Flemish Language Decree: Hearing of employee not necessarily in Dutch?

13 Jan 2014

Referring to the judgment of the European Court of Justice of 16 April 2013 (see our Newsflash of 16 April 2013 ), the Brussels Labour Court, in a decision of 17 December 2013, accepted the validity of the hearing of an employee in English, in view of the cross-border character of his employment contract. 


An employee, employed in Vilvoorde, was heard in English by his employer in view of a possible dismissal for serious cause. Based on the Flemish Language Decree, such a hearing of an employee in Vilvoorde must occur in Dutch. If not, this hearing is void. 

However, the Labour Court of Brussels remarked that the employment contract of the employee had a cross-border character: he worked in several European countries. 

In its judgment of 16 April 2013, the European Court of Justice dismissed the application of the Flemish language legislation in the context of international employment relationships because it impedes the free movement of employees (see our Newsflash of 16 April 2013 ).   

Based on this judgment, the Labour Court decided that the hearing in English was valid and could be used in view of a dismissal for serious cause. 

It is unclear whether the concerned employee had used his right of free movement, even though this was the basis for the judgment of the Court of Justice. The free movement of employees is not necessarily at stake just because the employment has a cross-border character. 


> Action point
The judgment of the Court of Justice is being followed in Belgian national case law. The Labour Court even takes it one step further. However, as long as the regional Decrees concerning the use of languages in employment relations are not modified, the safest option remains to use the official language. 
At the moment, the Flemish legislator tries to adapt the Flemish Language Decree to suit the Judgment of the Court of Justice.