From 20 November 2021, all workers in Belgium (including employees, the self-employed and contractors) must go back to working remotely unless their work makes it impossible. One day of on-site work is allowed per person per week, on a voluntary basis. From 13 December 2021, this increases to two days per week.
On 17 November 2021, the Belgian federal and regional governments decided to take additional measures in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these measures is the reintroduction of mandatory remote working. The agreements have now been laid down in a Royal Decree of 19 November 2021. Below, we outline the most important aspects of this reintroduced mandatory remote working regime.
As of 07:00 on Saturday 20 November 2021, remote working is mandatory again in the private sector and in public administrations, unless this is impossible due to the nature of the job or for the continuity of the business, activities or services. This obligation applies to all individuals employed, regardless of the nature of the employment relationship (employees, self-employed, etc.).
Working remotely takes place in accordance with CBA 85 (on structural homeworking). If nothing is provided in that context at the organisational level, the rules of CBA 149 apply (on remote work due to the COVID-19 crisis).
Individuals who cannot work remotely must be in possession of a certificate or other piece of evidence from their employer or client confirming that their presence in the workplace is necessary.
Organisations must also register the following information per branch unit each month via the Belgian National Social Security Office (NSSO)’s portal:
- total number of individuals employed;
- total number of individuals with a function that does not allow remote work.
The first declaration must be made by 30 November 2021 for the period 22 November to 31 December 2021. Subsequent declarations must be made on the sixth calendar day of each month.
A new monthly declaration only needs to be made if the situation has changed compared to the previous month.
SMEs with fewer than five employees and a number of sectors (health care, subsidised education, etc.) are exempted from this remote work obligation.
On-site work: how often and how many workers?
For remotely workable positions, one return day per person per week is permitted until 12 December 2021. From 13 December 2021, this will increase to two days per week. The following conditions apply to these return days:
- The return cannot be compulsory and must take place by mutual agreement with the employee.
- The purpose of the return days is to promote psychosocial wellbeing and team spirit.
- Workers who return must be instructed on safety measures in the workplace.
- Workers who are ill, showing symptoms or who are in quarantine must not return.
- Measures must be taken to avoid carpooling and public transport journeys at peak times.
Up to and including 12 December 2021, a maximum of 20% of individuals with a function that allows remote working can be present at any one time. From 13 December 2021, this is increased to a maximum of 40%.
For SMEs that employ fewer than ten employees, a maximum of five mandatorily remote working employees may be present in the establishment unit at the same time.
As an organisation, you are advised to strictly observe the mandatory remote work regime and the formalities that come with it once again. The social inspection services monitor compliance and will take action in the event of violations, potentially imposing criminal or administrative fines. Mandatory monthly registration should definitely be at the top of your to-do list. This must be done for the first time no later than by 30 November 2021.