Following the recent social elections of November 2020, works councils and committees for prevention and protection at work were installed or renewed in many companies.
The staff representatives of these bodies and the non-elected candidates shall be protected against dismissal during a specific period.
Who is entitled to protection against dismissal?
Are protected against dismissal:
- on the one hand, the elected (full and alternate) workers-staff representatives to the WC and/or the CPPW
- and, on the other hand, the non-elected workers-candidate staff representatives to the WC and/or the CPPW.
Authorised modes of termination
During the period of protection, the employer cannot dismiss a staff representative nor a candidate who has not been elected in the WC or the CPPW (with or without notice, with or without compensation), except:
- for misconduct previously accepted by the labour court provided that a specific procedure is followed;
- or for economic or technical reasons previously recognised by the competent joint body (in principle, the joint committee) provided that a specific procedure is followed.
In addition to the dismissal for misconduct and the dismissal for economic or technical reasons, the employment contract of a staff representative or a non-elected candidate in the WC and/or the CPPW can also be terminated as follows:
- upon reaching the end date;
- upon the completion of the work for which the employment contract was concluded;
- upon the dismissal of the protected worker;
- upon the decease of the protected worker;
- in the event of force majeure (the effects of which are final);
- upon agreement between the employer and the employee protected.
Length of the period of protection
Start of the period of protection against dismissal
The period of protection against dismissal has begun on the thirtieth day prior to the posting of the notice announcing the date of the elections (between 12 and 25 January 2020), regardless of whether the candidate has been elected or not and regardless of the category protected.
For the impact of the suspension on the electoral procedure on protection against dismissal, refer to the infoflash of 18 May 2020.
Termination of the protection against dismissal
For the full or alternate staff representatives
The period of protection against dismissal enjoyed by the (full or alternate) staff representative to the works council and/or the committee for prevention and protection at work shall end on the date of appointment of the candidates elected to the works council and/or the committee for prevention and protection at work during the following elections.
Non-elected candidates on their first unsuccessful candidacy
The period of protection against dismissal enjoyed by non-elected candidates on the first candidacy for the WC and/or the CPPW shall end on the date of appointment of the candidates elected to the WC and/or the CPPW.
For the non-elected candidates on their second unsuccessful candidacy
The period of protection against dismissal enjoyed by candidates on their second unsuccessful candidacy for the works council and/or the committee for prevention and protection at work shall end, in principle, 2 years after the posting of the results of the social elections.
Please note! The protection to which are entitled (candidate) staff representatives shall end at such time as they reach the age of 65, except if it is standard practice within the company to maintain the category of worker to which he belongs in service.
Penalties in the event of an irregular termination
If the employer irregularly dismisses a worker-staff representative or a non-elected candidate in the WC and/or the CPPW in the course of the period of protection, then he shall be liable to pay a protective award to that worker.
Two situations may occur:
When the protected worker has requested his reintegration (within the required form or term), he is entitled to a protective award consisting of two parts in the event of refusal by the employer. These parts are:
- a fixed part: 2, 3 or 4 years' wages depending on whether the employee has less than 10 years, 10 to less than 20 years or 20 or more years of service in the company;
- a variable part equal to the wages for the remaining period until the end of the term of office of the members representing the staff and to whose election the worker was a candidate.
If the worker on the other hand has not requested reintegration, he is entitled to a compensation. The amount thereof is limited to the fixed part of the protective award (2, 3 or 4 years' wages depending on his length of service).
Source: Act of 19 March 1991 on a special system of dismissal for staff representatives to the works council and the committee for prevention and protection at work, as well as for candidate staff representatives.