1.As in several countries, the work force in Belgium is used to the “classic” full time fixed working schedule (in Belgium a full time is 38 hours per week).
Also as in several countries, the old “work patterns” does not match anymore with the requirements of the 21st century economic environment.
As a consequence, a few weeks ago, the Belgian federal Government (Right / Center Right) passed a new legislation aiming at more flexibility at work.
2. Even though the final legislation is a political compromise and is not as ambitious as it was initially considered, the following measures (some of the new ones) could help the employers:
- Annualization of the working time
The government has refreshed an old measure allowing to annualize the working time. The principle is the following: the weekly work duration can increase up to 5 hours without paying any extra-salary or over-pay.
In compensation, during some weeks, the work duration has to decrease in accordance in order to respect the agreed working time on a yearly average, therefore “annualization of the working time”.
This measure does not need heavy formalities and can be triggered only 7 days prior its entering into force in the company.
Therefore, this is an efficient way for companies with seasonal activities or peak periods to legally make their workers perform more than contractually foreseen.
- Voluntary overtime
With that new measure, a worker can now “voluntary” perform up to 100 hours overtime per civil year.
This overtime does not have to be compensated with a compensatory leave. However, these 100 hours are paid with a 50% over-pay …
The consent of the worker to perform these hours has to be stated in a written document and is valid for 6 months.
This constitutes a new justification to have overtime performed , which is in principle strictly limited.
- “Floating” Working schedule
Before the new legislation, a lot of companies allowed their workers to arrive at work during a 1-2 hours window (for example between 8 and 10 AM), as long as they stay at work 1-2 additional hours in accordance (for example until 5 – 7 PM) in order to respect their daily schedule. This possibility is called “floating schedule”.
However, it was initially an extra-legem system, not provided by any legislation and only “tolerated” by the social inspection.
The new legislation expressly permits this system and allows in that framework up to 45 work hours per week (as a reminder a full time is usually 38 hours / week in Belgium) without paying any extra-salary or over-pay. However this overtime must be compensated by a compensatory leave granted, in principle, within the quarter of the extra-performance.
Unfortunately, this legalized “floating working schedule” has one weakness: the employer has to put in place a system of traceability of the working time for each worker. This could be an inconvenient for the smaller companies.
- Simplification for the part-time work
According to the law, every working schedule (fixed, variable, full time, part-time) in force within a company, has to be foreseen by the work regulations of that company.
This rule was everything but convenient as a company could use tens of different working schedules. As a consequence, in case of control by Social Inspection, the employers were easily fined if one or several applicable schedules were not provided by their work regulations.
As from October 2017, this system will be simplified for the part-time work :
– The fixed part-time schedules will only need to be mentioned in the employment contract of the worker and not anymore also in the work regulations;
– The variable part-time schedules will not have to be mentioned in the work regulations, only the general framework will have to be mentioned such as the days of the week, the period within a day during which they could be performed.
This will lighten the heavy formalities of the employers occupying part-time workers.
- The legislations regarding work duration are never easy and always too rigid from the employer point of view.
Belgium is not an exception in that matter.
However, the country has some new tools (and old ones) which can be used by the employers to introduce more flexibility in their organization.
It is certainly not the ultimate solution, but one step in the good direction is better than two in the wrong one !