On 10 July 2014, the Additional Joint Committee for Employees (Aanvullend Paritair Comité voor Bedienden/Commission Paritaire Nationale Auxiliaire pour Employés) (also referred to as the Joint Committee 218) adopted a Collective Bargaining Agreement concerning the right to outplacement for some employees (CAO betreffende het recht op outplacement voor sommige bedienden/CCT relative au droit au reclassement professionnel pour certains employés) (the “CBA“).
The right to outplacement for dismissed employees had been broadened by the Law of 26 December 2013 concerning the introduction of the unified status between blue collar and white collar workers regarding the notice periods, first day of unpaid sick leave and accompanying measures (Wet betreffende de invoering van een eenheidsstatuut tussen arbeiders en bedienden inzake de opzeggingstermijnen en de carensdag en begeleidende maatregelen; Loi concernant l’introduction d’un statut unique entre ouvriers et employés en ce qui concerne les délais de préavis et le jour de carence ainsi que demesures d’accompagnement). That law entered into force on 1 January 2014 (See VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2014, No. 1, p. 10, available at www.vbb.com).
The CBA has now adapted the sectoral outplacement system to the new outplacement rules. The CBA outlines both the existing outplacement system (for employees with a minimum age of 45 and a minimum seniority of 1 year) and the new system (for employees who are entitled to a notice period or corresponding notice indemnity of at least 30 weeks). An employee will not be entitled to outplacement if his/her employment contract is terminated for a serious cause.
Residual Outplacement System
The existing system of outplacement as from the age of 45 is maintained, but now only applies if the employee is not entitled to outplacement under the new outplacement system.
The employer can opt to have the outplacement procedure carried out by Cevora, the sectoral education centre, which is free of charge for both the employer and the employee.
Termination With Notice Period of At Least 30 Weeks
If the employee is terminated with a notice period of at least 30 weeks, the employer must make an outplacement offer within 4 weeks after the start of the notice period. The employee then has 4 weeks to accept or reject this offer. The employee is entitled to 60 hours of outplacement which will be taken out of his/her entitlement to solicitation leave. The outplacement programme is divided into 3 phases of 20 hours each and runs for a maximum period of 1 year.
The employer again has the possibility to use Cevora’s services for this outplacement system, which will be provided free of charge.
Termination with Notice Indemnity of At Least 30 Weeks
If an employee is terminated with a notice indemnity of at least 30 weeks, the employer must make an outplacement offer within 15 days after the termination of the employment contract. The employee has 4 weeks to accept or reject this offer.
In addition, the employer must complete a registration form and send it, together with a copy of the dismissal letter, to Cevora.
If the employee accepts the outplacement offer, the employer must deduct 4 weeks’ salary from the notice indemnity due to the employee.
The employer must pay 1/12th of the annual salary of the employee, with a minimum of EUR 1,800 and a maximum of EUR 5,500 depending on the remuneration of the employee (prorated in case of part-time employment) to the Social Fund of the Additional Joint Committee for Employees (Sociaal Fonds/Fonds social).
If the employee does not accept the outplacement offer, there will be no sanctions until 31 December 2015 and the employee will regain his/her entitlement to the 4 weeks’ notice indemnity that was taken into account for the outplacement. However, if the employment is terminated after 31 December 2015, the 4 weeks’ notice indemnity must be retained by the employer.
Outplacement will always end as soon as the employee has found new employment. However, if the employee loses this employment within 3 months following its start, the outplacement effort can be resumed. In any event, the outplacement terminates at the end of the initial time frame.
The CBA retroactively entered into force on 1 January 2014, with the exception of the rules concerning the termination with a notice indemnity of at least 30 weeks, which started to apply on 10 July 2014. In addition, the CBA provides for a specific transition period for employees as from the age of 45, whose employment agreement has been terminated before 1 September 2014 with a notice indemnity of at least 30 weeks.
The Annex to the CBA contains templates of letters to inform employees of their right to outplacement in case of termination