Terminating an employment contract: all the possibilities

Last modified:

Monday 13 September 2021

The termination of an employment contract is not always the result of a unilateral decision. These 7 possibilities also occur regularly.

1. Mutual agreement

At any time, you can mutually decide with your employee to terminate the contract. In that case, you determine the conditions for termination in mutual consultation. Even though there is no requirement to do so in writing, it is advisable, as this will give you a leg to stand on in case of a dispute.

An example: Pieter has been offered an interesting job by another employer after 5 years of service in your organisation. You respect his choice and don't want to stand in his way. You mutually agree on the possible period of notice and compensation.

2. At the expiration of the contract term

In the case of fixed-term employment contracts, the contract finishes upon reaching the end date. No further formalities are required for this.

A couple of examples

  • During the summer holidays, you hire a student for 2 months as a dishwasher in your restaurant.
  • You hire an electrician for 10 months to complete a construction project in time.

3. Upon completion of the work

In the case of an employment contract which clearly stipulates in a written agreement not the duration but the work to be carried out, the contract expires upon completion of that work. No further formalities are required for this either.

A couple of examples:

  • You are a director and you hire an actor to shoot a commercial.
  • You employ workers to help you harvest fruit.

4. Following the death of one of the parties

The untimely death of an employee has the effect of automatically ending his or her employment contract. If the employer dies, it is slightly more complicated: the employment contract is only terminated if there is a personal collaboration or if the employee cannot continue his or her activity any longer. A judge then decides on a possible compensation and its amount.

An example: the employment contract of an architect's personal assistant ends automatically upon the employer's death.

5. Force majeure

Force majeure is invoked when an unforeseen event makes the work impossible. Note: you can terminate the employment contract only in a case of definitive force majeure. If the force majeure is temporary, the contract should be suspended.

An employee becoming incapacitated for work as a result of, for example, a traffic accident, is one of the most frequent cases of force majeure. In such cases of medical force majeure, the employer must initially go through a reintegration process before the contract can be terminated.

6. Judicial dissolution

Both you and your employee can invoke a shortcoming of the other party to terminate the employment contract. A judge will then decide who is right as well as the modalities for ending the contract. However, this procedure does not apply to protected workers and is rarely used in practice.

7. Resolutive condition

A resolutive condition refers to a future but uncertain event that may give rise to the termination of an employment contract. However, the following events may never be invoked as a resolutive condition: the worker becoming pregnant, getting married or reaching the statutory retirement. Furthermore, the fulfilment of the resolutive condition may not depend on one of the parties, such as passing a test that you organise.


Special procedures apply if an employee resigns or you dismiss an employee. But these are not the only ways an employment contract may be terminated.

In all cases you are obliged to provide your former employee with the following documents:

  • an employment certificate (with the contract start and end dates and a description of the work performed)
  • the tax form
  • the individual account of the last payments
  • the holiday certificate (only for white-collar workers)
  • an unemployment certificate (form C4)

More info can be found on the website of the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue.

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