HR-law overview for the fall of 2015

Social elections

Companies that usually have, on average, more than 50 or 100 employees, must organize social elections to install respectively a Health and Safety Committee or/and a Works Council. (check also our e-zine employment – December 2014).

You can organize these social elections between 9 and 22 May 2016. Depending on the actual date, you will already have to make the first preparations in the procedure between 11 and 24 December 2015. At that moment, you must communicate certain information including the determination of the technical business unit(s), the amount of employees in each category, the management functions, the exact dates of the elections and, concerning the Works Council, the executive functions.
During the last quarter of 2015, the employment of the temporary workers must be registered punctually in a special record. This record will be used for the calculation of the number of temporary workers in the average number of workers, which in turn will determine whether or not you have reached the threshold of 50 or 100 employees.
Avoid or be careful with dismissals between January and May 2016. During this so called ‘occult period’, employees who have presented their candidacy for the social elections are protected against dismissal, even when the employer is not yet aware of their candidacy.

To do Check if your company has an active ‘e-Box’ (if not, register at

https://www.socialsecurity.be/site_nl/general/helpcentre/registration/register/index.htm). As from November, you will be able to use the web application for the social elections. It is not compulsory, but we recommend its use. Through this application, you should be able to easily deliver the required election information to the trade union organizations and to the FPS Employment. New development is that the trade union organizations will be able to submit their lists of candidates through the web application so that you can receive them digitally.
The login codes (the file number and password) for obtaining access to the application will be sent to you through the Social Security e-Box. This should in principle take place in November.

Increase of the legal retirement age

The Programme Act of 10 August 2015 fixes a higher legal retirement age. The legal retirement age will increase gradually to the age of 66 in 2025 and the age of 67 in 2030. Further modalities like the possible exceptions for professions involving heavy work still have to be tackled by the new National Pension Committee.
This Act makes the conditions to take early retirement more difficult. After the reform of the Government Di Rupo, that increased the age and career condition gradually to age 62 and a career of 40 years as from 1 January 2016, the Government Michel continues this reform. The age condition allowing to take early retirement increases to the age of 62,5 in 2017 and to the age of 63 in 2018. The career condition will increase gradually from 41 years in 2017 to 42 years in 2019.

To do It is important to closely follow the further developments concerning the increased legal retirement age and early retirement. Although there are no concrete implications of the reform today, we advise you to think already about the impact of the changes for your company in the future. Alongside the challenge to keep your employees motivated until the higher retirement age, it is advisable to check if your company group insurance should be adjusted.

Extension of joint and several liability to the principal

The subsidiary joint and several liability for social security and fiscal debts was introduced in 2012 for the construction sector. This liability was limited to the main contractor so that the principal remained out of range.
The Programme Act of 10 August 2015 now includes the principal in this chain liability: anyone who contracts with a company for "works on immovable property", which in turn contracts with another company, may be held liable for the payment of the social security and fiscal debts of the latter company. The liability is limited to the total cost of the works entrusted to the (sub)contractor.
The application is very large: not only the actual construction sector but also working with subcontractors who perform maintenance or cleaning services in immovable property can result in a liability for you as principal. Besides, the new regulation is applicable on the security sector and the meat sector.

To do Work with trustworthy and solvable subcontractors. You can use a database of the National Social Security Office (NSSO) (https://www.socialsecurity.be/web7/ppr/?lang=nl) and/or the tax authorities (https://eservices.minfin.fgov.be/portal/nl/public/citizen/services/attests
) to check if a subcontractor has social security of fiscal debts when you contract with him or when you have to pay an invoice.
If so, you will have to withhold a part of the amount due (35% for social security debts and 15% for fiscal debts) and transfer it to the NSSO and tax authorities. If you do this timely and properly, you avoid liability. If not, you will be sanctioned by a fine that is equal to the double of the amount due.
In any case, register when you check the databases and make sure you sign transparent agreements with your contractor/subcontractor.

Innovation bonus remains attractive

The possibility to reward an innovation bonus to an employee, without the obligation to pay social security contributions and taxes, has been extended until 31 December 2016.
This means that it remains possible to award this bonus in an attractive way to creative employees who have come up with an idea that was executed in your company (f.e. a new product, an improvement of a manufacturing process, etc.). The bonus can not only be rewarded to employees whose function exists in searching for innovations but also to employees that came up with an idea rather by chance.
The amount of the bonus is restricted per employee (maximum is equal to his gross monthly salary) and per enterprise (maximum of 1% of the annual gross payroll).

To Do Before you award an innovation bonus, you should inform the employees of the project and submit an application form to the FPS Economy (Service Normalisation et Compétitivité, Boulevard du Roi Albert II 16, 1000 Brussels, tel.: 02/277 74 40, e-mail: primeinnovation@economie.fgov.be). Afterwards, the NSSO must be informed. For more information and the application form, go to http://economie.fgov.be/fr/entreprises/vie_entreprise/Soutien_primes/prime_innovation/#.VfrhIP7ovXY.