On 20 December 2022, the social partners represented in the National Labour Council (“NLC”) agreed on a timeframe running from 13 May 2024 to 26 May 2024 for the organisation of the next social elections.
The NLC also made suggestions to amend the Act of 4 December 2007 on social elections with the aim of improving the election procedure.
Organised every four years in companies with at least 50 employees, social elections give employees the opportunity to vote for the workers who will represent them in the Committee for Prevention and Protection at work (“CPPW”) and, for companies with more than 100 employees, the Works Council (“WC”).
In its opinion no. 2340 of 20 December 2022 (Dutch I French), the NLC proposes to hold the forthcoming social elections from 13 May 2024 to 26 May 2024 included. This means that the beginning of the electoral procedure would occur between 15 December 2023 and 28 December 2023.
Although these dates may seem far away, 1 October 2022 already marked the start of the reference period used to determine whether the threshold of 50 or 100 employees triggering the obligation for companies to set up a CPPW and/or a WC is reached.
For the 2024 social elections, these thresholds will be calculated based on the average workforce occupation between 1 October 2022 and 30 September 2023. Companies (or business units) will therefore be able to determine, on 1 October 2023, whether the set up a CPPW and/or a WC is required.
Average occupation of the workforce is calculated at technical business unit (“TBU”) level. This means that, even if a company does not employ an average of 50/100 workers by itself, social elections will still be relevant if it is part of a TBU that reaches the above-mentioned averages.
In its opinion, the NLC also suggests several changes to the Act of 4 December 2007 on social elections, some of which are briefly summarised below.
The NLC agrees to allow employers to deliver the social elections’ notification solely through digital means (i.e., by e-mail), provided that certain conditions are met:
The NLC suggests allowing the correction of election minutes in case of material errors without the intervention of the labour court, subject to the agreement of all parties.
Since the last social elections in 2020, temporary agency workers are authorised to vote within the user company. The Act of 4 December 2007 provides for a double condition of seniority.
To be eligible to vote, temporary workers must have completed a minimum period of service of:
The formulation of these conditions raised many questions of interpretation, notably regarding the notion of “uninterrupted period”.
To address these issues, the NLC suggests removing the double reference period and to provide for a single reference period, consisting of 32 days of work performed in the user company during a period of 3 calendar months, starting on the first day of the third calendar month preceding the month in which the election notice is posted. Given the date of the next social elections, this period would thus run from 1 November 2023 to 31 January 2024 included.
The opinion of the NLC has yet to be transposed into a draft law which will, in turn, have to be implemented through the appropriate legislative procedure.
It is however advised to prepare well in advance for the next social elections by already analysing the structure of the company (or business unit) in order to determine the average number of employees.
It is also an opportunity to get acquainted with all aspects of the electoral procedure such as candidates and candidate lists, vote organisation, mandates calculation and distribution, or dismissals during the electoral procedure.
Stijn Demeestere joined Deloitte’s Global Employee Services in 2013 before becoming head of Deloitte Legal - Lawyers’ Employment, Pensions and Benefits team in 2015. In 2020 he took on the additional role of Talent Partner. As he always wanted to advise and defend the rights of people, becoming a lawyer was a natural choice. Stijn has garnered ample expertise in all legal HR matters and particularly specialises in dismissal law (both individual and collective), maximising flexibility in salary and working conditions, the specific HR needs of top executives (social status, contract drafting) and various types of business reorganisations (M&A, cross-border mergers, outsourcing). Stijn particularly enjoys strategic communications and negotiations at individual and collective levels (social unrest, strikes), finding the spot where flexibility can be introduced against the rigid background of employment law, and is in his element when he can defend or plead in court. The contentious matters he handles are, amongst others, disputes over protected employees, white-collar crime, harassment, and the dismissal of high-level employees following allegations of misconduct. He advises HR directors of large and medium-sized companies, always looking for the right balance and where possible a cost-effective amicable settlement for the client in case of a dispute, and otherwise looking into tailoring individual schemes to the benefit of the company and working out how they can be applied to remuneration, different types of employment. Stijn combines a dry sense of humour with sharp analytical skills. He is regularly interviewed by De Tijd, had a weekly column in Jobat and is frequently invited as speaker at HR Fora. In addition, Stijn has written many books on topics such as protected employees and anti-discrimination as well as articles on, amongst others, the new dismissal legislation, outplacement and the bridge pension. Stijn is recognized by Chambers and Legal 500.
Alexis Ceuterick joined Deloitte Legal – Lawyer’s Employment, Pensions and Benefits team in June 2022. Alexis is an employment law and social security specialist and known for finding innovative and pragmatic solutions for all his clients’ personnel related legal matters, from onboarding to offboarding employees. Alexis advises both Belgian and international companies. His main focus areas are employment and social security law related aspects of compensation packages, structuring self-employment relations (consultancy and management agreements). He often negotiates with unions in matters related to compensation, working time or in the event of a collective dismissal. Alexis also advises on the employment, social security and pensions aspects of corporate restructurings (mergers and acquisitions), including cross-border transfers of employees. Alexis has extensive experience advising corporate clients in the financial industry, especially relating compensation and benefits related matters. In addition, Alexis is a frequent speaker at seminars/webinars and (co)author of various legal publications.