New information obligations and minimum standards regarding working conditions
The EU legislators aim to promote more transparent and predictable employment, while ensuring labor market adaptability. To reach this goal, the EU directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and its implementation law (“Law“) impose certain information obligations on employers, and also lay down new minimum standards regarding working conditions that have to be guaranteed. In the case of noncompliance, sanctions (up to level 3) can be imposed. This alert provides a high-level overview of these new obligations.
The Law enters into force on 10 November 2022. However, before that date, employees already have the right to request a transition to another form of employment with more predictable and secure working conditions under certain circumstances, based on the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement No. 161 (“CBA 161“), which entered into force on 1 October 2022.
1) For employees hired after the entry into force of the Law
Belgian employers will have to provide the following information to employees who will be hired after the entry into force of the Law:
- The identity of the parties to the employment relationship
- The place of work (subject to exceptions if there is no fixed/main place of work)
- The function primarily performed by the employee, as well as the title, ranking, capacity or category of the work (and a brief description of the work where relevant)
- The start date of the employment relationship
- In the case of a fixed-term agreement, the end date or the expected duration thereof
- The salary and benefits, including the method of payment and its frequency, or a reference to the relevant legal or regulatory provisions or the relevant collective bargaining agreements
- The probationary period duration/rules (which will mostly not be relevant, as probationary periods are no longer possible under Belgian law, except for specific cases (e.g., temporary work))
- Information on working time
Employers can provide the information in writing or in electronic form, at the latest, on the start date of the employment relationship. Employers can use one or more documents to do so (for example, individual terms via the employment agreement and collective terms via the working regulations (“arbeidsreglement”/”règlement de travail”)). Additional information must be provided in specific situations (e.g., secondment to another working country). In addition, amendments are required for changes to the above-mentioned information.
Therefore, as of the entry into force of the Law (i.e., on 10 November 2022), employers should verify to what extent their employment documents cover the above information that will have to be provided. If not all elements are covered, employers can amend these documents or create a separate new document to cover the missing elements.
2) For employees hired before the entry into force of the Law
The information obligation will not be applicable to employees who were hired before the entry into force of the Law. However, an employer will still have to provide the above-mentioned information at the request of these employees.
Minimum standards regarding working conditions and employee protection
The Law also provides for certain minimum standards regarding working conditions, among other things. These are as follows:
- Employers cannot, in principle, prohibit employees from also working for other employers outside the work schedule, also referred to as “parallel employment” (only in exceptional circumstances is it legally permissible to do so).
- Employers must provide employees with the following, free of cost: i) the necessary training to perform the work for which they were hired and ii) the training the employer is required to provide under Belgian law.
- Employees with at least six months of seniority may request a transition to another form of employment with more predictable and secure working conditions. It is important to note that this right is also governed by CBA 161. Hence, this minimum standard should already be guaranteed, although such minimum standard does not imply that the transition request must always be accepted.
- A minimum degree of predictability of work has to be guaranteed for the employee; therefore, additional restrictions are adopted vis-à-vis variable working schedules.
Therefore, Belgian employers should review the training policy applicable within the company and verify whether the exclusivity clauses and training clauses comply with these new rules.
Compliance and sanctions
The Law stipulates that employers may not treat employees adversely for submitting a complaint due to noncompliance with the above-mentioned rights. In addition, dismissing employees (and all preparations thereof) on these grounds will be prohibited.
Noncompliance with the Law can be sanctioned with sanctions up to a maximum of level 3 (being a criminal fine of EUR 800 to EUR 8,000 or an administrative fine of EUR 200 to EUR 2,000). In principle, these fines have to be multiplied by the number of employees concerned, save for a few exceptions.
Legal sources: Directive (EU) 2019/1152 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union; the implementation law; CBA 161.