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As it turns out, lots. Too much for one blog, in fact, so welcome to a short miniseries on the new developments of most relevance to you as employer. In recent months, the Belgian legislature has clearly come out of its post pandemic slump and a number of new measures have been introduced, some of which will come into effect shortly and most of which will mean more work for you.

In this first part of the miniseries, we’ll discuss the new obligation on employers to introduce and implement a formal training plan.

As of this year, businesses with 20 or more employees must prepare an annual training plan. This is in addition to the individual training right that already applies in companies with at least 10 employees (described below).

Every year, before March 31, this training plan must be launched to provide employees with an overview of the training courses that may be offered and the target groups for them. The plan must also explain how it contributes to the company’s investment in individual training rights. The plan may also address practical points, such as how selections will be made if courses are over-subscribed, any minimum level of existing skills required, how much time off is involved, location, number of places available, etc. The employer is free to choose the training courses, but specific attention and some level of priority is to be paid to employees who may have special needs in terms of skills and competence training (e.g., older employees and employees with disabilities).

When drawing up this plan, the employer must also respect the internal social dialogue: the training plan must therefore be submitted in advance to the relevant works council or, in its absence, to the union delegation, at least fifteen days before the meeting scheduled to discuss it. If there is no works council or union delegation in the company, the employer must submit the training plan to the employees as a whole by March 15 at the latest. Representations made by or on behalf of employees about the shape or content of the plan should be seen to be considered with an open mind but ultimately the final form of the plan is for the employer to determine so long as it satisfies the basic minimum requirements around content (as above).

This training plan has a minimum duration of one year. A plan (or specified parts of a plan) can be valid for several years if the works council/union/employees agree.

The employer must electronically send a copy of the training plan to the designated official within one month of its entry into force. The specifics of this obligation are still to be defined in a royal decree. According to the Ministry of Employment, the training plan can take effect retroactively : the effective date can still be January 1, 2023, for example, provided that the workforce consultation takes place by March 15 and the finalized plan is delivered to the employees and the Ministry by March 31.

Individual right to training

As mentioned, the drafting of a training plan is in addition to the individual employee’s right to training. Companies with an average of 20 or more employees must guarantee individual training right of at least four (in 2023) or five (as of 2024) training days per year. For part-timers and for employees who are not employed for a full calendar year, a pro rata entitlement applies.

If you employ an average over the year of between 10-20 employees, only one day of training per year needs to be offered. No individual training right is provided in companies with an average staff count below 10.

The right to training is just that —  a right, not an obligation. As an employer, however, you must provide sufficient qualitative training opportunities. You will have to demonstrate that you have given your employees every reasonable opportunity to receive training. If they choose not to take it up, that is a matter for them, though clearly that refusal or failure may become relevant if there are later question-marks over their capabilities.

Unused training days carry over to the next calendar year and are added to that year’s training credit. This allows training days to be “saved” for times when they are needed most. At the end of each five-year period, the counter of the available training credit goes back to zero and the outstanding balance is lost. If you want to have a training plan ready in time for the 15 March deadline, now is the time to get cracking. If you need help or inspiration, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.