In principle, an employment contract may be written or verbal. Uniquely characteristic to Belgium is that, when in written form, an employment contract must be drafted in French, Dutch or German, depending on the location of the employer’s operating unit. If the operating unit where the employee works is located in the Flemish region, the employment contract must be drafted in Dutch. If this operating unit is in the Walloon region, the employment contract must be drafted in French and if the location is in the German-speaking region, the contract must be in German. For the Brussels region, the employment contract must be either in French or Dutch depending on the language used by the employee. Yet, in the particular context of a cross-border employment contract, the European Court of Justice rendered a landmark decision stipulating that the principle of freedom of movement for employees requires the parties to be able to draft their contract not only in the official language of the Region of the workplace. Consequently, the Flemish Decree on the use of languages in social relations has, to a certain extent, been amended accordingly. This means that for employees who are employed in Flanders, next to the Dutch version, an English version of the contract can be added.
The standard type of employment contract used in Belgium is the open-ended employment contract. With the exception of the clauses referred to above, a written contract is not required. Fixed term contracts are permitted, but a written contract must be produced by the commencement of the employment at the latest. Failing this, contracts for a fixed term are deemed to be open-ended contracts.
Trial periods have been suppressed by the Unified Employment Status Act (except in relation to students, temporary workers and temporary agency workers).
An important Belgian labour law reform entered into force on 1 January 2014, aligning notice periods for blue- and white-collar employees.