Saturday remains a “working day” after 31 December 2022 after all

From 1 January 2023, if one has to calculate a period expressed in working days, Saturday will in principle no longer be considered a working day. This is a consequence of an amendment to the Civil Code that will apply from 1 January 2023. However, it was immediately clear that this change would have a significant impact on labour law, especially since it is generally accepted in labour law that Saturday is also a working day when a period expressed in working days must be calculated.

In its opinion No 2325 of 16 November 2022, the National Labour Council had advocated that – as far as labour law, social security law and social assistance are concerned – Saturday should continue to be considered a working day. A deviation from this rule of principle integrated into practice would create many problems and ambiguities on the ground.

The legislature has responded to this call by the National Labour Council. The law of 26 December 2022 on the neutralisation of Article I.7 of Book 1 of the Civil Code as regards labour law, social security and social assistance provides that the provision of the Civil Code that no longer considers Saturday as a working day will not apply to the regulation of the employment relationship, social security and social assistance. The law was published today in the Belgian State Gazette and will enter into force on 1 January 2023.

As a result, everything stays the same in labour law: when in labour law a term expressed in working days has to be calculated, Saturday has to be counted as a working day. Only Sundays and public holidays do not count.

This means, therefore, that if the employment contract is terminated with a notice period (to be performed) and the intention is for the notice period to start the following Monday, the registered letter of notice must be sent at the latest on Wednesday (in a week without holidays). Also in the context of a dismissal for serious cause – as is already the case – the fact that Saturday is also a working day will have to be taken into account. If, for example, the employer learns of a serious deficiency on Thursday, he will already have to proceed to dismiss for serious cause on the following Monday at the latest (in a week without public holidays).