Additional voluntary overtime hours or 'recovery' hours

Author: Brigitte Dendooven (Legal expert)

The 2021-2022 social agreement provides for an increase in voluntary overtime hours for 2021 and 2022, as provided for in Article 25bis of the labour law of 16 March 1971.

These voluntary overtime hours are called 'voluntary recovery hours'.   

Concept - Sectors concerned

This measure covers not only essential sectors as listed in the Annex to the MD of1 November 2020 amending the MD of 28 October 2020 on emergency measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus but also (and this is new) non-essential sectors.   

In 2021

  1. In the key sectors

For the key sectors, this means in concrete terms an extension of the current crisis measure consisting in the granting of 120 voluntary overtime hours, already decided by the government until 30 September 2021 (voluntary ‘Corona’ overtime hours). The voluntary overtime hours already worked in this context in 2021 must be deducted from the quota of additional voluntary overtime hours that can still be worked in 2021 (i.e. allocation of the balance).

  1. In the non-key sectors

From 1 July 2021 until 31 December 2021, 120 voluntary overtime hours can be worked. This is a new measure.

In 2022

From 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022, a quota of 120 voluntary recovery hours shall be granted in both key and non-key sectors.

Characteristics of these hours in terms of labour law

Since this draft law, on which there is an agreement in principle between the government and the social partners, still has to go through the parliamentary procedure before being definitively voted and is therefore currently delayed by the holiday periods, the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue will already accept the application of these provisions in practice until the legal and regulatory provisions are adopted and come into force, considering that they are applicable in the spirit of the agreement.

  1. The employee must agree to work these hours.

This agreement must be in writing, expressly concluded and prior to the period concerned. It is valid for a period of 6 months. This period may be extended. This obligation does not apply if the employee has already agreed to voluntary 'corona' overtime hours in the key sectors (in application of the law of 20 December 2020) for the remaining period of 6 months.

  1. These overtime hours do not entitle the employee to overtime pay.
  2. They are not taken into account for compliance with the internal limit (the maximum number of overtime hours in a certain reference period) or for calculating the working time.
  3. The basic quota for voluntary overtime hours does not have to be used up.

Gross or net?

The social partners have agreed on the principle that the pay for these recovery hours is exempt from social security contributions and taxes.

Sources: social agreement 2021- 2022, notice of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue of 20 July 2021.

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