Flemish Language Decree is modified - New rules regarding the use of languages in social (employment) relations

23 Apr 2014

In the judgement PSA/LAS, the European Court of Justice ruled the Flemish language decree to be in conflict with the free movement of persons. The Flemish government has now put the necessary modifications in a decree.

The new decree was published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 22 April. It modifies the decree of 19 July 1973 and applies to the natural persons and legal entities which have an operational office in the Dutch language region. It regulates the use of languages in social relations between employers and employees and in the legally prescribed instruments and supporting documents of the undertakings.

The official language to be used in social relations between employer and employee remains Dutch.

For individual employment agreements, an additional valid version can be drafted in an official language of one of the Member States of the European Economic Area which is understood by all parties concerned. This applies on condition that the employee finds himself/herself in one of the following situations:

  • 1° he is domiciled on the territory of another Member State of the European Economic Area;
  • 2° he/she is domiciled on the Belgian territory and has made use of his/her right to free movement of employees or the freedom of establishment (according to EU-law);
  • 3° the free movement of employees applies to him/her based on an international or bilateral treaty.


If there are any differences between the Dutch version of the document and a translation, the Dutch version takes precedence.

An employer can still demand job applicants to be multilingual and test this during the selection process.

The penalties in the event of a violation of the decree were modified to a fine of 50 - 500 EUR. The statute of limitations is extended from one year to five years.

However, question remains whether or not this modification by the Flemish government will be sufficient to comply with European law.


> Action point

Take into account that for individual labour relations the use of Dutch remains obligatory in Flanders, but that it's now possible to draft an additional valid translation in certain situations.