Thought Leader – Employment & Labour – Van Eeckhoutte, Taquet & Clesse

Contributing to the topic of employment this month is Willy van Eeckhoutte, Founder of Van Eeckhoutte, Taquet & Clesse. A boutique Belgian law firm. Willy talks us through his firm’s experience and leadership in the employment sector, and details the importance of academic lawyers in advising the Supreme Court on certain aspect of law.


What do you primarily advise on in terms of employment & labour law?

Of course, I personally handle cases before the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, me and my team handle a wide variety of cases outside the courts. Where appropriate we also litigate in these matters: collective dismissals, employment contract and settlement negotiation, industrial accidents and social security issues, collective bargaining, transfer of undertaking, international employment, well-being at work, harassment at work, working time regulations, unfair competition, subcontracting and hiring out of personnel.


In advising corporations and businesses on employment matters in Belgium, what do you find are the most surprising pitfalls they never considered?

Due to its complexity, the number of pitfalls are numerous. Belgian employment, labour and social security law is also subject to constant change. That is where we come in, always keeping on top of things.


What other challenges arise that you help resolve? How complex can these become?

As a Supreme Court lawyer and a university professor I also act as a lawyers’ lawyer, helping attorneys with recommendations in complex matters or in order to maximize the opportunities in an eventual Supreme Court procedure, which I – contrary to them –  can handle then myself.


What have been the most recent legislative developments in this field in Belgium and the EU? How might they impact your clients?

In 2014, the Belgian legislator gradually started reducing the numerous differences between blue and white collar workers. This will, in time, result in a less complex set of employment law rules. In the short term however, it means a significant increase of the dismissal cost of blue collar workers.


As a thought leader in this field, how do you believe employment law matters for senior executives can be made more transparent?

I think senior executives should not try to be familiarized with all the legal aspects of employment. The acceptability of some rules often won’t be very large for them. Confidence in and a good collaboration with a legal expert in those matters can help them see the wood for the trees.


You are a professor at the Ghent University; how would you say this helps in your thought leadership in this legal segment?

Judges, more than legislators, are very sensitive to what “the Academy” thinks, teaches and writes about legal issues, especially new legislation. Judges love to find support for their decisions in contributions of legal authors. Even the Supreme Court explicitly says it is open to receive guidance by comments on its judgements. In this respect the opinion of an academic lawyer can hardly be underestimated.


As a thought leader, if you could implement legislative changes in Belgium to facilitate your clients, where would you start?

Codification and rationalization of the existing employment and social security legislation, would be a first and significant step.


You have had numerous articles published in legal journals and are the author of several works on labour and social security law; how important do you believe awareness and education on these matters is?

Educating and training young lawyers is essential, not primarily to prepare them for litigation, but with the aim to make them receptive to the developments in society, in companies and in the work place that require an adequate legal response.

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