EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Reconversion cells

Phase: Management
  • Advice
  • Fostering mobility
  • Matching/Networking
  • Start-up support
  • Territorial coordination
  • Training
Last modified: 03 August, 2021
Native name:

Tewerkstellingcel/Cellule de Reconversion

English name:

Reconversion cells


The reconversion cells are crucial in Belgian active policy concerning restructuring companies and express the need for support to the dismissed workers in their search for a new job. The instrument concerns all companies announcing a collective redundancy (at least 10% of the workforce in enterprises with 100 employees or more, at least 10 employees in enterprises with more than 20 but fewer than 100 employees, at least 6 employees in enterprises with more than 11 but fewer than 20 employees, at least half of the employees in companies with at the most 11 employees). Employees on fixed-term contracts and temporary workers are also included.



Main characteristics

The reconversion cell can be specific to a (large) company or can bring together the affected workforce of separate restructurings from the same area. The beneficiaries receive assistance in dealing with redundancy. This can comprise individual contacts and meetings with employment advisers who specialise in redeployment, ongoing psychological support, and assistance in social and administrative affairs. They are also supported in developing their CV, in securing professional references, and accessing information on the job market and in finding a new job. They are also assisted in accessing vocational or reconversion training courses; this includes identifying relevant training and information about the training market, and assistance accessing training funding.

Before assistance is provided, the beneficiaries sign a socio-professional contract. In doing so, they commit to being actively involved in the programme. In return, they receive an allowance. The establishment of the cell is carried out at the request of the worker representatives and can last one or two years.

Starting 1 January 2015, employees who are dismissed due to restructuring whereby a reconversion cell has been formed are obliged to sign up regardless of age (up to the age of 65) and, if they refuse to do so, they will be penalised by having their unemployment benefits suspended for a period of four up to 52 weeks. While employees are enrolled in retraining, they have to actively participate in the programme. This means that they have to accept and enrol in each form of training proposed (in)directly by the reconversion cell.


  • Regional funds
  • European funds
  • European Funds (ESF)
  • Employer

Involved actors

Regional/local government
Funding, and the regional employment office is responsible for the execution.
Public employment services
Cells are managed by both the Forem/VDAB/Actiris and by trade union representatives from the company. Forem offers the general PES services (matching, support for job search, training, start-up support).
Employer or employee organisations
This was set up at the request of trade union organisations; trade unions deal with social issues and act as confidential adviser for the affected workers.
Cells are managed by both the Forem/VDAB/Actiris and by trade union representatives from the company. The company might provide the location, machines and equipment, financial support. European Structural Fund (ESF) funding is also provided. Employer (cofunding).


To use the reconversion cell, the company must be registered and acknowledged to be restructuring. If the case, the company can use the several support measures, of which the reconversion cell. From 2015 until 2018, the amount of companies acknowledged to be in restructuring has declined. In 2015, there were 74; in 2016, 86; in 2017, 70 and in 2018, 59.

Between 2005 and 2009, the number of reconversion cells ranged between 20 and 40 approximately, and the number of beneficiaries varied between 1,000 and 3,000 each year. The programme has a high reintegration rate, more than 50% of beneficiaries are in employment again, with a high percentage of open-ended contracts. The social partners perceive it as a very effective tool.


Individual psychological follow-up support is provided to people affected by restructuring. A collective spirit is retained  by encouraging emulation; avoiding isolation and the shock of dismissal, and the erosion of social ties. The involvement of unions in the cells is an important factor in their success. All employees registered in retraining and having at least 1- year seniority in the company, receive an allowance for 3 months of 65% of their wage (max. €62.44/day) and for 6 months if the employee is more than 45 years old.


The programme could be adapted to better anticipate restructuring. For example, retraining could be established when restructuring is announced and not when people are actually laid off. It is often a difficult decision for workers whose primary motivation is getting employment  whether or not attending a training course means postponing a return to work.


Ford Genk
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