On Friday, 27 January 2023, the Law of 26 December 2022 amending various provisions on collective labour relations was published in the Belgian State Gazette. It concerns some amendments to the collective bargaining law and to the legislation on the non-recurrent result-related bonus. We list them here for you.

Relaxation for electronic signature of collective bargaining agreements.

Since 2020, you can electronically sign a collective agreement and deposit it with the FPS WASO for registration. The electronic signing of a collective agreement is currently only possible with a Belgian e-ID. This also applies to the electronic signing of the termination of a collective agreement or accession to a collective agreement. From 6 February 2023, this can be done with any qualified electronic signature (e.g., via the itsme application).

Extension of scope of collective bargaining law for some public institutions.

The collective bargaining law contains the rules on joint committees and collective bargaining agreements. This law applies to private sector employers, but gradually its scope has been extended to some public institutions. As of 6 February 2023, the following institutions are also covered: Société Wallonne des Aéroports (SOWAER), B.E.FIN, Société wallonne de Financement complémentaire des Infrastructures (SOFICO), Société publique d’aide à la qualité de l’environnement (SPAQUE), Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau (SPGE), NewCO, New Samusocial, finance&invest.brussels.

Amendments to the collective bargaining law as part of the harmonisation process underway in a number of joint committees.

Currently, the social partners are holding discussions in a number of joint (sub)committees to bring closer the wage and working conditions of blue- and white-collar workers employed in the same sector. This reform process could lead to the modification of the scope of the joint committee, or its abolition, or even the creation of a new (sub)committee. The collective bargaining law was amended to regulate the fate of sectoral wage and working conditions as a result of these changes:

  • Continuity of wage and working conditions established in collective bargaining agreements

Article 27 of the CBA Law guarantees the continuity of wage and working conditions when an employer transfers to another joint (sub)committee as a result of a change in the scope of a committee, or its dissolution, or the creation of a new committee. For the avoidance of doubt, this provision does not apply in the event of a change of joint committee in the context of a transfer of a part of an enterprise that becomes part of another joint committee in application of collective bargaining agreement No. 32bis.

Through a legislative amendment in 2018, the collective bargaining law stipulated that the collective bargaining agreements of the previously competent joint (sub)committee would continue to be binding on all employees, i.e., both those employed before the transition and those hired after it. To encourage the social partners to speed up the reform process, the legislature at the time had stipulated that the legal guarantee to maintain benefits would expire by 31 December 2022.

However, at the request of the social partners in the National Labour Council, Article 27 of the collective bargaining law was again amended. As of 1 January 2023, the sectoral collective bargaining agreements concluded in the former joint (sub)committee will remain binding only with respect to the employers and employees who were covered by them before the transition, and this until the newly competent joint committee makes arrangements on the application to these employers and employees of the collective bargaining agreements concluded within this committee.

  • Continuity of wage and working conditions established by RD

From now on, the collective bargaining law also contains a new article on the fate of sectoral working conditions established by royal decrees in some joint committees (e.g., on working time, night work, economic unemployment). These are royal decrees by which the King fixes working conditions for a sector, often at the request of the joint committee itself. They are therefore not royal decrees by which sectoral collective bargaining agreements are declared universally binding.

When the scope of a joint committee is changed or abolished (e.g., because a committee originally responsible for white-collar workers is opened to the sector’s blue-collar workers), or a new committee is established, the old joint committee will issue an opinion to determine by royal decree which royal decrees on wage and working conditions of the old joint committee will be retained and to which employers and employees they will continue to apply after these changes. If the old joint committee does not issue an opinion, employers and employees who have transferred from the old joint committee to the new joint committee will remain subject to the RDs that applied to them before the change of joint committee. This new legal provision will apply as of 1 January 2023.

Reduced administrative burden – Blank remarks register non-recurrent results-related bonus.

For enterprises for whom there is no union delegation, the employer has the choice of introducing the award of a non-recurrent result-related benefit (the so-called “collective bargaining agreement No. 90 bonus”) either through a collective bargaining agreement or through an act of accession. If you as an employer opt for the act of accession, you must provide all affected employees with the draft bonus plan. You must also make a register available to these employees for a period of 15 calendar days in which they can record any comments they may have. At the end of this period, you must provide the register of comments to the territorially competent external directorate of the Supervision of Social Laws. As of 6 February 2023, you must deliver the register only if it contains comments. So for a blank remarks register, this obligation falls away.

Clearer conditions of validity for filing the act of accession for the non-recurrent result-related bonus

When the bonus plan is introduced through an act of accession, the clerk of the General Directorate of Collective Labour Relations of the FPS WASO will check whether the employer has followed the formatting procedure. If the Registry determines that it has not, the deposit is inadmissible. However, the law did not specify the elements on the basis of which the Registry could refuse the filing. For the sake of legal certainty, the law has now been supplemented in this regard. As of 6 February 2023, the deposition is admissible if:

  • the deposit is made within the time limits provided by CBA No. 90;
  • the act of accession and the award plan comply with the minimum reference period and they contain the mandatory disclosures listed in CBA No. 90;
  • also attached are the global prevention plan and the current annual action plan, if the plan contains objectives related to the well-being of employees at work, including those concerning the reduction of the number of accidents at work or the number of days lost as a result of an accident at work, and those concerning the reduction of the number of days of absence, as stipulated in CBA No. 90.

Action points 

Electronic signature of a collective bargaining agreement can now be simpler.

If discussions are currently underway in your joint committee about possible harmonisations, you should check to see what the fate of sectoral wage and working conditions is.

The administrative burden when introducing a non-recurrent result-related bonus via an act of accession has been eased somewhat. Check if your documents meet the new statutory eligibility requirements for a valid deposit of the act of accession.

Newsflash, 2 February 2023

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