Work incapacity and reintegration: 4 upcoming key measures

On 10 June 2022, the Council of Ministers approved a bill and three draft royal decrees that will enact a series of measures relating to employees’ incapacity for work and their reintegration.

First measure: medical certificate for first day of work incapacity no longer required

The current law requires that a medical certificate be produced for the first day of incapacity if the employer demands it or if the work rules require it.

To relieve the burden of general physicians and also to avoid the need to reimburse unnecessary medical consultations, the government intends to exempt employees from the obligation to produce a medical certificate for the first day of their incapacity. A medical certificate for the second day onwards could be required though.

This exemption would have its limitations:

  • It would not apply to companies with less than 50 employees. The notion of company and the method for counting the number of employees still need to be clarified.
  • This exemption could be invoked no more than 3 days per calendar year.

If this new measure comes into force, company rules & regulations or internal policies in force at companies concerned would probably need to be amended, except for the companies that already have such exemption in place.

Second measure: employment contract termination for medical reasons will be separate from the workplace reintegration plan

The second measure concerns force majeure on medical grounds and the workplace reintegration plan (WRP). Employers and employees often use the WRP as a means to terminate an employment contract in the event of force majeure on medical grounds and not actually to reintegrate the employee into the workplace. Because of this, the government now proposes that the two processes be split and simplified to ensure their effectiveness. According to opinion no. 247 of 22 April 2022 on the draft decree given by the Conseil Supérieur pour la Prévention et la Protection au travail (High Council for Prevention and Protection at Work), the draft would include the following specific measures:

With regard to the WRP, 3 decisions (instead of 5) would be possible. The process would also be simplified and could start earlier.
Regarding force majeure on medical grounds, employees can invoke this if they are permanently unfit to work after 9 months of being incapacitated for work. The occupational physician must be the one who concludes whether the employee is permanently unfit to perform his or her job. Appealing against this decision is possible, and the procedure is the same as that which applies to a WRP.

We will update you on more details concerning how this procedure will be implemented and how it can relate to the WRP.

Third and fourth measures: Resuming part-time work under two new arrangements

Measures 3 and 4 aim to encourage part-time return to work authorised by the medical advisor of the sickness fund by providing two new arrangements:

  • An employee could now perform his or her job less than 3 hours per day (minimum working time limit).
  • The guaranteed wage will be neutralised if the employee becomes newly incapacitated for work after a period of partial recovery.

These measures still have to pass through the Council of State and the House of Representatives for the certificate exemption.

Strelia's Employment & Benefits department will closely monitor the legislative developments in this regard, including the date when they enter into force and any subsequent changes and clarifications.

If you have any questions on this topic or if you would like to proactively discuss the upcoming new measures, please contact our team.

 Herman Craeninckx - Partner
 Stefanie Tack - Partner
Pauline Van Parys - Senior Associate