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How can I terminate an employment contract?

An employment contract governs the professional relationship between an employee and an employer. They can end that agreement in several ways.

In the first place, you can terminate the contract by mutual agreement at any time on the terms you set out together. Then, as an employer or employee, you indicate that you want to terminate the contract by giving a letter of resignation. As an employee, it is important not to let your employer pressure you into agreeing to the termination of the employment contract. This is because in that case, you are not entitled to severance pay unless you have expressly enforced it. If your employer did obtain your agreement under duress, you can challenge it.

Secondly, the employment contract may end due to a so-called resolutive condition or clause included in the contract. As soon as that condition is fulfilled, or the clause is invoked, the employment contract automatically ends. Not all conditions or clauses are allowed just like that: for instance, the employment contract may not be dissolved because you get married, pregnant or reach retirement age. The fulfilment of the resolutive condition or clause may also not depend on the will of the employer or employee.

Thirdly, a judge can also judicially dissolve the employment contract if one of the parties have not respected the agreement. This method does not apply to protected employees such as union delegates and is actually rare in practice.

An employment contract can also end due to force majeure. This is an unforeseen event that makes further performance of the contract permanently impossible. If these unforeseen circumstances make work only temporarily impossible, you can also invoke suspension or temporary unemployment. By the way, the person invoking force majeure may also not himself have any influence on that force majeure situation.

Furthermore, either of you can also decide to unilaterally terminate the employment contract . In that case, however, either the employer or the employee must comply with certain conditions:

  • The termination must always be in writing. If the termination emanates from the employer, he must send the resignation letter by registered mail or have it delivered by the bailiff.
  • Everyone with respect the notice period. The term itself depends on the employee's status, seniority and remuneration.
  • If someone does not respect the notice period, or terminates with an unrealistic notice period, the other must pay a termination fee.

Finally, there is also the dismissal for urgent reasons. Either the employer or the employee can terminate the contract without notice or compensation if a serious fault has been committed that immediately and permanently prevents any further professional cooperation between the two parties. The party invoking the urgent reason must also be able to prove its existence. The dismissal for urgent reasons is bound by a strict procedure.

At the end of an employment contract, the employer must hand over some documents to the employee: the tax sheet, the individual account of the last payments or the employee holiday certificate. The employer must also hand over an unemployment certificate (form C4), which allows the employee to apply for unemployment benefits if necessary.

Why is it best to consult a lawyer?

Resigning or giving notice has complex rules. Think about the calculation of notice periods or compensation. A lawyer will guide you through this and work with you to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the law thanks to their knowledge and experience.

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