A new school year has started for students, young and old. In this article, we will list some particularities and obligations regarding the training of employees in Belgium.
Paid educational leave
This kind of leave gives the employee the right to follow an approved training course and to be absent from work while keeping his/her entitlement to salary. Educational leave is governed differently by the Brussels and the Walloon region compared to the Flemish region, but the same principle applies in the three regions.
Not every training course opens the right to educational leave and the list is different in the three regions. However, the training does not necessarily need to be linked to the employment activities exercised by the employee for the employer.
All employees from the private sector working on a full-time basis and certain part-time working employees are entitled to this type of leave.
If all conditions are met, the employer may not refuse. The days of absence however need to be planned in mutual consent between the employer and the employee.
The employee who is absent in the framework of educational leave receives his/her normal wage from the employer, but the latter can limit this to 3,364 EUR gross (soon: 3,500 EUR) per month for full-time employees. The employer can reclaim part a(n) (rather small) amount per hour of absence paid during training leave from the Walloon, Brussels or Flemish government, depending on the region where the employee is employed.
Say: your employee wants to follow an expensive training and you are willing to pay for it as this is useful for the work of the employee in the company. However, as the price is quite high, you want the employee to reimburse this cost when he leaves the company soon after having completed the training. Is this possible?
Yes, you can conclude a training clause with the employee. A training clause is a clause by which the employee undertakes to reimburse part of the costs of the training he receives at the employer’s expense in the event of departure before the expiry of the period of application of the clause.
A training clause can be concluded for maximum 3 years and needs to be concluded in writing at the latest when the training begins. A number of conditions needs to be fulfilled (concerning minimum salary, type of contract etc.) and the clause must include a number of mandatory mentions.
The amount that the employee can be asked to reimburse when he leaves before the training clause has expired amounts to:
- maximum 80% of the amount in case of departure of the employee before 1/3 of the period has expired;
- maximum 50% of the amount in case of departure of the employee between 1/3 and 2/3 of the period has expired;
- maximum 20% of the amount in case of departure of the employee after 2/3 of the period has expired.
This amount of reimbursement is in any event limited to maximum 30% of the annual remuneration of the employee.
Are you as an employer obliged to offer training to your employees?
Yes, since a few years, the government aims to increase the training days of the employees, which has now resulted in some additional obligations for the companies.
Companies with 20 or more employees must prepare an annual training plan. This implies that the company must conclude a plan for a minimum duration of one year before 31 March.
This plan should include at least the following elements:
- The offer of formal (by teachers or trainers) and informal trainings (the so-called “training on the job”);
- An explanation of how the education plan contributes to investments in the individual education right. After all, the plan should ensure that every employee has an opportunity to follow trainings, and improve employees’ competences.
When drawing up this plan, the employer should pay particular attention to risk groups (especially employees aged 50 and older and employees with disabilities), bottleneck occupations and the gender dimension.
In the future, the employer will have to send a copy of the training plan to the designated official within one month of its entry into force but the specifics still have to be decided.
Individual right to training
Until now, there was mainly a collective right to training in Belgium. Per full-time equivalent employee, the employer had to offer a certain number of training days. For this collective right, it did not matter that one employee attended more training than another, as long as the total collective training days were achieved at company level.
An individual right to training has been introduced last year and is now being concretised in the sectoral agreements. The aim is to grant employees 5 training days per year (for full-time employees, part-time employees or employees who have not yet been employed for a full calendar year, the number of days will be determined pro rata). The sectoral agreements – which are now being concluded – determine the number of training days per year in order to arrive at 5 days eventually.
The number of individual training days depends on the size of the company.
This does not mean that you have to force your employees to follow training days, but you must make sure that they have the opportunity to be aware and it is strongly recommended to have some kind of written document of the (formal and informal) training that was followed by the employees.
Unused days are carried over to the next year and are added to the training credit of the new year. After five years, the counters are reset and any unused day is lost.