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Labour deal: overview of measures

30 September 2022 Annelies Bries Employers

The labour deal bill has been passed. The aim of the labour deal is to get as many people as possible working. The emphasis is on flexibility, both employers and employees. What does the bill entail? What measures will be coming into effect? You will find an overview below. The measures are yet to be published in the Belgian Official Journal.

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Reconciling work and private life

Four-day working week and alternating weekly schedule

  • Four-day working week:

Employees can spread their full-time working week over four days if they wish to. This means employees can work up to 9.5 hours a day to reach their full-time working week of 38 hours. This allows for a longer weekend each week, or for a rest day in the middle of the working week.

  • Alternating week scheme:

Additionally, the option of using an alternating week scheme is being created. This allows employees to work more hours one week, so that they can take it easy the next one. For example, there might be more time for the children when it comes to co-parenting. 

It is the employee who must take the initiative to work in the four-day week or in the alternating week scheme. The request to work with this scheme must be submitted in writing to the employer. The employer has the option to refuse, although reasons must be given. The employee may or may not renew the arrangement every six months.

Right to disconnect

To compensate for the negative impact using digital tools has on the work-life balance, a right to disconnect is being introduced. Employers with 20 employees or more will have to make arrangements on the use of digital tools through collective labour agreements or labour regulations.

These might include guidelines not to answer emails or mobile calls outside working hours, such as during holidays, rest periods, weekends and evenings, switching off servers outside working hours, activating absence messages and referral messages, etc. The employer must also provide awareness-raising campaigns on the reasonable use of digital tools, aimed at both employees and management staff. 

The collective labour agreements in question must be filed at the registry of the General Directorate of Collective Labour Relations by 1 January 2023 at the latest. If the terms and conditions and the implementation are to be included in the labour regulations, a copy must be filed with the Directorate-General for the Monitoring of Social Laws before 1 January 2023. 

Timely announcement of timetables for variable part-time workers

Anyone working with a variable part-time schedule must be notified of their schedule at least five working days in advance. This period can be reduced by a collective agreement to a minimum period of one working day. To promote a better work-life balance, this notice period is raised to seven working days, and a minimum period of three working days.

Training and notice

More training days per year

Employees are individually offered a right to training by the employer. In companies with at least 20 employees, this involves four days of individual training rights in 2023, and five days a year from 2024.

Employers will have to draw up a training plan as from 1 September 2022, This plan should lead to enhancing the skills of all employees through a well thought-out training policy.

Transition process during the notice period

When an employee is dismissed and has to serve their notice period, they can ask to start working for a new employer during this notice period, or the former employer can make the offer. This is called a “transition path”. In this case, the former employer receives compensation from the new employer. At the end of the process, the new employer must offer a permanent employment contract.

Promoting employability after dismissal

Workers who are dismissed with at least 30 weeks’ notice or notice payment can use the last third of that period to devote themselves to activities that boost their employability, while retaining their wages. These measures will be financed by the employer’s contribution due during this period.

Digital economy

Night work in e-commerce activities

It will become easier to allow workers to work at night as part of e-commerce activities, and more specifically between 8 p.m. and midnight. The agreement of only one trade union is required, without having to amend the labour regulations. The arrangement will be evaluated by the National Labour Council after two years.

Employers in the e-commerce sector can also set up a one-off pilot project, with the option of working between 8 p.m. and midnight. Employees wishing to do so can voluntarily join the pilot project, which has a maximum duration of 18 months.

Platform economy

The platform economy involves companies such as Deliveroo or Uber. In the past, there was considerable ambiguity as to whether such companies’ workers should be considered employees or self-employed. A platform worker will be presumed to be an employee if a number of criteria are met. However, this presumption can still be refuted. Their social protection is determined based on the status granted. From now on, all platform workers have insurance in the event of an accident at work.

Bottleneck professions and diversity

Monitoring diversity

Within the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, a new unit is being set up that is to provide data to the social partners of the joint committees/sub-committees on diversity in their sector every two years. A report must be drawn up on the situation within the company based on this. If there is an unexplained discrepancy between the results at sector and company level, the company will have to devise an action plan to resolve these discrepancies.

Bottleneck professions

Monitoring into the causes of bottleneck professions is being set up, in a bit to combat this. The sectoral social partners are asked to submit a report on bottleneck professions every two years. This report should explain the causes of the deficits, and propose measures to remedy them.

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Written by Annelies Bries

Legal advisor at Acerta

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