Unpaid leave for training purposes is a special type of leave designed for private-sector employees.
This leave temporarily releases the employee from their usual professional duties, in order to attend professional development training during a set period of time.
Who is concerned
Unpaid leave for training purposes is open to employees in the private sector.
To be eligible for unpaid leave for training purposes, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 2 years when they apply for the leave.
The cumulative period of unpaid leave is capped at 2 years per employer.
Unpaid leave may be taken for:
- at least 4 consecutive weeks;
- up to 6 consecutive months.
The duration of the leave is always expressed in whole weeks or months and must be proportional to the training in question.
How to proceed
Administrative procedures to be carried out by employees
Employees must submit their applications to their employers by:
- registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt; or
- hand-delivered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.
When applying for unpaid leave, the notice period that must be observed is:
- 2 months, if the leave lasts less than 3 months;
- 4 months, if the leave lasts 3 months or more.
The application must include the following information:
- the type of training course;
- the length of the training course;
- the training provider;
- the period(s) of leave being requested;
- a note stating that if the employer fails to reply within 30 days, the application will be automatically accepted.
Administrative procedures to be carried out by employers
Following receipt of the employee's application for unpaid leave for training purposes, the employer must respond in writing within 30 days, with acknowledgement of receipt.
If the employer fails to reply, the first period of requested leave (if several periods have been requested) is automatically deemed to have been accepted.
The employer can:
- accept the request for leave on the condition that the employee provides a certificate of attendance for the training course for which they are taking unpaid leave;
- deny the request if:
- the applicant is a senior manager; or
- the business regularly employs fewer than 15 people;
- postpone the leave, for a period not exceeding:
- 1 year, if the period of leave requested is 3 months or less;
- 2 years, if the period of leave requested exceeds 3 months.
Postponement of the leave may be justified if:
- granting the leave would significantly disrupt the business's workflow;
Examples: a significant number of employees in the same department are absent for an extended period of time during the requested period of leave, which absence would lead to a significant disruption in how the work is organised;
- the applicant cannot be replaced during the notice period due to the specific nature of their work, or a shortage of labour in the field/profession in question;
- the work is seasonal, and the requested period of leave falls within a peak season.
A particular company or department may find itself in the position of having to address several simultaneous applications for unpaid leave. If these requests cannot be granted all at once, and the employees cannot reach agreement amongst themselves, the employees will be prioritised in descending order of seniority.
Training courses for which unpaid leave may be granted
Training courses for which unpaid leave may be granted are those provided, either in Luxembourg or abroad, by:
- institutions which:
- have the status of public or private schools (secondary school, university, higher education institution); and
- are recognised by the public authorities; and
- issue certificates which are recognised by those same authorities;
- professional chambers;
- communal authorities;
- foundations, individuals and private associations accredited by the Minister responsible for Vocational Training;
- ministries, administrative departments, public establishments;
- the organisations covered by article 47 of the Law of 4 September 1990 (Loi du 4 septembre 1990) reforming technical secondary education and continuing professional development training, whose trainees are awarded:
- a diploma; or
- a certificate of attendance.
Interruption of unpaid leave for training purposes
If the employer accepts the application for unpaid leave for training purposes, the agreement will become irrevocable for both the employee and the employer.
However, in the event of force majeure, the employer's acceptance or the employee's commitment may be withdrawn, subject to certain conditions:
- the employee may only return to work if their employer has not hired a worker on a temporary contract to replace them in their absence;
- if the decision to cancel the leave is made by the employer: they must compensate the employee for any paid and non-recoverable fees incurred for their training;
- after the period of leave has begun, the employee may only end the unpaid leave with their employer's consent.
Illness during the leave period
Falling ill during unpaid leave does not give the employee the right to defer the remaining authorised period of leave.
If the illness lasts more than 25 % of the duration of the leave, or if a force majeure event occurs such that the employee is unable to attend the requested training course (in full or in part), they may request that the leave be terminated. The employer will honour that request unless, for organisational reasons, it is impossible for them to reinstate the employee before the planned end date of their leave.
Effects of unpaid leave for training purposes on the employee's employment contract
During unpaid leave for training purposes, the employment contract is suspended (its conditions are temporarily interrupted) but not terminated.
The employer must therefore de-register the (salaried) employee from the Joint Social Security Centre (Centre commun de la Sécurité sociale – CCSS) by submitting an employee discharge declaration form (déclaration de sortie pour salariés).
The employer is obliged to keep the employee's position open.
On their return, the employee will recover their entitlement to all benefits they had acquired before their leave, or a similar job commensurate with their qualifications, with a salary at least equivalent to their previous one. The length of service accrued before the start of the leave is unaffected, unless provided for otherwise by statutory or contractual provisions.
When the employee returns to work, the employer must re-register them with the CCSS by submitting an employee entry declaration form.
The employer must inform the employee that they must personally register with the CCSS, on a voluntary basis, for health and pension insurance coverage during the period of unpaid leave.