Employment and pensions

Social Elections 2020 – The clock is ticking…

Published on 15th Nov 2018

Social elections are held every four years in Belgium. The purpose is to elect the workers' representatives who will sit, for the next four years, on the company's collective bodies, namely the Works Council (WC) and/or the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work (CPPW).
The next elections will be held in May 2020 (presumably between 11 and 24 May). The actual procedure, however, starts 150 days earlier, in December 2019, with specific steps to be undertaken in view of the election day.

Is your company affected?

A company must organise social elections to create a CPPW if it employs an average of at least 50 employees, and a WC if it employs an average of 100 employees. Employee refers to every person occupied by virtue of an employment contract, irrespective of the type of contact, as well as other types of subordinated workers (trainee, apprentice, researcher, etc).

The average number of employees is calculated for a specific reference period, consisting of the four quarters of the year preceding the elections, so usually this would be the four quarters of 2019.

However, a proposal currently under consideration aims to modify the start of the reference period of the 2020 social elections, moving it to the last quarter of 2018. If adopted, this would mean that the reference period for determining the average number of employees would commence on 1 October 2018. This proposal is justified by the fact that the social election procedure is currently kicked-off 150 days before the actual elections in December, while the reference period is still running. This could lead to the tricky situation of a company rendered uncertain about its obligation to start the procedure, since the reference period would not yet have finished.

Temporary agency workers in your company count

On top of the company's employees, temporary agency workers hired during the last quarter of the reference period are included in the average number of employed staff. Temporary agency workers hired to replace an absent permanent worker, though, are not included.

Another pending proposal suggests modifying the quarter during which temporary agency workers are taken into account, moving it to the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter of the reference period, for the reasons explained above.

Threshold at the level of the business technical unit

In the context of social elections, the thresholds described above are calculated at the level of the "technical business unit" (TBU). A legal entity is generally deemed to be constituted of one TBU. However, a legal entity may be constituted of one or more TBUs, and affiliated companies of a group can also constitute one TBU. Their independence or dependence is determined based on the existence of economic criteria (separate registered seats, board of directors, shareholders, commercial strategy and objectives, etc.) and social criteria (separate internal guidelines and policies, work regulations, insurance policies, work culture, etc.).

Recommended actions

Companies must be aware that potentially, from October 2018, changes in their workforce (hiring or terminating employees) could have an impact. If the thresholds are reached, the company will have to organise social elections.

For large companies, it is crucial to determine whether they are composed of one or more technical business units.

It is therefore recommended that an analysis of all a company's options be performed as soon as possible. Our employment experts can assist you in this matter.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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