On 9 October 2023, the federal government reached an agreement on the 2024 budget. On the industrial relations front, they agreed on a number of labour market reforms which should help bring about employees working longer or returning to work, making work more rewarding and keeping the labour market competitive. These agreements are to be turned into legislation over the period ahead. Based on the information currently available to us, we are happy to already provide you with a run-down of what this could mean for you.
Good news for employers and flexi workers: the number of sectors in which flexi-jobs are allowed is to be expanded. This will enable employers to recruit staff quicker and easier in the sectors facing labour shortages.
As such, the education, childcare and school transport sectors will soon be able to call on flexi workers. Event organisation and sports activities too will be able to offer people work by way of flexi contracts in times to come. Garages and the house removal industry will also be able to use the system.
In addition, the new measures act to broaden the range of ways in which flexi-contracts can be used in a number of sectors. Small bakeries for instance were already able to use the system. Now, this opportunity is significantly expanded to include the rest of the food industry. Flexi-jobs will be introduced in two sectors where the casual worker status already existed. This is the case for the funeral sector, in addition to the existing ‘pall bearers’ system. And in the agricultural and horticultural sectors too, employers will be able to call on flexi workers in addition to the existing ‘seasonal workers’ system.
Apart from the expansion of the number of sectors, the minimum wage for flexi workers is also being uprated. With the exception of the hospitality industry, employers of flexi workers at a minimum will need to pay the sectoral minimum wage (no longer the specific flexi wage). In addition, the employer’s social security (NSSO) contribution over flexi wages is set to go up from 25% to 28%.
The entry requirements for people to be allowed to work flexi jobs is also set to change.
In the newly added sectors, the social partners are free to as yet decide not to allow flexi-jobs (opt-out) by way of a sectoral collective bargaining agreement. In the sectors where the system already exists, there is no such possibility. In the other sectors, the social partners are free to introduce the possibility of flexi-jobs (opt-in) by way of sectoral collective bargaining agreements.
Finally, there is also to be a maximum exempt amount capped at € 12,000 per year for income derived from flexi-jobs. For pensioners who have not yet reached statutory retirement age, there will also be a flexi-job income cap on the cumulative ceiling in pensions.
The government has also decided on the indefinite extension of the seasonal work measures already in place:
The budget agreement also focuses on the reintegration of incapacitated workers and the unemployed. "Back to work 2.0", is how Minister Vandenbroecke called it at the press conference.
The work resumption bonus which employers may qualify for when they progressively re-employ an incapacitated person will be increased from 1,000 euros to 1,725 euros from 1 January 2024.
In June 2021, the social partners that make up the Group of 10 decided to raise the guaranteed average minimum monthly income (GMMMI), or gross minimum wage for short, in stages. The concrete agreement was laid down in collective bargaining agreement no. 43/15. The minimum wage was increased a first time on 1 April 2022. This is set to happen again from 1 April 2024 with an increase of 35.7 euros gross per month.
To offset the additional cost to employers, the government is adjusting the wage limits of the structural reduction. Employers will get an additional low-wage discount via the structural reduction adjustment. This technique was also used in the first increase in the minimum wage in April 2022.
In order for employees to be left with more in take-home pay from the gross increase of 37.5 euros, the tax work bonus is being increased. As a result, employees will pay less in withholding tax and see 50 euros net more on their pay slip.
All of these measures recently announced have yet to be translated into legal texts before they take effect. Needless to say Acerta will keep you informed of further developments.
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