Important change in dismissal law as from 2023: Saturday no longer considered a working day

In Belgian employment law, Saturday is in principle considered a working day (in contrast to Sunday and legal holidays) even if the employees are not working on this day. 

In Belgian employment law, Saturday is in principle considered a working day (in contrast to Sunday and legal holidays) even if the employees are not working on this day. As a result, Saturdays are counted when calculating:

  • the double three-day period in the context of dismissal for serious cause;
  • the day on which a notice period can start after the employer has notified the dismissal by registered letter(3 working days after the posting of this letter).

By example, this means that if an employer becomes aware of a serious misconduct on a Wednesday, he still has until Saturday to dismiss the employee (i.e. within three working days). The employer then has until Wednesday to inform the employee of the reasons for the dismissal. In the future, however, this will change.

As of 1 January 2023, the new Book 1 of the Civil Code will enter into force, which deals with the calculation of periods in civil law (including employment law). According to the new provision, public holidays, Sundays or Saturdays are not considered as working days. Otherwise said: Saturdays will no longer count towards the calculation of these terms as from 1 January 2023.

As a consequence this has a major impact on the calculation of the the term of notification in case of dismissal due to serious cause and for the normal dismissal with a notice period:

  • an employer who becomes aware of a serious misconducton a Wednesday will have until Mondayto dismiss the employee. The employer will then have until Thursday to inform the employee of the reasons for dismissal. The employer thus benefits from one additional day.
  • On the contrary, the change in the law will require that an employer who wants to give notice of a normal dismissal, will have to send the registered letter already on Tuesday(and no longer on Wednesday) if he wants the notice period to start on the following Monday. This is because a notice period only starts three working days after sending the registered letter, while Saturdays will no longer count as such. Here, the employer loses one dayto send the letter.

Employers should be aware of the consequences of this important change as from 1 January 2023 and prepare the adjustment of their HR practices.

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