Benefits for an 'end of career' time credit before the age of 60: reintroduction!

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

Collective bargaining agreement No 156, recently concluded within the National Labour Council, reintroduces the right to benefits before the age of 60 for certain employees with an 'end-of-career' time credit for the period 2021-2022. Moreover, CLA No. 157 already provides for an extension of this right for the period from 1 January 2023 to 30 June 2023.

Principle: right to a benefit from the age of 60

Since 1 January 2015, the right to benefits in the context of an 'end of career' time credit has only been granted to employees who are at least 60 years old (instead of 60 years) on the date that the reduction of their working hours begins.

Deviating age condition

Context

By way of derogation from this general rule, the age condition was set at 55 years for employees with a long career exercising a strenuous profession or working in a company recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring.

However, the intention was to gradually increase the age limit as from 1 January 2016, unless a framework CLA (made compulsory by Royal Decree) had been concluded in order to maintain the age condition at 55 years.

Such framework agreements have been concluded, the last of which expires on 31 December 2020.

As of 1 January 2021, it was in principle no longer possible to receive career-interruption benefit from the age of 55.

However, this was without taking into account CBA No. 156, recently concluded within the National Labour Council, which reintroduces, at inter-professional level, the right to benefits before the age of 60 for certain employees with an "end-of-career" time credit for the period from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022.

What does CBA No. 156 lay down?

For the period 2021-2022, the age limit will be lowered to less than 60 years in two specific cases:

  • after a long career or after exercising strenuous profession;
  • in the context of a profession within a company recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring.

Long career and strenuous profession

The deviating age condition is set at 55 years for the employee who reduces his working hours by 1/5th or to a half-time job.

However, this reduction in the take-up age (to 55 years) can only be taken into consideration if the employee, at the time of the written notification to the employer of a reduction of working hours:

  • can justify a career of 35 years as an salaried employee OR
  • can justify that he:
  1. has been employed in a strenuous profession for at least 5 years, calculated from date to date. This period must be established during the last 10 calendar years, calculated from date to date;
  2. or has been employed in a strenuous profession for at least 7 years, calculated from date to date. This period must be established during the last 15 calendar years, calculated from date to date;
  3. or have been employed for at least 20 years in an arrangement with night work (CBA No. 46);
  4. or have been employed by an employer belonging to the JC for the building sector, as long as the employee has a certificate issued by an occupational physician who confirms his incapacity to continue his occupational activity.

Please note!

In order to qualify for time credit benefits at the age of 55, a sectoral CBA made compulsory by Royal Decree must have been concluded by the joint (sub)committee to which the employer and the employee belong, and the latter must explicitly state that it has been concluded in accordance with CBA No. 156.

However, a supplementary scheme is provided for during the period 2021-2022 for employees working in strenuous occupations or with a long careers and who belong to an industry that does not have a joint committee or where the joint committee is not active.

Lowering the age limit to 55 for entitlement to benefits can indeed also be considered and implemented by accession. Accession can take the form of a company CLA, a deed of accession or an amendment to the working regulations.

The deed of accession shall be drawn up in accordance with Article 7 and the model annexed to CLA No 156.

Whatever form the accession takes, it must be filed with the Clerk’s office of the Directorate-General of Collective Labour Relations of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue.

Company recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring

The deviating age condition is set at 55 years for the employee who reduces his working hours by 1/5th or to a half-time job when, at the date of the reduction of working hours, the employee is employed in a company recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring.

However, the age limit (55 years) may only be taken into account if the following cumulative conditions are met:

  • the company demonstrates that its application for recognition is part of a restructuring plan and allows it to avoid redundancies;
  • the company demonstrates that its application for recognition enables it to reduce the number of employees transitioning to the scheme of unemployment with corporate allowance;
  • the Minister of Work has expressly stated in the recognition decision that these conditions are fulfilled.

Please note!

the company must have concluded a CBA at company level, expressly stating that CBA No. 156 is applicable, following its recognition as a company being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring.

What will be the rules as from 1 January 2023?

CLA No. 157 already provides for an extension of these rules (for the period 2021-2022) for the period from 1 January 2023 to 30 June 2023.

Sources: collective labour agreement No. 156 establishing, for 2021 and 2022, the interprofessional framework for adjusting the age limit to 55 years for entitlement to end-of-career employment benefits for employees with long careers, in strenuous occupations or in enterprises in difficulty or undergoing restructuring, concluded in the National Labour Council of 15 July 2021; collective labour agreement No. 157 establishing, from 1 January 2023 to 30 June 2023, the interprofessional framework for adjusting the age limit to 55 years for entitlement to end-of-career employment benefits for employees with long careers, in strenuous occupations or in enterprises in difficulty or undergoing restructuring, concluded in the National Labour Council of 15 July 2021; https://www.onem.be.

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