Clarification of maximum notice period of 13 weeks in case of termination by employee
The legislative proposal amending the Act of 26 December 2013 on the introduction of a unified employment status for blue-collar and white-collar workers regarding notice periods and the carenz day and accompanying measures (Unified Status Act) as regards the adjustment of the statutory maximum notice periods in the event of dismissal by the employee was adopted by the Parliament on 16 March 2023.
This legislative proposal (a) puts an end to a debate on the maximum notice period to be observed in the event of termination by blue-collar workers who were already employed by their employer on 1 January 2014 and (b) accommodates judgments of the Constitutional Court on the fact that making a distinction with regard to the notice period to be observed between white-collar workers who were already employed on 1 January 2014 on the basis of salary violates the constitutional principle of equality.
a) Maximum notice period of 13 weeks in case of notice by worker
The Unified Status Act provides that the notice period for workers who were already employed by their employer before 1 January 2014 is the sum of, on the one hand, the notice period based on their seniority up to 31 December 2013 (step 1) and, on the other hand, the new notice periods from 1 January 2014 (step 2).
In case the worker terminates the employment agreement, the Unified Status Act stipulates notice periods proportionate to the worker’s seniority, with a maximum of 13 weeks' notice for 8 years' seniority. Thereby, the sum of the two notice periods (before and after 1 January 2014) cannot exceed 13 weeks.
However, in practice there was a lot of ambiguity and discussion about this, especially for blue-collar workers. For instance, it was argued that the 13-week maximum could still be exceeded in certain cases. That has never been the legislator's intention. The new rule therefore clarifies that the notice period in the event of a worker giving notice never exceeds 13 weeks.
b) Abolition of distinction between lower and higher white-collar workers
For white-collar workers, prior to 1 January 2014, notice periods traditionally exceeded 13 weeks. An exception to the 13-week maximum notice period was therefore provided as a transitional measure.
Here, a distinction is made between higher and lower white-collar workers. A different maximum period applies to so-called higher white-collar employees: for white-collar employees with an annual salary of more than EUR 32.254 on 31 December 2013, the maximum notice period is 4, 5 months and for white-collar employees with an annual salary of more than EUR 64,508 on 31 December 2013, the maximum notice period is 6 months. The Constitutional Court has ruled that differentiating between white-collar workers on the basis of their salary violates the constitutional principle of equality.
This legislative proposal seeks to bring the legislation in line with the constitutional principle of equality by removing the transitional measure for higher white-collar workers.
c) Entry into force
The rules enter into force 6 months after publication in the Belgian Official Gazette, but will only apply to notices served after the entry into force. A notice served before that date maintains thus all its consequences.
TO DO: For a termination by the employer, nothing changes. When an employee terminates the employment agreement, it will have to be checked whether the correct notice period has been observed. In any case, the notice period will be a maximum of 13 weeks for all employees.