The latest technological evolutions have drastically changed the methods of work used by employees, and have created new business needs for employers.

These recent developments require an important amount of flexibility, both in terms of the working environment to ensure competitiveness and productivity levels as in terms of the legal framework for the work to be performed.

However, the currently applicable Belgian labor laws are not known for their flexible nature, and do not always provide for a compatible legal framework for innovative working methods. To deal with this issue, a proposition of bill called "Flexible and Workable Work" was submitted to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives on 4 January 2017, aiming at improving the competitiveness of the Belgian job market by modernizing various topics of Belgian employment law.

On the one hand, this proposition of bill intends to provide for a more flexible legal framework, whereby the terms of employment can be adapted more closely to specific business needs and working methods. To ensure as much flexibility as possible, the proposition primarily focuses on the possibility to fine-tune terms of employment at sectoral or company level. To do so, the employer's work regulations will be a useful tool to maximize flexibility of the terms of employment.

On the other hand, it aims at ensuring a balanced and "workable" work environment for the employees by providing them with additional tools to personalize their working conditions and career path.

More flexible work should be provided by:

  • Increasing the period during which the average working time limits must be respected, the so-called "annualization" of work
  • Introducing a legal framework for so-called "floating work schedules", whereby the start and end date of a work day can to a certain extent be chosen by the employee
  • Innovating the rules on overtime, whereby more overtime could be performed even in situations which are not defined by law
  • Simplifying part-time employment

More workable work should be provided by:

  • Encouraging permanent training of employees
  • Introducing the possibility to occasionally perform telework
  • Facilitating working for multiple employers which are affiliated to a recognized "group of employers"
  • Introducing a "career savings" system, whereby specific types of accrued but untaken time-off could be saved until a later stage in the employee's career
  • Extending the employees' time-credit and palliative leave entitlements

Another proposition of bill, also submitted to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives on 4 January 2017, intends to safeguard the international competitive position of employers in Belgium by updating the applicable laws on salary moderation, aiming at eliminating the wage costs gap between Belgium and its neighboring countries.

During the month of January, we will issue special Be Aware updates on a weekly basis, in which different aspects of the aforementioned propositions of bill will be explained and in which we will keep you up to speed regarding any amendments thereto.