A few weeks ago, we wrote a newsletter on ‘Dismissal in times of temporary unemployment due to force majeure - COVID-19’. We reminded you that the notice period of employees on temporary unemployment due to force majeure would in principle not be suspended, but that political initiatives were being taken to change this. Last week, a bill proposal was adopted in the plenary sessions of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives.
As mentioned above, the notice period of employees on temporary unemployment due to force majeure COVID-19 would in principle not be suspended. Several stakeholders feared that this would lead to mass dismissals, seeing that the cost of the notice period would - at least partially - be borne by the National Employment Office.
The initial bill proposal to remedy this situation wanted to introduce a suspension of the notice period for cases of termination by the employer where notice is given before or during the period of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.
The Council of State, however, commented on the retroactive character the rule was given, since such retroactivity can only be justified if it is absolutely necessary for the attainment of an objective of general interest - which was not the case according to the Council of State.
The bill proposal on the suspension of the notice period in cases of dismissal by the employer during a period of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 has been adopted.
However, following the opinion of the Council of State, the new provisions no longer apply retroactively.
Also, the new legislation applies to notice periods that started on or after 1 March 2020. Nevertheless, the legislation will not come into effect until the day of publication of the law in the Belgian State Gazette. This implies that notice periods starting - at the earliest - on 1 March 2020 will be suspended by temporary unemployment due to force majeure COVID-19, but not until the day the law entered into force. Periods of temporary unemployment prior to the latter date will not suspend the notice period.
Should you wish more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.