A layoff period follows a layoff. Since the introduction of the unity statute in 2014, this period has been calculated in the same way for blue-collar and white-collar workers. Uniform notice periods have been established, which increase with seniority.
Do you have an indefinite contract and do you want to leave your employer yourself? The notice period is one week for those who have been employed for less than three months and increases to 13 weeks for those who have eight years or more under their belt.
A transitional arrangement has been developed for those who were already working for an employer before 2014. In the transitional arrangement, the notice period is the sum of two parts: a first part for the seniority accrued up to and including December 31, 2013, calculated according to the previous rules, and a second part based on the seniority from January 1, 2014 with unified notice periods.
‘In practice, this double counting gave rise to discussion. A change in the law now removes this from the transitional arrangement for dismissal by the employee,” says Gieljan Van Mellaert, lawyer at Loyens & Loeff. ‘From now on, the notice period will always be determined in accordance with the rules of the single statute and can never last longer than 13 weeks, regardless of whether the employee was employed before or after 2014. It is therefore no longer possible to make a distinction between blue-collar workers, white-collar workers or employees themselves.’
The new rules apply to dismissals from October 28, 2023. The previous rules continue to apply to employees who resigned earlier.
In practice, the ‘capping’ to 13 weeks will lead to a shorter notice period for two groups of employees.
The first group is workers. Until the change in the law, many social secretariats ruled that the maximum of 13 weeks did not apply to blue-collar workers. That interpretation was based on the fact that the article of law referred to the legal rules applicable to white-collar workers.
- The notice period in the event of dismissal by the employee cannot exceed 13 weeks, regardless of whether the employee was employed before or after 2014.
- The new rules apply to employees who resign from October 28, 2023. The previous rules continue to apply to employees who resigned earlier.
- The notice periods in case of dismissal by the employer do not change.
In addition, senior employees often had longer notice periods. For the part that relates to the period worked before 2014, the term depended on the gross annual salary. “For white-collar workers with an annual gross salary of more than 32,254 euros, the notice period could be up to 4.5 months and for white-collar workers with 64,508 euros this was even six months,” says Van Mellaert.
Dismissal by the employer
The notice periods in case of dismissal by the employer do not change. For employees who started working for an employer before 2014, the notice period is still divided into two parts.
The notice period for the part that relates to the period worked before 2014 is different for blue-collar and white-collar workers. “In the group of blue-collar workers there are also differences depending on the sector and among white-collar workers depending on income,” says Emma De Clercq, lawyer at Loyens & Loeff. The second part from 2014 onwards will be calculated on the basis of unified notice periods. These are significantly longer for a dismissal by the employer than for a dismissal by an employee. For example, the dismissal period is 18 weeks for employees who have been working for five years and 33 weeks for those who have worked somewhere for ten years.
‘These rules remain unchanged, but the legislation has been clarified. Until now, there had been discussion about the fate of employment contracts of senior employees starting before January 1, 2014 that included a termination clause. This may specify notice periods that are more favorable or unfavorable than the statutory ones,” says De Clercq. ‘The new legislation now explicitly stipulates that such termination clauses in the employment contract must be taken into account.’
The new legislation explicitly provides that termination clauses in the employment contract of senior employees must be taken into account.
Emma De Clercq
Lawyer at Loyens & Loeff
An important element in determining the notice period is seniority. That is the period during which an employee worked for an employer. ‘In principle, seniority starts from the start of the employment contract, but it may also be agreed that an employee carries seniority from a previous employer. That period is then included in the calculation,” says De Clercq.
In principle, this seniority is explicitly stated in the employment contract. ‘Employees also try to derive rights from a pay slip that states seniority. That is sometimes debatable,” says Van Mellaert. A previous period as a temporary worker with the employer is eligible under certain conditions.
These legal rules determine the notice period, but it is possible to deviate from them. ‘A shorter notice period is perfectly possible if the employer and employee reach an agreement after giving notice,’ says De Clercq.
In practice, it also happens that in the event of dismissal by the employer, an employee no longer has to come to work. This is also called ‘garden leave’, whereby the employee can work in his proverbial garden during the duration of the notice period while retaining his salary.