Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Labour Kris Peeters submitted a draft Bill on Workable and Flexible Work (Wetsontwerp Werkbaar en Wendbaar Werk/Projet de loi concernant le Travail Faisable et Maniable; the "Bill") to the so-called "Group of 10", a group of stakeholders including employer organisations and unions.
The Bill consists of two parts:
1. A general section with measures that apply immediately to companies.
- Annualisation of working hours: There is no question of abolishing the 38-hour work week. It would be possible, however, to determine the 38-hour work week on average over a period of 1 year. During specific periods, work can be performed up to 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week, provided that these hours are compensated for with free time during periods of less work. This flexibility is not unlimited. At no time is the employee allowed to perform more than 143 hours above the average working time. If this threshold is reached, the employer must grant compensatory rest to his employee. The existing overtime regulation will remain unchanged. The employee will thus be compensated financially if he works in excess of normal working hours during specific periods.
- 100 voluntary paid hours of overtime: The employee would be able to choose to perform 100 hours of overtime. In such a case, the employer would pay these hours with overtime allowance.
- Training: The current target to spend 1.9% of the total wage bill on training would be replaced by a new inter-professional target of 5 training days on average per full-time equivalent ("FTE") and per year. This measure will entail no additional costs for employers. The new system provides for the possibility of organising the right to training either at sectoral level or at company level, through the creation of an individual training account. If none of these two instruments are available, the employee is entitled to an individual right for 2 days of training per year and per FTE.
- Occasional telework: A regulatory framework would determine the conditions under which an employee is entitled to occasional telework.
If the industrial sectors do not conclude a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") on all or part of these basic measures before 31 December 2016, these measures (or the part thereof that has not been made the subject of a CBA) will become mandatory.
- A series of measures that can only be activated by the industrial sectors.
- Overall reform of working time: The social stakeholders would be able to deviate from the normal working time limits by CBA. The absolute thresholds of 11 hours per day and 50 hours per week would remain (if the average of 38 hours per week is respected). It would be possible to shift the starting hour for night work from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
- Modification of work schedules: All full-time work schedules would have to be included in the work rules. If multiple work schedules apply, the rules for the transition between these work schedules would also have to be included in the work rules.
- Plus Minus Conto: Internationally competitive sectors would be able to provide by CBA that the calculation of the average 38-hour work week will be spread over several years. This is already provided for today in the automotive industry.
- Temporary agency work of indefinite duration: Temporary agency workers with a contract of indefinite duration would also receive a salary from the agency between two assignments.
- Reform of system of employers' group: Small businesses would be able to hire an employee together. This is an opportunity for companies that do not have the resources to hire an employee individually.
- Simplification part-time work: The obligation to include all individual work schedules in the work rules would be deleted. This is a significant administrative simplification. For employees who work with a variable work schedule, the notification period would remain 5 days. This could be increased or decreased (to a minimum of 1 day), but only if this is agreed in a binding CBA between the social stakeholders. Certain documents which currently have to be kept on paper could also be stored electronically.
- Career saving (loopbaansparen/épargne-carrière): Employees would be able to save up additional holidays. Each sector could decide to implement this option at company or sectoral level. In case of a job change (even to another sector), the employee would be able to opt for a compensation payment for the accrued additional holidays from which he has not yet benefited wherever it is impossible to transfer the accumulated additional holidays to the new employer. It is unclear at this stage whether the compensation payment would have to be paid by the former or the new employer.
- Adaptation of leave systems: Leave for palliative care could be extended to a maximum of 3 months. Time credit for care purposes could also be extended by 3 months.
- Flexible working hours: A regulatory framework for flexible working hours during which the employee can determine the beginning and the end of his performance, would be subject to certain limits.
- Granting of leave: The employee who has a seriously ill child and has exhausted all leave systems, would be able to ask his employer to open up this system by accepting other employees' donation of additional holidays (holidays beyond the statutory leave of 20 days) for the benefit of the employee with the seriously ill child.
After discussion of the Bill within the Group of 10, the Minister for Labour will submit it to the government. Following the advice of the Council of State, the Bill will be submitted for approval to the Chamber of Representatives.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.