There is a lot to bear in mind when hiring new people. Including onboarding, payrolling and dismissing your employees compliantly. Especially in a foreign country. Employment laws are different everywhere. Nonetheless, not knowing the regulations doesn’t release you from responsibility.

Terminating staff in Belgium is not as straightforward as in some other countries. Here are some important nuances to take into consideration before deciding on letting go one of your employees.

Are employers required to give notice of termination?

No. An employer can choose whether to terminate an employment contract with or without a notice period.

Should the employer decide to go ahead with the performance of a notice period, during which the employee must continue to perform his or her tasks, a strict procedure must be followed. First of all, it has to be sent by registered mail or bailiff. A simple email or verbal dismissal will not work. Moreover, it has to be written in the correct language (Dutch, French or German). As well as include the date, the decision to terminate the employment and the duration of the notice period.

If the employer wishes to terminate the employment relationship with immediate effect, no specific legal formalities are involved. However, the payment of indemnity in lieu of notice must be paid.

Should all employees be treated the same?

The notice period varies depending on the worker’s seniority in the company, salary and length of service.

For manual workers:

If the worker has less than 20 years of service, the employer has to give them a minimum of four weeks’ notice. In case when the employee has served the company for 20 or more years, eight weeks’ minimum notice is required.

White-collar workers:

Things get slightly more complicated with white-collar employees. To begin with, the notice period starts on the first day of the month following the month during which the notice takes effect.

If the employee’s annual gross salary is less than €28,580 and they have worked for the company for under 5 years, the minimum notice period is three months. This period is increased by three months for each additional period of five years of service.

When the annual gross salary exceeds €28,580, the length of the notice period has to be mutually agreed upon between the employee and employer, at the earliest when the notice is given.

When employees cannot be dismissed?

Employees can benefit from exceptional circumstances under which they cannot be legally dismissed. These include:

  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding breaks
  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • career break
  • the employee is a union representative
  • the employee works as a prevention adviser
  • the employee has filed a complaint based on the Anti-discrimination Law
  • the employee has filed a complaint based on the Bullying Law
  • the employee has filed a complaint regarding moral or sexual harassment, violence or psychosocial risk.