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Global employment briefing: Belgium - June 2017

  • Belgium
  • Employment law


Flexible work and wage norm

In this article we outline the implications of a major new Act designed to give employers and employees greater flexibility in relation to hours of work, amongst other things. We also report on the wage norm agreed by the social partners for 2017/18.

Making work more workable

For the last couple of years, the Belgian government and parliament have been discussing the structural reforms of Belgian employment law that are needed to increase flexibility for both employees and employers. Over that period, dozens of proposals have been debated. Finally, on 5 March 2017 the law on Flexible and Workable Work was enacted. The Act was published in the Belgian State Gazette on 15 March 2017 and entered into force retroactively on 1 February 2017.

The aim of this law is to modernize Belgian employment law through a number of innovative and strong measures.

Flexible working schedules

Flexible working schedules allow the employer to choose the working time and working schedules to fit the fluctuating needs of the company. Outside the normal working schedule, which usually may not exceed 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week, the company can now provide for alternative working schedules.

The normal weekly working time limit must be respected, based on average hours worked over a period of 12 months.

Such schedules can be applied by a collective bargaining agreement on a sectoral level, on a company level or by the working regulations (company handbook).

Gliding working hours

This arrangement will allow the employee to choose when to start and end his or her working day. This arrangement is different from the flexible working schedules, in that it enables the employee to determine his or her own working schedule, subject to working any applicable core hours.

Such an arrangement can be introduced by a collective bargaining agreement or via an amendment of the working regulations (company handbook), which must contain specific information.

Voluntary overtime

Voluntary overtime enables a company to ask an employee to perform overtime when needed, on condition that a prior written agreement to this effect has been entered into by the employee. Up to 100 hours overtime per year may be performed in accordance with this concept. The employee will be entitled to overtime premiums but not recuperation leave.

Other changes

Changes have also been made to the law on annual leave, temporary agency workers, part-time employees, e-commerce, occasional teleworking and trainings.


It is important for companies to review their working regulations and to make sure they are up to date in order to implement flexibility. We also recommend that companies review the changes within their Joint Labour Committee.

The wage norm

The social partners have set the wage norm at a maximum of 1.1% for the period 2017-2018. In practice this means that the wages may increase by a maximum of 1.1%, including all charges. An individual salary raise above this level is, however, permissible in the case of a promotion or change of position.

It is now up to the sectors, and companies themselves, to determine the maximum margin which will be applied on their level, taking into account the specific economic situation of the sector and/or the company, the preservation and creation of employment and the competitiveness on the international markets. As a result, the margin will lie between 0% and 1.1%, depending on the situation of the sector and/or company. Therefore, we recommended that companies wait until the sector takes a decision regarding the wage norm before setting the wage norm at a company level.