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Employment Agreement Essentials

Understand the key elements of employment contracts in Belgium

Types of employment agreements

In Belgium, labor law recognizes a variety of employment agreements, each designed to cater to specific employment scenarios. These agreements are crucial for both employers and employees to understand.

Based on Duration

  • Open-Ended Contract (CDI - Contrat à Durée Indéterminée): This is the most common type of employment agreement in Belgium. It offers indefinite employment with no set end date. Although a written contract isn't mandatory, it's highly recommended to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Fixed-Term Contract (CDD - Contrat à Durée Déterminée): These contracts have a predetermined end date for the employment period. They are typically used for temporary needs, project-based work, or seasonal positions. A written contract is mandatory for fixed-term agreements. Note that there are limitations on the use of fixed-term contracts. Employers must justify the need for a fixed-term position, and renewals are generally restricted.

  • Temporary Work Agency Agreement: In this type of agreement, an employee is hired by a temporary work agency and then placed with a client company for a specific assignment. The employment contract is between the employee and the agency, with the client company acting as the work location.

Based on Working Hours

  • Full-Time Contract: This is the standard employment contract where employees typically work 38-40 hours per week.

  • Part-Time Contract: Part-time contracts allow employees to work a reduced schedule compared to full-time hours. A written contract is mandatory for part-time agreements.

Specialised Agreements

  • Employment Agreement for a Well-Defined Job (Contrat pour un travail bien défini): This specific type of fixed-term contract is designed for a clearly defined task with a predictable completion date.

  • Employment Agreement to Replace an Absent Employee (Contrat de remplacement): This fixed-term contract is used to fill in for an employee who is temporarily unavailable due to leave, illness, or other reasons.

Essential clauses

Belgian employment agreements should clearly identify the employer and employee, including their full names and addresses. The type of employment agreement and the official start date of employment should also be specified.

Job Description and Responsibilities

The employee's job title and a clear description of their duties and responsibilities should be outlined in the agreement.

Remuneration and Benefits

The agreement should specify the gross salary amount, including the frequency of payment. Any additional benefits offered, such as vacation days, sick leave, health insurance, and bonuses, should also be detailed.

Working Hours and Schedule

The agreed-upon number of working hours per week should be outlined in the agreement. The working schedule, including regular working days and hours, should also be specified.

Termination Clauses

The notice period required for termination by either party, following the legal minimums based on contract type and employee seniority, should be specified in the agreement.

Probationary period

In Belgian employment contracts, the probationary period is a common feature. It allows both employers and employees to assess suitability before committing to a long-term employment relationship.

Legally Defined Duration

Belgian labor law establishes a maximum duration for the probationary period. According to the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (FPS Emploi, Travail et Concertation Sociale), the probation period cannot exceed six months.

Notice Period During Probation

The notice period for termination during the probationary period is typically shorter compared to a standard employment contract. The specific notice period can vary depending on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) applicable to the sector or company, or it can be defined within the individual employment agreement itself. However, it must adhere to the legal minimums which are generally shorter than the standard notice period.

Purpose of the Probationary Period

The probationary period serves several purposes for both employers and employees:

  • Employer Evaluation: Employers can use the probationary period to assess the employee's skills, qualifications, work ethic, and suitability for the role.

  • Employee Assessment: Employees can also use this time to evaluate the job itself, the work environment, and their fit within the company culture.

  • Easier Termination: During the probation period, termination of the contract is simpler for both parties with a shorter notice period. This allows employers to make changes if the employee isn't meeting expectations, and employees can leave the position more easily if it's not a good fit.

Confidentiality and non compete clauses

In Belgian employment agreements, the protection of sensitive information and the limitation of competition from former employees can be addressed, but there are some key distinctions to note.

Confidentiality Clauses

Employers in Belgium have the ability to include confidentiality clauses in employment contracts. These clauses usually define what is considered confidential information and detail the employee's obligations regarding its use and disclosure during and after employment.

The Belgian Labour Code requires employers to specify how they process employee data and the measures they take to ensure confidentiality. This transparency not only protects the privacy of employees but also allows employers to safeguard sensitive business information.

Non-Compete Clauses: Generally Unenforceable

Contrary to confidentiality clauses, non-compete clauses have a more limited application in Belgium. Generally, non-compete clauses are not enforceable under Belgian law. This implies that an employee cannot be legally stopped from taking up a similar position with a competitor after leaving their current job.

However, there are a few limited exceptions where non-compete clauses might be enforceable:

  • Senior Executives with Access to Highly Sensitive Information: In rare instances, non-compete clauses may be upheld for senior executives who have access to highly sensitive information, but these would be subject to strict scrutiny by courts.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs): Certain CBAs in specific sectors might allow for enforceable non-compete clauses under very specific circumstances. However, these situations are uncommon.
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