BELGIUM: Annual Update – Expected Labour Law Changes in 2017

Working time

Reform of the legislation on the statutory working time:  The Belgian government is proposing reform of the law on statutory working time in favour of more flexible working. The reforms still have to be passed by Parliament. The most important aspects of the reform are:
• The average working time to be applied will no longer be calculated per quarter, but per year (“annualisation”) – An employee will be allowed to work a maximum of 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week, provided that the annual working time is not exceeded.
• A package of a maximum 100 hours of voluntarily performed paid overtime. In principle, overtime work entitles the employee to overtime pay and compensatory rest. Each employee will be able to choose not to take compensatory rest for an additional 100 hours of (paid) overtime work. An individual’s agreement will be needed.
• A legal framework for sliding working hours – At present, certain employers allow their employees to work along “sliding working hours”, a system whereby employees can choose to start and end the working day within a certain time slot (e.g. start between 8 and 10 a.m. and end between 4 and 6 p.m.). In future the sliding working hours system will have to be inserted in the work rules or in a collective labour agreement.
• More flexibility towards part-time employment – It will no longer be required to insert all the working schedules of the part-time employees in the work rules.
• There will be a new legal framework for occasional home and telework.

If the reforms are passed they will need implemented on an industrial sector and/or company level.

Action required: None at present: the reform has not yet been passed and several aspects require action on industrial level. It is however recommended to keep abreast of the current legal situation.

Long-term absence

Re-integration (in the undertaking of their employer) of employees who are incapacitated for work for a long period:   The re-integration of the employee can be requested by the employee himself/herself, the treating physician, the advisory physician of the mutual health organisation or the employer (the latter only for employees who are on a sick leave for at least 4 months). The company doctor must evaluate whether the employee can return to work and can propose (temporarily or permanently) customised or other work. The employer must draft an individual re-integration plan in line with the findings of the company doctor. The employee is not obliged to accept the plan.

Effective from January 1, 2017.

When the employee is re-integrated and performs customised or other work, he/she remains entitled to the fringe benefits based on the initial employment agreement, provided that no other agreement was made between the employer and the employee. The initial employment agreement is thus no longer suspended. If the employee becomes unable to work during the performance of the customised work, the employer is not obliged to pay a guaranteed income (again).

Effective from January 1, 2017.

An employer wanting to terminate an employee who is absent for a long time due to incapacity to work, will only be able to do so after the termination of a re-integration programme.

Action required: Employers must work out a (collective) re-integration policy on company level that must be re-evaluated on a regular basis.

In addition, if an individual re-integration request is made, the specified (individual) re-integration procedure must be followed.