New notice periods for employees with less than six months’ service

Since 2014, notice periods have been harmonised by the Unified Status Act. Employees – whether blue collar or white collar – are entitled to a fixed notice period depending exclusively on their period of continuous service. As of 1 January 2014, these new periods are expressed in weeks and start on the first Monday following the week in which the notice is given.

During the first six months of the employment relationship, the following notice periods apply in the event of dismissal (notice given by the employer):
 Seniority  Notice periods
  0 - < 3 months  2 weeks
 ≤ - < 6 months  4 weeks
                       
What’s new?

As of 1 May 2018, new notice periods will be applicable in case of dismissal of employees who have served the company for less than six months (whether under a definite duration or indefinite duration contract). Under the new law on reinforcement of economic growth and social cohesion of 26 March 2018 (the “Law”), notice periods increase in a more progressive manner, as follows:

Seniority Notice periods
 0 - < 3 months 1 week 
 ≤ -3 < 4 months  3 weeks
  ≤ - 4 < 5 months  4 weeks
 ≤ - 5 < 6 months  5 weeks


To a certain extent, the increased progressivity introduced by the Law implicitly revives the old regime of trial periods. It is therefore recommended to assess the performance of the employee on a regular basis. Moreover, the dismissal will not have to be motivated since the CBA 109 on the motivation of dismissal does not apply during the first six months of the employment relationship.

Attention!
  • The shorter notice periods only apply in the case of a dismissal by the employer and not in the case of a resignation by the employee.
  • When the employment contact is terminated by the employer before 1 May 2018, the old rules still apply. The latter implies that if the employee is dismissed with a severance allowance (in lieu of notice), the old rules will apply in the event that the employment contract was terminated with immediate effect on or before 30 April 2018. However, if the employer gave notice through registered post sent on 27 April 2018 or after, the new rules will already apply.
  • As a general rule, the work rules must specify the notice period or, at least, refer to the applicable rules. If the work rules only refer to the applicable law, no modification of the work rules is necessary. In the other cases, the work rules must be adapted at the latest on 1 May 2018 in order to mention the new notice periods or refer in a general manner to the provisions of the Employment Contracts Law of 3 July 1978. It is not necessary to follow the formal process of modification since this is an (administrative) update linked to an amendment of the law. However, each employee must in principle still receive a copy of the modification of the work rules. A copy of the modification should also be sent to the regional office of the Social Inspectorate within eight days following the entry into force.