Legislative proposal: suspension notice period during temporary unemployment force majeure Corona (retroactive effect)

A recently adopted legislative proposal aims to suspend from now on the notice period during a period of temporary unemployment force majeure Corona. This change would also be applicable to employees who were dismissed before the publication of the act and are currently performing a notice period.

It is very likely that this law will be approved in the upcoming days. In this newsletter, we briefly reiterate the principles concerning the suspension of the notice period. We’ll also give you more information about the intended legislative change.

We will of course keep you updated on further developments regarding this legislative proposal.


Notice period and suspension of the notice period

If the employer terminates the employment contract with a notice period, the employee will continue to perform his activities during the notice period, while receiving his usual salary for the performed work. The employment contract therefore only takes an end at the end of the notice period.

However, in the event of a number of specified absences of the employee during the notice period, the employment contract as well as the notice period are suspended (illness, holidays, etc.). That means that the notice period stops during the suspension period and is extended with the duration of that suspension.
Other absences, such as public holidays, do not suspend the notice period.

Example: an employee is dismissed with a notice period of 4 weeks, starting on Monday 18.05.2020. As a rule, the notice period of 4 weeks would last from Monday 18.05 until Sunday 14.06 included. The public holidays of Thursday 21.05 (Assumption) and Monday 01.06 (Whit Monday) do not suspend the notice period.
However: the employee is ill for 3 days during the notice period. The notice period will therefore be suspended and extended with 3 days. The notice period will now end on Wednesday 17.06 instead of 14.06 (3 days later than initially foreseen).


Current legislation

Many employers are currently using the regime of temporary unemployment force majeure Corona (hereinafter “Corona unemployment”), which suspends the employment contracts of their employees.

According to current legislation, the notice period is not suspended during Corona unemployment. The notice period therefore continues during Corona unemployment and consequently, the employment contract can end during Corona unemployment.


Legislative proposal

The government fears that this would lead to “cheap” dismissals during Corona unemployment. For that reason, a legislative proposal was introduced in order to suspend the notice period in case of Corona unemployment.

The new act would be applicable as from publication in the Belgian Official Gazette and would also apply to employees whose notice period is still ongoing at the moment of publication. For those employees, the new provision would apply with retroactive effect as from 01.03.2020.


Consequences for you as an employer

This legislative proposal not only applies to future dismissals with a notice period, but also to notice periods you have already notified in the past and that are ongoing at the moment. For the employees who were given notice and who are/were unemployed due to Corona, the notice period will thus nevertheless be suspended during all periods of Corona unemployment as from 01.03.2020.

If the employee’s notice period has already ended before the publication of the act in the Belgian Official Gazette, nothing changes: the employment contract has come to an end.

So keep this in mind if your employees are on Corona unemployment and you dismiss or have recently dismissed an employee with a notice period.  

The above information is subject to the final legislative text that will be published in the Belgian Official Gazette.

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