Annabel Coopman Astrid Caporali July 27 2022 Final draft of labour deal bill presented to Parliament: part one ALTIUS | Employment & Immigration - Belgium Annabel Coopman, Astrid Caporali Employment & Immigration IntroductionFour-day work weekVarying weekly working regimeEarlier announcement of variable working time schedules for part-time workersTransition paths: employees can already start working for another employer during their notice periodIntroductionIn February 2022, the Belgian government reached an agreement on the so-called "labour deal", which is a package of measures that seeks to give more people access to work and achieve a better work-life balance (for further details please see "What can employers expect from government's labour deal?"). Since then, the Council of Ministers has decided on the final legislative text during a second reading of the draft bill, which has now been presented to Parliament.The draft bill still has to be voted upon in Parliament and published in the State Gazette before it can enter into force. However, it is expected that few further changes will be made to the current version during the parliamentary proceedings.This article is the first in a two-part series that provides an overview of the most important measures outlined in the current draft bill.Four-day work weekFull-time employees will have the option of completing their working week within four days rather than five. Overall weekly working hours will not be reduced; instead, employees will work longer days in order not to work a fifth day.Employees will be able to work a maximum of 9.5 hours per day, if this is stipulated in their company's work rules. It will also be possible to work 10 hours per day, which is necessary in a 40-hours-per-week system with 12 compensatory rest days, but for this a company collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must be entered into.The procedure for implementing such a regime presents challenges:First, the employer will have to decide whether it would like to facilitate a four-day work week. If so, the employer must introduce the system in the company by amending the work rules.Once the system has been introduced, the initiative then lies with the employee who, if they wish to make use of it, will have to submit a written request to their employer.A request will be made for a six-month period, and that period may be renewed.The employer may refuse the request but must justify its decision in writing to the employee within one month.If the employer agrees to the request, a written agreement must be entered into that contains a number of mandatory provisions. A copy of this agreement must be provided to the respective health and safety committee (or, in its absence, the trade union) if requested.The request and the agreement (or copies of each) should be kept during the corresponding period and at a location where they can be read alongside the company's work rules. After this period, the employer must keep these records for five years.Employers will not be able to dismiss employees on the grounds of making such a request.Further, an employee who has entered into a four-day work week (eg, Monday to Thursday) may not perform voluntary overtime hours on the other days of the week (eg, Friday to Sunday).Varying weekly working regimeEmployers can introduce a so-called "varying weekly working regime" so that employees may work more in one week and have more time off in the following week. In general, this cycle must be limited to two weeks; however, during the third quarter of the year (ie, July to September), the cycle may be extended over four consecutive weeks. This measure is aimed mainly at separated and divorced couples with co-parenting responsibilities.As with the four-day work week, the initiative lies with the employee (once this scheme has been introduced within the company) and entails a similarly challenging implementation procedure. In addition, an employee who files a request under these circumstances will also be protected against dismissal for reasons related to their request.Earlier announcement of variable working time schedules for part-time workersVariable working time schedules for part-time workers must, in principle, be notified to the workers at least five working days in advance, unless a sectoral CBA provides for a shorter period of at least one working day. The notification period will be increased from five to seven days, but exceptions under sector-specific CBAs remain possible. These exceptions must provide for a minimum notification period that will be increased from one to three working days. However, sector-specific CBAs that are currently in force and that provide for a period shorter than three working days will continue to apply until a new sector-specific CBA is concluded, with a cut-off day of 31 December 2022.If applicable, the work rules will have to be modified in line with the changes above within nine months of the rule entering into force.Transition paths: employees can already start working for another employer during their notice periodEmployees will have the option of starting to work for another employer on a voluntary basis during their notice period. Such work will be organised by the temporary or regional employment agencies (eg, VDAB, Forem and Actiris).An agreement will have to be concluded between the initial employer, the employee, the new employer and the temporary or regional employment agency regarding the modalities and the duration of this regulated employee lending.During this transition path, the initial employer pays the employee the wage that they will receive from their new employer or continues to pay their current wage, if the new wage is lower. The initial employer will be able to obtain at least a partial reimbursement from the new employer.The new employer will be obliged to hire the employee with a contract of undefined duration at the end of the transition path. If not, the new employer will have to pay compensation to the employee equal to the salary of half the duration of the transition path.For further information on this topic please contact Annabel Coopman or Astrid Caporali at ALTIUS by telephone (+32 2 426 1414) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The ALTIUS website can be accessed at www.altius.com.