13 February 2024

Social elections 2024: special protection against dismissal during and after occult period

by Sofie Vitse and Chelsy Deventer

In a previous article, we informed you that the next social elections will take place from 13 to 26 May 2024, and we focused on key moments. In this article, we take a moment to discuss the special protection against dismissal enjoyed by employees who are candidates in social elections. This protection begins even before the employer knows exactly who has been nominated. This is also known as the occult period. To avoid paying high compensations, it is strongly advised for employers not to dismiss any employees during this period.

What exactly is this special protection against dismissal?

All employees who are candidates for the social elections enjoy special protection against dismissal. They can only be dismissed for urgent reasons, recognized in advance by the labor court, or for economic or technical reasons, recognized in advance by the relevant joint committee. If an employer dismisses protected employees for other reasons or fails to follow the strict procedure, they risk having to pay a substantial compensation, which could amount to several annual salaries.

The end of the dismissal protection varies depending on whether the employee is elected or not. If the employee is elected as a staff representative, they enjoy this protection until the next social elections, covering a period of at least 4 years. Employees who are not elected enjoy the same protection as elected staff representatives if they participate in the social elections for the first time. If it is not their first candidacy, the dismissal protection lasts for 2 years after the announcement of the social elections results.

When does the occult period start?

The occult protection period starts 120 days before the actual election day at the employer. This date is known as X-30. The period ends when the final lists of candidates are announced to the employer. This date is known as X+35. At this point, the employer knows for sure which employees are under dismissal protection.

This means that there is a protection period of 65 days. If, during this period, the employer dismisses an employee who is subsequently found to be on the list of candidates, the employee in question can invoke the special protection against dismissal retroactively. It is therefore strongly discouraged to dismiss employees during the election period.

Depending on when the elections take place at the employer, the occult protection period is between January 14, 2024, and April 1, 2024.

It is also important to note that employees on the candidate list can be replaced by other candidates in certain cases after the announcement of the candidate list, and they also enjoy dismissal protection.


Be aware of this special protection against dismissal and only consider dismissing an employee once the candidate lists are known and the period of protection has ended. Do you need advice on this matter? Do not hesitate to contact our experts at or by completing the contact form below.

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