Since a number of changes will be introduced by the statute relating to "Workable and Flexible Work", it will be easier to introduce flexible work time schedules.

The applicable work time schedules must be fixed in the work regulations. These work time schedules may vary from category to category, but they apply in principle throughout the year.

The regulations on working time did already allow derogating from this principle since 1993: alternative work time schedules could be provided for and could be applied alternatively as deemed appropriate in consideration of various factual circumstances, such as work load and the like.

These systems are commonly called "limited flexibility".

1. Introduction of the "limited flexibility"

This "limited flexibility", as the system is commonly referred to, could be introduced by

the work regulations,

a collective labour agreement entered into at company level, provided all trade unions represented in the union delegation signed the agreement, or

collective labour agreement entered into within the framework of the joint labour-management committee.

2. Requirements for the introduction of the "limited flexibilty"

With respect to the introduction of the "limited flexibility" by way of collective labour agreement at company level, the law has now abolished the requirement that it is signed by all trade unions represented in the union delegation. Consequently, one single trade union can no longer block the introduction of the system at company level.

Another requirement with respect to the "limited flexibility" is that the weekly working time is respected as an average over a certain period of time, serving as the reference period, and that the maximum number of working hours during that period is respected.

The parties could freely determine the length of that reference period without exceeding one year. That reference period is now fixed by law: it is in principle the calendar year or any other period of 12 consecutive months. Derogations from the one-year principle are explicitly banned.

3. "Limited flexibility" and the work regulations

The various work time schedules have to be included in the work regulations. Consequently, the introduction of a system of "limited flexibility" by way of collective labour agreement automatically requires a modification of the work regulations. Such modifications are, in principle, subject to compliance with a special procedure as laid down in the statute on the work regulations.

The regulations provide for exceptions to this requirement of compliance with the modification procedure:

The employer may modify the work regulations in accordance with the stipulations of the collective labour agreement as from the day of filing of the collective labour agreement with the competent Service of the Ministry of Labour, provided the collective labour agreement determines - the average weekly work time and the total number of hours of work to be performed during the reference period, - the starting date and the expiration date of the reference period, - start and end of the working day and the time of rest.

If the system of "limited flexibility" is introduced by collective labour agreement, entered into within the framework of a joint labour-management committee, the employer may modify the work regulations in accordance with the stipulations of the collective labour agreement, even if this collective labour agreement does not include the data as listed above, provided the collective labour agreement determines clearly the working time, the calculation method of the working time and the difference between the alternative work time schedules and the ordinary working time schedule.

4. Conclusion

In a nutshell, the main renovations in this context are the one-year reference period and the abolishment of the possibility of one trade union to block the introduction of a "limited flexibility" system by way of collective agreement entered into at company level.