Member area

Belgium - Unified Status white/blue collar workers

09 March 2014

Unified Status: white collar and blue collar workers

The New Unified Status

The most important change to Belgian labor law in many years

The distinction between blue-collar workers (i.e. the persons who mainly perform manual work) and white-collar workers (i.e. the persons who mainly perform intellectual work) was considered for ages as the summa divisio in Belgian labour law.

However, after long negotiations between the social partners, the Act of 26 December 2013 on the implementation of the Unified Status for blue-collar workers and white-collar workers was finally adopted, and it took effect in the Belgian Legal System as from 1 January 2014.

A uniform redundancy scheme for blue-collar workers and white-collar workers was hereby implemented in Belgium, as well as other significant changes to the Belgian labour law regarding for instance the elimination of a trial period, the elimination of the so-called “carenz” day (i.e. the first (unpaid) day of disability for a blue-collar worker), the extension of the right to outplacement measures, the obligation to motivate a dismissal, etc.

This uniform redundancy scheme applies to both the employment agreements concluded before as well as after 1 January 2014.

With regard to the employment agreements concluded before 1 January 2014, a set of transition rules have been introduced in order to safeguard termination rights built up by the workers up until 31 December 2013.

The new notice period is only determined on the basis of the seniority of the worker within the company. The age and remuneration are no longer relevant criteria as it was the case in the past under the Claeys formula which was used till very recently in order to determine the notice period of high ranking white-collar workers, and which often lead to huge notice periods.

In comparison with the old redundancy scheme, the new notice periods of the blue-collar workers have been significantly increased, while the term of notice of the white-collar workers has been reduced. For example, under the old scheme, a white-collar worker earning more than € 32,254 with 20 years of seniority could claim in court a notice period of at least 20 months, while under the New Unified Status the same worker will (only) get about 14 months which is an important difference.

In case of resignation by the employee, the latter will have to observe a notice period equal to half of the term of notice which would apply in case of dismissal by the employer, and in case with a maximum notice period of 13 weeks.

As usual, the new redundancy scheme has introduced some general rules but also several exceptions. We therefore recommend vigilance before notifying any formal notice period under Belgian law as the amounts at stake are still very important.

Lastly, please note that the Unified Status Act is a first step in the harmonisation of the labour laws regarding blue-collar and white-collar workers, but there still exist differences between these two categories of workers with regards to e.g. holiday pay, CLA’s, economic unemployment, separate chambers in the labour courts etc.

The Unified Status, a story … to be continued.

Contribution of Mrs. Naima ES-SAMRI (Everest Brussels, BELGIUM)

to WARWICK LEGAL NETWORK - Employment Practise Group

To the overview