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Sex workers gain social rights, can obtain employment contracts

09:58 14/05/2024

Sex workers will now be able to obtain an employment contract and enjoy the same social rights as other employed individuals, following the passage of a bill after the long-awaited reform of Belgium’s criminal code.

Two laws passed in spring 2022 took key steps towards decriminalising sex work, including the granting of social status to sex workers, who previously operated in a grey area where their work was tolerated but not recognised.

The text by employment minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS), drafted with justice and health colleagues Paul Van Tigchelt (Open Vld) and Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit), sets out the conditions under which sex workers may be employed by an employer under an employment contract.

Employers will have to obtain prior authorisation and will also be obliged to guarantee the permanent availability of a reference person. They will also be responsible for equipping rooms where sex work is carried out with an emergency button.

The employment contract will guarantee social security cover and compliance with the rules governing working hours and pay. Workers with such a contract will be able to refuse clients and sexual acts without this constituting grounds for dismissal.

The bill was adopted by the majority, joined by Vlaams Belang and DéFI. The other opposition groups abstained.

Written by Helen Lyons