Dismissal: the procedure in a nutshell

No employer takes pleasure in dismissing employees. Yet, sometimes, there is no other option. In such a case, it is paramount that you follow the whole procedure to the letter, as it allows you to part ways on good terms. We've produced a clear checklist to help you.

1. The dismissal interview: to the point yet human

Don't postpone the interview. Choose a neutral room where you can speak to the employee privately. Take the bull by the horns and make your intention clear from the beginning. Stay calm and show understanding if the employee's reaction becomes emotional. You should, however, avoid discussing the reasons for the dismissal. The die has already been cast, after all. Do not stretch out the meeting unnecessarily: half an hour is enough.

2. Specify the notice period

The notice period is the number of weeks between the formal dismissal and the end of the employment contract. As a criterion, the seniority of your employee applies on the day the notice period starts. The duration of the employment contract (fixed or open-ended) and the commencement date of employment are also determining factors. Your payroll services provider will calculate the notice period for you.

A notice period or not?

You are allowed to ask your employee to leave immediately, but you will have to pay him or her severance payment if you do. Severance may often seem the most expensive option, yet it is not always the case. For one thing, the motivation and productivity of the dismissed employee may drop. In addition, the notice period will be extended if the employee falls ill or takes a holiday. Finally, the employee may be absent for 1 full day or 2 half days a week to find a new job.

3. Send the dismissal letter

In every case, a letter of dismissal must be written and sent to the employee by registered post. The document should mention the notice period and the start date. In addition, the letter must be written in the language of the region where your head office is located. If you fail to do do that, you risk a hefty severance payment.

Send the dismissal letter as soon as possible after the dismissal interview, and ideally in the first half of the week. The notice period always starts on the first Monday following receipt of the registered letter by the employee.

4. Fulfill the additional obligations

The procedure is still not quite finished when the dismissal letter has been sent. More often than not, you have to perform a number of additional tasks. These are the most common:

  • Pay your employee correctly. For example, he or she is entitled to holiday pay and an end-of-year bonus. There may also be a severance payment if you choose to forfeit the notice period.

  • Provide your employee with the necessary documents:

    • an unemployment certificate (form C4)
    • the tax form 281.10
    • the individual account for the current year
    • the settlement of the last payments
    • the holiday certificate (only for white-collar workers)
    • the employee may also apply for a work certificate, on which you state the start and end date of the employment contract and the job description.
  • If the employee had an open-ended contract, he or she may require by registered letter that you motivate the dismissal in writing, and that until 2 months after the end of the employment contract or notice period. You will then have 2 months to respond. In a few exceptions (such as dismissal for misconduct or collective dismissal), you need not motivate the dismissal in writing.

  • Under certain conditions, you must offer outplacement assistance, under which a specialised service provider helps your former employee in his or her search for a new job.

Conclusion: Consult a specialist

It is important to be aware of all the exceptions and read the small print when implementing a dismissal procedure. So, play it safe when you dismiss an employee, and hire an expert (from your payroll services provider, for example). This will make sure you don't overlook certain rules and don't face financial sanctions as a result.

Updated 16/04/2019

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