An employer may dismiss an employee with immediate effect if the latter has committed an offence which renders the working relationship definitively and immediately impossible. This form of dismissal is of a more severe type than a dismissal with notice.
In case of dismissal for serious misconduct, the employer:
- does not grant any severance pay;
- can, under certain conditions, request the dismissed employee to reimburse the expenses for continuous vocational training incurred by the employer.
Who is concerned
A dismissal for serious misconduct involves:
- the employer;
- the employee with:
The staff delegation, both regular and substitute staff representatives, as well as the equal opportunities officer and the safety officer cannot be dismissed, nor can they be summoned to a pre-dismissal interview:
- during their legal term of office (5 years);
- during the first 6 months after the expiration or cessation of their mandate;
- 3 months before the staff elections as soon as they have submitted their candidacy.
Any redundancy procedure against them is deemed null and void.
Before dismissing an employee for serious misconduct, the employer must ensure that the employee's misconduct is sufficiently serious that a dismissal without notice is justified.
To assess the level of seriousness, the employer must take into account:
- the employee's level of education;
- their professional background;
- their social situation;
- and all the elements which are likely to influence the employee's responsibility.
The employer's time limit to invoke serious misconduct
Employers can only invoke serious misconduct within one month following the day they were made aware of the misconduct. However, this time limit:
- does not apply if:
- the employee's offence has led, within one month, to criminal proceedings; or
- the employer invokes a previous offence which adds to the new offence committed by the employee.
- is put on hold if, after the employer became aware of the case of serious misconduct, the employee is absent due to illness or accident. The employer temporarily loses the right to dismiss the employee until:
- the employee returns to work;
- the period of protection against dismissal expires.
Examples: calculation of the time limit to invoke serious misconduct: if the employer became aware of the misconduct:
- on 5 May 2020, the employer can no longer invoke serious misconduct after 5 June 2020;
- on 31 May 2020, the employer can no longer invoke serious misconduct after 30 June 2020.
Time limit for notification of dismissal
The time limit for notification of dismissal for serious misconduct depends on the number of staff employed by the business:
- less than 150 staff, the employer can notify the termination of the contract with immediate effect;
- 150 staff or more:
- the employer must summon the employee to a pre-dismissal interview;
- the letter of dismissal can be sent:
- at the earliest the day after the pre-dismissal interview;
- at the latest 8 days after the pre-dismissal interview.
How to proceed
Number of staff in the business
Employers with at least 150 staff are legally required to summon the employee to a pre-dismissal interview before dismissing him/her. Failure to do so will result in the employeur having to pay a compensation of one month's salary at the most for irregular dismissal.
In order to ascertain whether a pre-dismissal interview is mandatory, the total number of staff must be established, i.e. the total number of staff employed in the different companies of a group which is considered as a sole economic and social entity.
Summons to the pre-dismissal interview
Employers are required present:
- a notification to appear to their employee:
- by registered mail; or
- by handing it to the employee in person in return for a signature:
- on a receipt; or
- on the copy of the notification to appear;
- a copy of the notification letter sent to the staff delegation.
The notification to appear must state:
- the reason for the notification, i.e. the envisaged dismissal of the employee;
- the date, time and location of the interview;
- the possibility for the employee to be assisted by:
- another employee of the company; or
- a delegate of a trade union which is representative on a national level and represented by a member of the company's staff delegation;
- the possibility for the employer to be assisted by:
- a member of staff; or
- a representative of an employers' organisation.
If the employer decides to be assisted by one of these people, or represented by a lawyer, that choice must:
- be mentioned in the notification to appear to the interview;
- also be offered to the employee.
Pre-dismissal interview procedure
The pre-dismissal interview must take place at the earliest on the 2nd working day actually worked after the notification to appear was sent. The purpose is to:
- inform the employee that the company is considering dismissing him/her;
- explain the reasons for the dismissal;
- provide him/her with the opportunity to explain him/herself.
After the interview, the employer can freely decide whether he/she will proceed with the dismissal.
Absence of the employee at the pre-dismissal interview
There are 2 possible reasons for the absence of an employee from the pre-dismissal interview:
- they have decided not to attend: in this case, the dismissal procedure continues as per normal; or
- they are on sick leave: the employer must take account of 2 possible situations:
- the employee has reported their incapacity for work and/or submitted a medical certificate before the notification to appear was sent: in that instance, they cannot be legitimately required to attend a pre-dismissal interview;
- the employee is on sick leave and informs their employer and/or provides a medical certificate after having received the notification to appear. the dismissal procedure continues as per normal.
Exception: in the event of urgent hospitalisation, the employee has 8 days from the date of hospitalisation to send a medical certificate to their employer.
Suspension with pay of the employee
Before dismissing the employee, the employer can decide first of all to suspend the employee with pay (notified either verbally or in writing), and then notify them of their dismissal at a later stage.
During their suspension with pay:
- the employee is exempt from the requirement to come to work;
- the employer must continue to pay them their salary, and all other benefits to which they are entitled, until the day when they are notified of their dismissal.
In the event of a suspension, the employer must observe:
- the procedure for the pre-dismissal interview if the business has over 150 employees. The interview must take place between the 1st and 8th day following the suspension;
- the one month deadline to notify the dismissal, from the day where he/she became aware of the serious misconduct.
If no pre-dismissal interview is required, the employer can dismiss their employee:
- at the earliest, the day after the suspension with pay;
- no later than 8 days after the suspension with pay. The 8-day deadline will be suspended in the event where the employee is on sick leave. The employer then temporarily loses the right to dismiss the employee.
Notification of dismissal
The employer must notify the salaried worker of their dismissal in writing:
- by registered mail; or
- or by giving the letter to the employee in person, who must acknowledge receipt by counter-signing a copy of the letter.
The letter of dismissal must:
- clearly state the serious misconduct(s) of which the employee is accused;
- in a language which the employee understands.
Remaining leave due
The employee is entitled to payment for days of leave not taken by the time of the dismissal. Thus, along with their final salary payment, they receive a compensatory benefit in lieu of leave not taken.
Liquidation of the time savings account
The employee is entitled to the payment of a compensatory benefit for the days/hours of leave saved up in their time savings account.
Repayment of continuous vocational training costs
The employer can request that the dismissed employee reimburses the costs for continuous vocational training received, on condition that:
- the training courses were organised as part of a training plan;
- the employer submitted a co-financing application for the training courses in question;
- the costs apply to the current financial year and the previous 3 years.
This mainly applies to training courses such as a Master, an MBA, etc.
The reimbursement can amount to a total of:
- 100% of the training costs for the year in progress (y) and the previous financial year (y-1);
- 60% of the training costs for the financial year before that (y-2).
- 30% of the training costs for the financial year before that (y-3).
However, the following must be deducted from these costs:
- sums received by the employer for each financial year as part of a co-financing arrangement;
- an allowance of EUR 1,240 as stipulated by law, for each financial year.