On Thursday 5 January the draft bill for the new Workable Work Act (Wet Wendbaar Werk) was presented to Parliament. If approved, it will take effect on 1 February 2017 and introduce a number of important measures for improving the work-life balance of employees on the one hand while increasing the competitive strength of Belgian companies on the other. We have provided a brief summary of the new measures.
1. Measures on working hours
In this respect, the following measures could be implemented:
- The amendment of the system of so-called “small” flexibility in respect of adjusting timetables and working hours to cater to the fluctuating needs of the company;
- The introduction of 100 voluntary hours of overtime that entitle the employee to overtime pay;
- Raising the in-house overtime threshold from 78 to 143 hours that can be worked by an employee, over and above the standard weekly working hours without being granted compensatory time off;
- The introduction of sliding timetables, providing a statutory framework to a practice that has already become the norm in a range of companies;
- Amendments to the law concerning part-time work, where a number of aspects are simplified and updated for the purpose of easing the administrative burden of employers;
- Extending the ‘plus minus conto’ (a sliding timetable) - which allows for the average workweek of 38 hours to be spread across a maximum of 6 years when being calculated - to other industry and services sectors.
2. New facility for training
The current inter-professional target that will see 1.9% of the total wage bill devoted to training is to be replaced by a new inter-professional objective of an average of 5 days of training per fulltime equivalent per year.
3. A legal framework for occasional telecommuting
The introduction of these measures means that an employee confronted with a difficult or unforeseen situation can request of his or her employer to occasionally perform telecommuting work.
4. The introduction of an employment contract for employment agency workers for an indefinite period
This allows an employment agency worker to perform different assignments with different clients, although the required generally binding collective agreements shall also have to be concluded for this to be possible.
5. The career savings facility
This is a completely new phenomenon in Belgium and it allows for an employee to save up time (overtime/leave) and to use it at a later stage in his or her career as leave. If the social partners conclude a collective agreement concerning career savings (loopbaansparen) within 6 months of this law taking effect, then that collective agreement will be applicable.
6. A system under which conventional days off can be ‘gifted’ to other employees
A framework is to be created within which employees shall be able to give their conventional leave days to another employee who has a gravely ill child.
7. Reforming the employers’ groups
Under the new regulation an employers’ group cannot employ more than 50 employees, unless this threshold is raised by the King.
8. Palliative leave extended
The total duration of an employee’s right to palliative leave is increased from 2 months to 3 months.
9. Motivated time credit to be extended
Furthermore, the right to time credit, if motivated on the grounds of providing care, will be increased to 51 months unless collective agreement no. 103 is not amended in good time in this sense.
10. The opportunity to work nights for ecommerce activities
At present night work – work performed between 20.00 and 06.00 – is permitted in the ecommerce sector under a Royal Decree of 13 March 2016. This deviation will be confirmed under the labour law.
Once the law has been passed, we shall take a closer look at a number of these changes.