The Labor Deal: Towards A Better Work-Life Balance. But What Does This Mean For The Employer?

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Recently, the government has made decisions about a preliminary draft law with numerous labor measures, better known as the “labour deal”. This labor deal is intended to increase the employment rate in Belgium from 71% to 80%.

This preliminary draft is currently being submitted to the social partners. The modalities of these measures can therefore still change.

Below we explain some measures that may be relevant in the context of your business organization. They will require additional administration from the employer:

Flexibility at the initiative of the employee for a better work-life balance :

– The employee can request to perform his full-time weekly working time of 38 hours on four working days (instead of the usual five days). The maximum daily working time is thus brought to 9.5 hours. In order to make this possible, the work regulations must first be amended.

In case of weekly working hours between 38 and 40 hours, the daily working hours will have to be increased to 10 hours under a company collective agreement.

The employee’s request is valid for a maximum of six months, but can be renewed at any time. This term must also allow the employee to step out of the system after each term. A written agreement must be drawn up.

The employer can refuse the employee’s request, as long as he gives appropriate reasons for this refusal. It would be provided that an employee cannot be treated adversely as a result of his request.

– An employee can request a varying weekly regime on his own initiative. By this is meant a cycle of two consecutive weeks, in which one week less working hours are performed and the next week slightly more working hours.

The average weekly working time must be adhered to.

Similar modalities with regard to the request and the agreement apply as for the four-day working week. In this case, the employee will have the right to terminate the alternating weekly regime early (eg within the six-month term) provided that a certain term is respected.

The right to disconnect

– Companies that employ twenty or more employees will have to conclude a company collective agreement in which they work out the practical modalities of the “right not to be reached outside working hours” with accompanying guidelines and awareness-raising actions.

Part-time variable schedules:

– If part-time work is performed according to a variable schedule, the employer will have to communicate the applicable schedule seven working days in advance (instead of five working days).

The option to change this term in a collective labor agreement that has been declared universally binding remains, but the minimum notice period will be increased from one to three working days.

The previous exceptions via collective labor agreement will continue to apply as long as they are not renegotiated.

Education

– Companies that employ twenty or more employees (expressed in full-time equivalent) will have to work annually on a training plan for their employees. The training plan must be drawn up after consulting the works council or (in the absence of a works council) the trade union delegation or (in the absence of trade union delegation) the employees.

– Companies that employ ten or more employees (expressed in full-time equivalent) will have to implement an individual training right, which will be gradually increased from three training days per year in 2022 to five training days from 2024.

The courses can be taken during or outside working hours (with payment of normal wages).

Novelties at dismissal

– The transition process is being set up. An employee may be made available to another employer-user during the performance of his notice period via a job placement service or an employment agency.

The employer will have to pay the wages that the employer-user would normally pay (but not more than his/her current wages with the employer). The employer-user must pay part of the wages to the employer.

If the transition process is completed with the employer-user, an employment contract of indefinite duration is created with the employer-user. The period of the transition process will count for the calculation of seniority.

– For employees with a notice period of at least 30 weeks, the notice period will be split into the first part (2/3 with a minimum of 26 weeks) and the second part (1/3). During the second part of the notice period, the employees will have to keep themselves available for measures to promote employability. These will be financed with the employer’s contributions on this part of the severance payment. The employees who perform the notice period will be allowed to be absent during this part with pay to follow training courses that are conducive to employment. This scheme supplements the existing outplacement scheme.

The final draft is currently before the National Labor Council for advice, which has until 6 May 2022 to do so.

We are already following the matter closely and will keep you informed!