- The Act of 24 July 1987 on temporary work, temporary agency work and hiring out of workers prohibits the hiring out of workers except under the strict conditions described in that Act. This prohibition means that there can be no situation where a worker is lent out by his employer to a user who makes that worker work within his undertaking and exercises a part of the employer's authority over that worker (Section 31). It is thus the superposition of a double authority link over a worker that is strictly forbidden. Infringement of the prohibition on hiring out of workers leads to civil and criminal penalties. The exceptions to this principle are temporary agency work as developed in the Act and strictly regulated authorized exceptions (Section 32).
- Since 2000, there has been another exception to this prohibition. Indeed, the Act of 12 August 2000 authorizes the hiring out, by a group of several undertakings, of workers who have difficulties in finding a job to users, with the aim of their reintegration in the labour market. This Act provides for the possibility of creating Employers’ Alliances. In a nutshell, the Minister of Employment and Labour can authorize an Employers’ Alliance to hire out workers. The Minister can also withdraw his authorization if the Employers’ Alliance does not respect its obligations.
This system of Employers’ Alliances can be really advantageous, especially for small and medium-size companies, for example for administrative tasks or for seasonal work. In this system, the aim of the Alliance cannot be profit-making.
Even though this system is favourable to employers, there are (too) many conditions of implementation. Section 187 of the Act only allows the creation of an Employers’ Alliance if it takes the form of an “Economic Interest Group” which is a form of undertaking where all members are severally liable for each obligations of the group. Moreover, to benefit from this advantageous system, the workers must be long-term non-working job seekers. They must also be in receipt of the lowest level of social benefits . In addition, there must be staff shortages in the kind of jobs they are hired for. Finally, the work contracts concluded can only be permanent and full-time.
Due to these strict legal requirements, only a few of these Alliances now exist in Belgium. But this system is really popular in France where 35,000 workers are employed under this system. In France, such a system was born in the 80s and the rules are more flexible. That is why, lately, the Belgian Government has been working on an improved system.
- The Government adopted draft legislation that gave rise to two Opinions of the National Labour Council. The new rules provide for an extension of the system to all professions and to all workers, therefore no longer just to people who are ‘difficult to hire’. The new system allows fixed-term contracts and part-time contracts, provided that there is a minimum of 19 hours a week. The form of the Alliance will also be different: it may also be a non-profit association. It has to be noted that each Employers’ Alliance still has to be authorized by the Minister after the National Labour Council has issued an Opinion. These measures will enter into force retroactively from 1 February 2014.