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Belgium’s four-day work week set to debut this autumn

Federal government announce new labour deal (c) Belga
13:14 20/06/2022

The option of working four days a week for some employees in Belgium will become available this autumn, following the official approval of an agreement reached last February. 

Certain employees will be able to work longer hours four days a week in exchange for being off a fifth day, with the aim of fostering a better work-life balance. 

Practically speaking, this means a person will be able to complete a 38-hour work week in four 9.5-hour days instead of five 7.36-hour days. 

Another formula – a 45-hour week and a consecutive 31-hour week – was also approved. 

“This will make it possible to better reconcile private and professional life,” said Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS), Belgium’s federal minister of labour (pictured above left). 

“This is one of the lessons of the pandemic and it’s the first time that flexibility measures are adapted to the needs of workers and not of employers.”

Dermagne made some changes to the initial agreement in order to incorporate trade unions' criticisms, including the addition of a line that forbids the assignment of overtime to people with a four-day work week that would allow their employers to request them to work the fifth day. 

Overtime on the fifth day can only be requested by employees themselves, and management may reject such a request.

Other labour reforms include right to disconnect

The four-day work week was part of a broader “jobs deal” from the government and details are still being hammered out for other aspects of the legislation. 

Other reforms include the “right to disconnect,” meaning workers cannot be required to check emails or answer work-related phone calls on days off. This has already been established in the public sector, but is now being implemented for the private sector, as well. 

Another reform is that employees who work variable hours, usually those with part-time jobs, will have to be given notification of their scheduled hours seven days in advance. 

“Everyone has the right to build his or her own life,” said Dermagne. “No more receiving your work schedule for the coming week at the last minute.” 

Belgium’s labour reforms also include mandating time for employee training, providing transition opportunities for laid-off workers, insuring self-employed people (including digital platform workers) against work accidents, and legislation that attempts to make up for some of Belgium’s losses when it comes to missing the e-commerce train

All of the measures will come into effect once the texts have been approved by the Chamber, which is expected to happen in early autumn.

Some adjustments were made to the original agreement intended to provide a better framework for flexibility measures “for the benefit of employees,” the government explained.

Photo: Prime minister Alexander De Croo, vice-prime minister and minister of economy and work Pierre-Yves Dermagne and minister of agriculture and SME's David Clarinval announce agreement on labour deal © Noe Zimmer/Belga

 

Written by Helen Lyons