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Evolution of work: Belgian Labour Reform

  • Belgium
  • General


The highly-anticipated Labour Deal concerning the reformation of the labour market has been finalised by the Belgian government. Many of the reform elements are based on the concepts of “workable work” and “life-long learning”.

We summarize some of the key elements below. It should be noted however that the Labour Deal is currently progressing through the legislative process and changes may therefore be made over the coming months before changes are finally transposed into legislation.


Workable work

The right to disconnect from work that was implemented in the public sector with effect from 1 February 2022 now finds its way into the private sector. Employers with twenty or more employees will no longer be permitted to require their employees to handle e-mails/messages or answer calls outside working hours. The scope of this right can however be adjusted by agreement between companies and the respective recognized unions.

Furthermore, the reforms give the possibility of a four-day working week. Employees may make a request in writing to work the same hours as currently worked for a five-day working week, but perform the same overall number of hours in a four-day working week. The working hours can vary, with a maximum of:

  • 9.5 hours per day, if laid down by work regulations; or
  • 10 hours per day if laid down in a collective bargaining agreement.

The request/initiative for the implementation of this four-day working week must come from the employee and any refusal by the employer must be supported by valid reasons. Where a request is agreed, the agreement must be formalized and the employee will have the option of switching back to a five-day working week after a period of six months of the arrangement has elapsed.

In addition, employees with variable work schedules will have the right to be informed of their work schedule at least seven working days in advance, instead of the current five working days.


Faster transition & life-long learning

Following notice of dismissal, employees will be permitted to start working for a new employer during their notice period (“transition path”), thereby offering a faster transition to the new employer. The existing employer will continue to pay the employee during the notice period, with the existing employer and the new employer entering into an agreement for the full or partial reimbursement for the remaining notice period.

In a further measure to ease transition into new employment, long-term employees, namely employees with a notice period of minimum 30 weeks, will be entitled to exchange the final third of their notice periods into a period of training or outplacement.

The reforms also seek to promote skills development. All employees will have the right to three days training arranged by their employer every year, increasing by one additional day in 2023 and 2024, so that by 2024, all employees will be entitled to five training days. In addition, employers employing 20 or more employees will be required to prepare individual training plans for their workforces.


Platform economy & e-commerce

The reforms also establish some important new measures in relation to platform workers and workers in e-commerce.

The status of platform economy workers has long been the subject of debate. The Labour Deal seeks to provide clarity on whether platform workers enjoy employed or self-employed status by establishing a set of criteria. Applying the criteria, an employment relationship will be presumed where three of the eight criteria are present (e.g. when the platform company limits the individual’s revenue stream, such as restricting the individuals’ right to accept or decline orders). If the platform company wishes to challenge that presumption of employment status, the burden of proof will rest with that company.

In addition, the reforms seek to provide additional protection for platform workers, whatever their status. All platform workers will receive insurance provided by the platform company for occupational accidents.

To provide additional flexibility for work arrangements in the e-commerce sector, it will be possible for employees to work until midnight, without this being regarded as night work. Currently, work is considered as night work in Belgium if it takes place at any time between 8 pm and 6 am. This will be permitted provided that:

  • one trade union agrees to the arrangement, including the agreement of premiums or additional pay; or
  • if not one trade union agrees, the employer can establish a pilot project for a maximum term of 18 months, with employees working until midnight on a voluntary basis without the need for the aforementioned agreement with a trade union.


Next step

This Labour Deal is not yet set in stone. The Labour Deal must first be approved by the Council of Ministers. The draft will then be submitted for ‘advice’ to the social partners, trade unions and employers’ federations, after which the government may be required to adjust certain parts of the Labour Deal before transposing it into legislation.


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