Employees who are candidates in trade union elections are by law protected against dismissal, despite the fact that their employers do not yet know about their being candidates. During this hidden period, union representatives and candidates in union elections can only be dismissed for two very strictly defined reasons: economic-technical reasons and urgent reasons. Even so, an employer who dismisses an employee during this period takes a huge risk.
The King can relinquish his claim to the throne. But can his subjects also waive their rights as employees vis-à-vis their employer? Could employees waive, for example, their rights to wages, a thirteenth-month bonus, bank holiday pay, holiday money, severance pay ... if they did not wish to receive this?
Contrary to what many may think, Belgian labour law does require employers to formally justify a dismissal. Employees can be dismissed verbally or in writing with the 'simple' announcement that they will be dismissed from a certain date. So without any detail about the motives that played a role in this dismissal. Are employees always left out in the cold when they are dismissed?
During the employment contract, an employee may become privy to business secrets or confidential information related to the employer. Employees must realise that - even if not a word is said about this in the employment contract - there is a fundamental duty of confidentiality.
When an employee is dismissed, the employer may opt for immediate dismissal, without the employee in question having to carry out any more work, or for dismissal with the employee having to work their notice. During a notice period, the employment contract continues as usual and the salary is paid at the normal times. In the event of immediate dismissal, the employer is held to pay a severance payment.
Since 2011, the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue has published quarterly statistics on collective redundancies on the website www.employment.belgium.be. The number of collective redundancies announced in 2017 was remarkably low: 3,829. Compared to the record years 2012-2013, there was even a drop by 77%! However, the beginning of 2018 was another tough period, with 2,405 jobs in the first quarter.
It can happen that an employer wants to change the function of an employee. If there is mutual agreement, this is, of course, perfectly possible. From a strictly legal point of view, an addendum does not even need to be drawn up. However, it is advisable to do this so that both parties know where they stand.
An employee simply fails to turn up for work. Her employer is not even informed. No form of justification, such as a medical certificate, is forthcoming. In response, the employer sends a letter by recorded delivery requesting that the employee presents herself again for work immediately or justifies her absence.
Now that there is every likelihood that another national strike is on its way, the question arises what the personal effects are for the strikers in terms of labour legislation. Are strikers entitled to pay and holidays? What are the rights of blue-collar workers and temping staff? What if strikers become involved in an accident?
When an employee is dismissed, the company car is often a point of discussion. How long may the dismissed employee continue to use the company car? What if he/she damages the vehicle or incurs a traffic fine after dismissal? And does the notice period also apply to the company car?