management, the procedure for the nomination and dismissal can be stipulated in the company’s bylaws or in a separate service agreement.

If nothing is specified therein, the mandate for the daily management can be revoked without any notice period.

2.4 Involvement of works council

No involvement.

In companies listed on the stock market, the termination indemnity of the executive directors, the members of the board committee and other persons in charge of daily management may not exceed 12 months’ remuneration. The Belgian Company Code permits derogations from this rule, provided that the Works Council (or in its  absence, the Committee for Prevention and Protection at work or the union delegation) is notified beforehand and the prior consent of the General Shareholders’ Meeting is obtained. If a departure fee of more than 18 months' remuneration is granted, a motivated advice from the Compensation Committee is also required, in addition to the approval by a General Shareholders’ Meeting.

2.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

The recall resolution must be registered in the court/business register. The registration has a declaratory effect.

Not required.

2.7 Collective redundancies

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

2.8 Summary dismissals

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

2.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

The managing director cannot be reinstated (even if the recall was unjustified). However, the managing director has the right to compensation or reimbursement for damages in accordance with the general principles of civil law. There is no statutory compensation. Compensation is based on income, and provisions for its calculation are to be set out in the management contract or other contract setting out the legal basis for the appointment of the manager.

A company is bound by the actions of a dismissed company representative until and unless such a dismissal has been officially published in the Official Belgian State Gazette. However, if this protection is beneficial to third parties, it cannot be invoked by third parties that know that the company representative has already been dismissed.

2.10 Severance pay

The amount of severance pay is not regulated by the Companies Act. According to the Companies Act, however, in joint stock companies the severance pay may be paid out only in case of early termination (and only due to specific reasons), whereby the general assembly may determine the highest amount. Severance pay is set out in the articles of association of the company or in (the managing director’s) contract.

There is no mandatory severance pay, unless stated otherwise in the bylaws of the company. Parties may agree upon severance pay in a separate agreement (when such an agreement is permitted).

2.11 Non-competition clauses

The articles of association of the company may provide a non-competition clause. To be valid, the prohibition on competition cannot be longer than two years, unless the member of the management board has been recalled (for the reasons set out above) by the supervisory board, or the managing director has been recalled by the general assembly. In these circumstances, the prohibition cannot be longer than six months.

It is possible to agree upon a non-competition clause. If the scope of the clause is too wide (according to its geographic area, its length, or the activities it concerns), its validity may be challenged or the clause may be mitigated  by the court.

2.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.

Not applicable.