As of December 30, 2016, Belgium has adopted the new European regulations regarding the international assignment of employees.

International assignment involves an employee who is called upon to work in another country on behalf of his employer for a certain period of time.  With an international assignment, the employee becomes subject to the terms of employment (such as applicable wages, hours of work and vacation) of the country where he/she works.  However, if the terms of employment of the country of original employment are more favorable, then the more favorable regulations apply.  The assigned employee remains subject to the social security system of the country of original (usual) employment.

The new regulation is meant to thwart unfair competition and ‘social dumping’, where countries intentionally worsen their terms of employment (ie: lower minimum wage) in order to attract more foreign companies.  It also discourages local employers from going abroad to seek more employer-favorable terms.

The implementation of the European regulations brings 4 notable changes.

First change – Protection of the employee

When an employee from Belgium is assigned to work in another country in the EEA or Switserland where more favorable wage- and employment terms apply, the employee can file an administrative or legal claim against his employer.   The new regulations aim to protect the employee from suffering any negative consequences as a result of filing such a claim.

Second change – Social inspection

When an employer wants to send an employee on international assignment, he now has to appoint a ‘middle man’.  This person is charged with the task of providing the inspection services with the necessary documents.  These include:

-a copy of the employee’s employment agreement

-an overview of the hours worked

– copies of the pay slips (or similar proof of payment)

Third change – Principal liability for wages in construction sector

There is now a principal liability provision for the payment of wages in the construction sector.   This provision applies to all persons employed in Belgium.  This means that it is applicable to Belgian employees as well as persons who are internationally assigned to work here.   In the event of (partial) non-payment of an employee by a direct (sub) contractor, the builder or contractor (the principal) will be responsible for the wages due.  Note that this only applies to payroll debts that are incurred after implementation of the new regulations.

Fourth change – Administrative sanctions and fines

The implementation of sanctions and fines has not gone without a (serious) hitch in the past.  Adoption of the new European regulations, with its changes to the Social Criminal Code, aims to put an end to this.