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:
- before 1 January 2014, and
- 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:
- 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
- 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:
- 1.5 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
- 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.
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.
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.