Blue-collar Worker vs White-collar Worker: The Constitutional Court Requires the Legislator to Act

In a judgment of 7 July 2011 the Constitutional Court ruled that the legal provisions concerning the notice periods for blue-collar workers and concerning the so-called "carenz-day" for blue collar workers are contrary to the constitutional principle of equality. The Court gives the legislator two years time (until 8 July 2013 at the latest) to remedy this discrimination and to accomplish the harmonisation of the legal position of blue- and white-collar workers.

On 8 July 1993, the Constitutional Court ruled that the difference in treatment between blue-collar and white-collar workers which is purely based on the nature of the work, can hardly be considered as a distinction that is based on an objective and reasonable criterion. Therefore, it was up to the legislator to proceed, at least gradually, to a harmonisation of the legal position of blue- and white-collar workers.

Today, 18 years later, the Constitutional Court clearly takes it a step further. According to the Court, the measures that were taken in the meantime by the legislator and the social partners are insufficient, despite the recently adopted law with regard to the notice periods for blue- and white-collar workers.

According to the Constitutional Court, the existing legal provisions can only be maintained until the legislator adopts new provisions. This needs to be done by 8 July 2013 at the latest. Consequently, until then, nothing will change with regard to the treatment of blue- and white collar workers (apart from the recently modified rules concerning the notice periods). In the event that the legislator would fail to take the necessary harmonisation measures in time, there is a significant risk that, as from 8 July 2013, blue-collar workers would be able to obtain the same treatment as white-collar workers before a court. This judgment of the Constitutional Court will thus undoubtedly cause an upheaval within Belgian labour law.

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