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Employment terms and conditions: necessary evil or useful instrument?

Monday 26/04/2021
Business persons talking in the office

As soon as you employ your first employee you must draw up employment terms and conditions in accordance with best practice, otherwise you risk incurring a fine.

However, employment terms and conditions are not merely an administrative exercise. On the contrary, they will also enable you to incorporate collective agreements that will benefit both your company and your employees. 

Legally required starting with the first employee

Employment terms and conditions consist of a mandatory document that sets out the rules governing the employment relationship between you, as an employer, and your employee(s). As soon as you employ your first employee, both in the private and the public sector, you must provide employment terms and conditions.

Employment terms and conditions validity conditions

  • Must incorporate any mandatory information.
  • Must be implemented in accordance with legal procedures.
  • Must be updated at the location of employment.

Keeping your employment terms and conditions up to date

Employment legislation changes all the time and as an employer you are obliged to incorporate these changes into your employment terms and conditions. Typical examples include the most recently introduced notice periods or the fact that, according to the ‘Feasible and Manageable Work Act', you no longer have to include all part-time work schedules. A general framework for variable part-time work, agreements concerning occasional teleworking, they all have to be included in your employment terms and conditions.

What happens if your employment terms and conditions are not up to speed?

Does your company employ no, incomplete or outdated employment terms and conditions? Were they not introduced in accordance with the appropriate legal procedures? If so, you are at risk of being fined, either a criminal fine of between 400 and 4,000 euro or an administrative fine of between 200 and 2,000 euro. If the infringement comes to light following an inspection, you will usually be given the opportunity to put things right and amend/update your employment terms and conditions, although this is certainly not always the case.

What are the advantages of employment terms and conditions for your company?

Drafting, amending or keeping employment terms and conditions up to date requires a degree of administration, but your company will also benefit. You can easily impose certain arrangements collectively without having to reach an agreement with each individual employee. Some of the following regulations can only be introduced in your company via employment terms and conditions rather than individual employment agreements.

Financial benefits

  • Postpone wage payments until the 7th working day of the month following the month in which the service was provided.
  • Include the obligation to reimburse undue/unlawful payments immediately.

Optimisation and simplification of working time organisation

  • Work out a scheme to reduce working hours, on the basis of which the effective weekly working time can be increased if compensation days are granted.
  • Introduce a flexible working arrangement in which normal weekly working hour limits can be exceeded without you, as an employer, being liable to pay overtime.
  • Define the method, time and modalities associated with annual leave, with your company imposing certain arrangements such as a collective closure period, a minimum occupancy rate per department, etc.

Better work-life balance

  • Introduce sliding timetables.
  • Set substitute holidays to enable your company to bridge the gap between a weekend and a public holiday.
  • Set up agreements concerning occasional or structural telework, such as the time periods during which your employees must be available by phone or e-mail.

Reduction in absenteeism

  • Make a medical certificate mandatory from the first day of absence.
  • Mandatory presence at the place of residence during a specific period of time for a medical check-up (even if the medical certificate states that the employee can leave their place of residence).

Raising awareness amongst employees

  • Introduce a disciplinary sanction scheme that allows you to impose, for example, fines or a suspension.
  • Introduce neutral religious, political and philosophical dress codes.
  • Describe the compelling reasons on the basis of which the employment agreement can be terminated immediately and without compensation. Although the employment courts remain competent to judge compelling reasons, the judge will take the employment terms and conditions into account, e.g.:
    - Your employee writes negative comments about your company on social media;
    - Safety regulations are not complied with;
    - Your employee deals with confidential information in a nonchalant manner;
    - Drunkenness at work and/or aggressive behaviour (both verbal and physical);
    - Incorrect use of the time clock.

Make the most of your employment terms and conditions

Make sure your employment terms and conditions comply with the law and transform them into a useful tool. Our advisors are ready to help you with both aspects. Please do not hesitate to contact HR Legal.

Do I have to update my employment terms and conditions if I impose measures to make my company Covid safe?

Can an employer oblige their employees to take up holidays if this is not stipulated in the employment terms and conditions?

Contact one of our experts

Saskia Lombaerts

Saskia Lombaerts

Director Tax & Legal