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High energy bills and rising inflation: what can companies do?

08 September 2022 Ellen Van Grunderbeek Employers

Rising gas and energy prices are confronting employers and employees with high energy bills. Companies are looking for solutions to meet these challenges, such as fixed office and home working days in order to turn down the heating for a few days and dim the lights a bit more... But employees also want to reduce their energy bills by coming to the office more often. What is legally possible and permissible? Acerta explains.

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Making homework compulsory?

  • Can my employee decide to come to the office more again?
  • As an employer, can you decide that your employees should work more from home?

You cannot unilaterally change the place of employment. After all, it is an essential condition of the employment relationship. Adjustments are only possible by mutual agreement.

Have you already rolled out homeworking rules in your company, whereby your employees are expected at the office for a number of days and can work from home for a number of days? In principle, these agreements are laid down in a written telework appendix to the employment contract and/or in a company collective bargaining agreement. If you wish to amend the agreements, these amendments must also be included in them.

Increasing homework allowance?

  • Can your employee ask for an extra contribution if he/she works more from home or continues to work from home this autumn?

If your employee works at home structurally and regularly, you can grant him/her a home working allowance. This covers, among other things, the costs of heating and electricity at the home office. If you grant this, it is also included in your telework agreement. Here, too, adjustments are only possible by mutual agreement.

If you decide to grant a higher home working allowance, since 1 September, you can grant a maximum of €142.95 per month, free of social security and taxes. You do not have to prorate the amount for your part-time employees either.

Please note that you cannot grant a higher homework allowance to an individual employee. The allocation must always be made to objectively distinguishable categories of personnel.

Additional contribution to employees’ energy bills?

  • Is there another way to intervene in the energy bills of homeworkers?

The homeworking allowance is the most obvious intervention. Other interventions – e.g. in the form of an energy premium – are not (yet) legally framed. If you wish to grant a monthly premium, it is still a salary and subject to social security contributions and taxes.

Since the beginning of this year, the free provision of electricity and heating has no longer enjoyed a favourable status either. If you wish to do so, a benefit is calculated for your employee on the actual value.

Other teleworking locations?

  • Can my employees work, for example, in a local municipal sports centre instead of at home, and are then entitled to a home-working allowance?

The homeworking allowance only enjoys the parafiscally favourable status if your employee incurs real costs and works in his/her private home. This is usually the home address or the place of residence as listed in the telework appendix. A municipal sports centre is not a private residence. Moreover, the employee does not incur any expenses at home that need to be reimbursed.

In addition, your employee is only protected in case of an accident at work that occurs in a place(s) of employment communicated to you. As an employer, you would therefore do well to lay down rules governing where telework must take place.

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Written by Ellen Van Grunderbeek

Legal advisor at Acerta

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