To develop e-commerce activities, the possibility to perform night work, ie work performed between 8 PM and 6 AM, and Sunday work is crucial. In Belgium however, the current process to implement such work regimes is a heavy burden for employers and hinders the efficient performance of e-commerce activities in this fast-paced industry.

In order to catch the e-commerce wave and to create a more attractive environment for e-commerce companies, the legislator introduces a 2 year trial period (from 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2019) during which it will be easier to introduce e-commerce activities at night or on Sundays.

Authorization to carry out e-commerce activities at night and on Sundays

Night work, here defined as work performed between 8 PM and 6 AM of the next day, and work on Sundays are only permitted in legally defined exceptional circumstances.

The legal reforms add e-commerce activities to the exceptional circumstances in which night work and Sunday work are allowed.

"e-commerce activities" are defined as 'the performance of all logistic and supportive services connected to the electronic trade of movable goods' (eg processing of orders, packaging, expedition, delivery, stock management). The electronic trade of services (eg online sale of insurance products) therefore does not fall within the scope of the act.

(Temporary) simplification of the procedure to introduce e-commerce activities at night

Between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019, it will be easier for employers to introduce night work for carrying out e-commerce activities. To do so during the said period, employers will have the choice between either concluding a company collective bargaining agreement ("company CBA") with only one trade union organization, or by modifying its work regulations according to the legally defined procedure thereto.

All other legal requirements regarding night work, such as eg preliminary information and consultation of employees, night work premiums, etc., will however remain applicable.

(Temporary) simplification of the procedure to introduce e-commerce activities on Sundays

Between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019, employers will be able to provide for e-commerce activities on Sundays by concluding a company CBA or by modifying its work regulations according to the legally defined procedure in this regard.

All other currently existing legal requirements regarding Sunday work, such as eg compensatory leave, increased overtime premiums, remain applicable.

What about e-commerce activities at night or on Sundays after 31 December 2019?

The aforementioned simplified ways to introduce e-commerce activities at night or on Sundays only apply from 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2019.

To continuously apply the terms agreed in application of the aforementioned simplified procedures after 31 December 2019, these terms must be confirmed by concluding a new company CBA.

The legal reforms discussed in this publication are not definitively approved by Parliament yet, and may be subject to change.