Background - Practices (Details)

EU Employment Law

Our Belgian labor and employment lawyers assist clients in meeting the challenges of the modern workplace. We provide advice to local clients on both individual and collective employment law issues and also help them tackle their social security and HR privacy issues. We are experienced litigators and assist and defend our clients in all matters concerning employment-related litigation. We are perhaps best known for our work in the telecoms, pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, but we also serve clients from the airlines, retail, and consultancy services industries.

Our Brussels office labor & employment department works closely with colleagues in the U.S. and London in order to offer our international clients the global assistance they require (see Global Mobility and Cross Border Personnel Engagement below).

Individual L&E Law

We advise, assist and defend our clients on all aspects of Belgian individual labor and employment law. We provide day-to-day advice on employment (related) agreements, termination agreements and negotiations, company policies, bonus plans, and work time regulations (flexi hours and overtime "on demand"). We tackle the problems of workplace harassment (#metoo), diversity and discrimination, workplace privacy, and pay and social security aspects (including regulatory matters). We help our clients negotiate their way around hot topics such as trade secrets and whistle blowing.

Collective L&E Law

We also advise, assist and defend clients in a wide range of collective issues, including the conclusion of collective bargaining agreements, trade union and work council issues, social elections, and protected workers’ termination issues. We provide our clients with assistance in case of collective conflicts involving strikes, the blocking of plant entrances and general labor unrest.

Restructuring

We are well known for our pro-active and flexible assistance to clients that are restructuring either at a national or international level: e.g., transfer of undertakings, collective dismissals, closures of all or part of an undertaking, and related social conflicts. We often work in conjunction with our Corporate and IP teams for these kinds of matters.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing arrangements are a mainstay for business entities, large and small. Employee matters can be a major source of contention in global outsourcing deals and how employees will be treated impacts the cost structure of the deal. We have significant experience advising multinational clients on the employment aspects of global outsourcing deals, including the following:

  • Reviewing and negotiating the global employee matters sections of the outsourcing agreement.
  • Customizing the different approaches in different countries for the movement of employees resulting from the outsourcing.
  • Analyzing potential risks of terminations either as a part of the process for moving employees or as a part of the elimination of positions.
  • Strategizing on information and consultation with employees, , works councils or trade union delegations, and government entities.
  • Assisting in drafting relevant employee transfer documentation to ensure global consistency and at the same time compliance with local requirements.

For more information concerning the rules on outsourcing in Belgium, please see our chapter on Outsourcing in the Chambers and Partners Outsourcing Guide, 2019 version 2.

HR Privacy & Compliance

Since the mid-nineties, we have been closely monitoring both EU and Belgian developments in the data protection and privacy field and have advised both national and multi-national clients on related matters. We also have extensive experience in performing and coordinating global or EU-wide privacy audits and compliance projects, helping clients better understand their data processing, map the location and flow of the data and identify potential threats and compliance issues. We implement tailor-made privacy programs, which may include the drafting of privacy policies and procedures, standard contractual terms, notices, data transfer agreements and advice on security measures. An important part of our practice consists of advising clients on internet and e-mail monitoring, the use of cameras (in or outside the workplace) as well as on the use of social media in the workplace. For more information see our firm-wide Privacy & Cybersecurity capabilities.

Global Mobility and Cross Border Personnel Engagement

As an international law firm, we regularly deal with cross-border labor law issues. For international businesses wishing to set up an establishment in Europe, we offer a one-stop-shop for all their labor & employment and social security needs. Our Brussels office provides a full array of integrated legal services to help companies set up, manage, structure and develop their business in Europe. If the choice of location is Belgium we handle everything ourselves, in close collaboration with our clients’ legal department. We can also rely on our Crowell and Moring colleagues in London and the U.S., and on our trusted and extensive network of local counsel across Europe to ensure more broadly our clients’ European mobility.

We provide assistance related to work permits and professional cards, visas, residence permits and LIMOSA. We help our clients comply with EU and international employment, social security and tax regulations and practices, including multiple employment schemes and secondments.

More information on our global capabilities here.

Litigation Proficiency

Although our main aim is to avoid litigation and solve matters amicably to the benefit of all parties, litigation cannot always be avoided. Our lawyers are experienced litigators before the Belgian Labor courts.

A Personalized Approach

We favor a pragmatic and personalized approach. We take the time to get to know our clients and their needs. Our services are customized and goal-oriented. We regularly organize seminars on topical issues in the labor and employment field. We also publish FAQ brochures, client alerts, and newsletters with information on labor and employment-related developments, such as new regulations or collective bargaining agreements and notable case law.

Our Team

Our practice is led by Emmanuel Plasschaert who has over 25 years’ experience and includes Frederik Van Remoortel, who focuses on privacy, and our team generalists, counsel Evelien Jamaels (who focuses on global mobility and international employment), counsel Stefanie Tack, and associates Delphine Keppens and Blanche Devos.

"The 'very responsive' team at Crowell & Moring is led by the 'good negotiator' Emmanuel Plasschaert." Legal 500 EMEA, 2019

"Frederik Van Remoortel […] attracts praise for providing 'timely and good quality advice.'" Legal 500 EMEA, 2019

"Emmanuel Plasschaert […] has good knowledge of the difficult issues for foreign companies in the Belgian environment." Chambers Europe, 2016

Representative Matters

  • Provided day-to-day advice to several Belgian and multinational companies regarding a wide range of issues (drafting of all types of employment and related agreements; termination issues; enforcement of non-compete undertakings; introduction of new work time schemes (including flexible work rosters); analysis and proposals for improvement of current car policy; liability assessment of the company/management in case of abuse of alcohol at the workplace).
  • Advised a well-known client from the e-commerce sector on its entry strategy into the Belgian market from an employment law perspective.
  • Assisted several multinational groups in the restructuring of their Belgian businesses, including transfer of undertakings, outsourcing of business, collective dismissals, and closure of business.
  • Defended a major U.S. company in court regarding a social elections dispute.
  • Advised a European airline company on a restructuring (progressive reduction of the number of employees in Brussels) and assisted the client with the transfer of an undertaking and the HR integration of the transferred workers.
  • Advised a well-known client from the telecoms sector on a worldwide restructuring and related benefit alignment in Belgium.
  • Handled single permit and work permit applications for clients' non-EEA employees (advice regarding the type of single or work permit to be applied for; preparation of the application in collaboration with the employee; filing of the application with the competent authorities on behalf of the client; advising on employees’ visa applications and/or residency permit applications).
  • Defended a high-voltage transmission system operator before the Brussels Labor Court with respect to a claim filed by a former employee whose contract was terminated for cause.
  • Assisted a company in the pharma/chemical industry with a sensitive matter in relation to a long-term absent employee (burn-out).
  • Advised a client from the biotech sector on how best to expand its personnel base in line with its growth strategy.
  • Defended a subsidiary of a U.S. multinational before the Brussels Labor Court in connection with a claim filed by the family of a former employee who was the victim of a work accident.
  • Advised a major manufacturer of bathroom and sanitary ware in a multi-jurisdictional dispute in Belgium and the U.K. concerning non-compete obligations after termination of a professional relationship.
  • Provided HR privacy advice regarding data transfer issues, to U.S. multinationals.
  • Advised and assisted a client from the construction sector following a fatal work accident at a plant.
  • Represented a company from the fashion industry before the Brussels Labor court in a dispute relating to the (re)qualification of the contract (sham self-employed discussion).