New Belgian Labour Deal, 5 points you should be aware of

On 10 November 2022, the Various Labour Provisions Act was published in the Belgian State Gazette. Here we briefly address the most important topics of the Belgian labour deal.

On 10 November 2022, the Various Labour Provisions Act was published in the Belgian State Gazette. Here we briefly address the most important topics of the Belgian labour deal.

1. Measures regarding working time

  1. Flexible part-time working schedules

No later than 20 August 2023: deadline to amend the work rules.

The notification periods for the specific working schedule of part-time employees with a flexible work schedule are extended to 7 working days in advance. A generally binding sectoral collective labour agreement can provide a deviation whereby the notification period is at least 3 working days. The sectoral collective labour agreements providing a notification period of less than 3 working days must be adapted no later than 31 December 2022. There is also a special regime provided for certain sectors.

Companies need to update their work rules and make them compliant with these provisions by 20 August 2023. Meanwhile, the old notification periods will continue to apply until then.

  1. Four-day work week

From 20 November 2022: working in a four-day work week is possible for full-time employees at their request after amending the work rules or after concluding a collective bargaining agreement at company level.

The labour agreement provides the possibility for employees to perform their normal full-time work week in 4 days. This can be introduced by an amendment to the work rules (≤38h weekly working time) or by concluding a collective bargaining agreement and amending the work rules (>38h weekly working time). The four-day work week can only be applied if the employee has submitted a written request. The employer can agree to the request by concluding a written agreement. The employer can also refuse this request by motivating his refusal in writing within one month and by providing this to the employee.

  1. Alternating full-time week schedule

From 20 November 2022: working in an alternating full-time week schedule is possible at the request of the employee and after the work rules are amended and an individual agreement is concluded.

Employees can work according to a cycle of 2 consecutive weeks where the performance in the first week is compensated by the performance in the second week, without the daily working time exceeding 9 hours and the weekly working time exceeding 45 hours. The more or fewer hours performed in the first week will be compensated by the performance in the second week. This schedule must be included in the work rules. To use this alternating full-time week schedule, the employee must first submit a written request. The employer then decides to agree with the request by concluding a written agreement prior to the start of this schedule or to refuse the request by motivating the refusal in writing within one month and by providing it to the employee.

  1. Night work in e-commerce

From 20 November 2022: night work in e-commerce activities can be introduced via collective bargaining agreements at company level. A one-time experiment becomes possible via a unilateral amendment of the work rules.

Night work that is not a working-time arrangement with night performance (thus 20.00-0.00 or 5.00-6.00), can also be introduced for activities of e-commerce by concluding a collective bargaining agreement at company level. The work rules will then be automatically adapted based on this collective bargaining agreement without following the mandatory procedure. Companies can also participate in a one-time experiment with a maximum duration of 18 months whereby night work can be introduced.  

2. Platform workers

From 1 January 2023: rebuttable presumption for platform workers enters into force (not the mandatory accident insurance).

The legislator introduces a rebuttable presumption of the existence of an employment contract for the platform economy if specific criteria are fulfilled. However, this presumption can be rebutted by all means of law.

Furthermore, also digital platforms will have the obligation to take out accident insurance in the interest of their self-employed workers to provide protection against bodily harm resulting from accidents during work and on the way to and from work. If they fail to comply with this obligation, they will be held civilly liable for damages suffered.

3. Measures regarding dismissal

  1. Transition paths

From 20 November 2022: possibility to offer a transition path in case of a dismissal with notice period, at request of the employer or employee and after previously concluding a four-party agreement.

Via a transition path, employers and employees can work for another employer-user during the notice period through the mediation of a regional public employment service or a temporary employment agency. The conditions and the duration of the transition path must be subject to a prior written agreement.

  1. Employability-enhancing measures

From 1 January 2023: Employability-enhancing measures apply to dismissal with a notice period or severance indemnity in lieu of notice of at least 30 weeks.

This labour deal additionally focuses on employability-enhancing measures. Outplacement, coaching, training and other forms of guidance can be considered as employability-enhancing measures. The legal framework provides that the notice period or severance indemnity will be converted into a severance package. It can be subdivided into two parts:

  • Notice period equal to 2/3 of the original notice period (with a minimum of 26 weeks) or a severance indemnity equal to 2/3 of the notice period;
  • Remaining part of the notice period or the remaining part of the severance indemnity.

During the second part, the employee has the right to be absent from work for these measures. In case of a severance indemnity, the employee must remain available for the employment-enhancing measures.

The value of the employment-enhancing measures is equal to the amount of the employer’s social security contribution on the second part of the severance package.

4. Measures regarding training

  1. Training plan

No later than 15 March 2023:

  • Companies with a works council or trade union delegation: works council or trade union delegation gives advice on the draft training plan;
  • Companies without a works council or trade union delegation: employer presents the training plan to the employees.

No later than 31 March 2023: the employer must have established a training plan that contains some mandatory provisions.

The employer with 20 or more employees must have established a training plan that incorporates some mandatory provisions no later than 31 March of each year. The employer must submit a draft training plan to the works council or, in its absence, to the trade union delegation no later than 15 days before the meeting scheduled so it can examine the training plan. No later than 15 March of each year, the works council or trade union delegation gives advice on the draft training plan. In their absence, the employer needs to present the training plan by 15 March at the latest to the employees.

  1. Individual right to training

From 1 January 2023: individual right to training for each employee of 4 training days a year (per FTE) (which changes into 5 training days a year from 1 January 2024).

Employees of companies with 10 or more employees have the individual right to training. However, employers who only employ between 10 and 20 employees need to provide only a minimum of one training day per year for each employee.

5. Right to disconnect

No later than 1 April 2023: deadline for the deposit of the collective bargaining agreement at company level or the adapted work rules with the provisions on the right to disconnect.

Employers who employ at least 20 employees are obliged to conclude a collective bargaining agreement at company level on the modalities and the application of this right to disconnect. In the absence of such collective bargaining agreement, these modalities must be laid down in the work rules. This must contain provisions concerning the practical modalities for the application by the employee of his/her right to be unavailable outside work hours, the guidelines for using digital tools in such a way that the employee’s rest periods, vacation, private life and family life are guaranteed, and training and awareness-raising activities for employees and managers on the prudent use of digital tools and the risk associated with excessive connection.

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