The Peeters Act of 3 March 2017 finally provides a statutory basis for the use of flexible working schedules within Belgian companies.
Employees who benefit from flextime can choose when they arrive and leave work and take breaks, within certain designated time periods. Outside these periods, their presence at work is compulsory (so-called "core periods").
For example, assume an employer sets up a flextime programme whereby employees are authorized to arrive between 9 am and 10 am. From 10 am until noon (a core period), all employees must be present. From noon to 2 pm, employees can choose when to take their lunch break, ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. From 2 pm until 4 pm (a core period), presence is mandatory. Finally, employees can choose their departure time in the period from 4 pm to 5 pm. Thus, one day, an employee could choose to arrive at 10 am, take a lunch break of 15 minutes and leave at 4 pm. Another day, the employee could decide to arrive at 9 am, take a lunch break of 30 minutes and leave at 5 pm.
It goes without saying that flextime is much appreciated by employees as it allows them to take care of administrative formalities and medical visits without having to take a day off. Furthermore, parents with joint custody can adapt their working time in order to take into account the needs of their children.
Prior to the Peeters Act, flextime was officially illegal as the law stated that the exact start and end of each working day had to be stipulated in the work rules. In practice, however, the authorities often accepted flextime, provided the employer could demonstrate that it had an accurate timekeeping system.
The Peeters Act provides that an employee cannot work more than 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week in the framework of flextime. Moreover, an average work week of 38 hours should be respected over a reference period ranging from three months to one year.
Provided employees do not work outside the so-called "bandwidth period" set by the flextime schedule, overtime pay will never be due. However, the Peeters Act authorizes employers to require employees to exceed these limits in specific circumstances (an exceptional workload, urgent repairs, etc.). In these cases, overtime pay may be due.
The establishment of flextime requires certain statutory mentions in the work rules or a collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, companies that wish to introduce flextime or that have already done so should adapt their work rules or collective bargaining agreements to provide for the inclusion of this mandatory information.