As announced, several measures were taken to improve the employment rate. The law has now been published. The four-day week is one such measure allowing full-time workers to request a working time adjustment.
Employers may allow their full-time workers to work more than 9 hours per day without overtime pay and they can thus be employed 4 days a week (instead of 5). The aim is to free up one working day a week to enable workers to better reconcile work and personal life.
In order for the worker to work full-time over 4 days, the employer will have to take steps at company level and the worker who wishes to do so will have to make a request. The employer is not obliged to introduce this working arrangement.
Introduction at company level
The procedure for introducing the four-day week will depend on the actual weekly working time in the company. In principle, the weekly working time will not be changed. However, the employer may voluntarily decide to reduce working time collectively to make it easier to work full-time over 4 days.
Maximum 38 hours per week
In companies where workers are actually employed for a maximum of 38 hours per week, an employer who wishes to allow workers to work 4 days per week may increase the maximum daily working time to 9.30 hours by amending the employment regulations. To add this new working time to the employment regulations, the normal amendment procedure must be followed.
More than 38 hours per week
In companies where workers are actually employed for more than 38 hours per week (i.e. by granting compensatory rest), an employer who wishes to allow workers to work 4 days per week may increase the maximum daily working time to more than 9.30 hours by concluding a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
For example, a company employs its workers 40 hours per week with 12 days of compensatory rest per year. This company can allow 4 days of 10 working hours by concluding a CBA. A company that employs its workers 39 hours per week with 6 days of compensatory rest per year can allow 4 days of 9.45 hours to be worked by concluding a CBA.
When the daily working time is increased by CBA, the employment regulations can be amended as from depositing this CBA at the Clerk's Office of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue without the procedure for amending the employment regulations having to be followed.
When the employer allows full-time work over 4 days, the worker who wishes to do so can make a request to enter this system. The request must be made in writing (on paper or electronically) and must precede the start of the new working arrangement. This request is valid for a maximum of 6 months, but is renewable.
If the employer refuses the worker's request, he must provide written reasons for his refusal and communicate them to the worker. Refusal may be communicated on paper or electronically.
Agreement between the employer and the worker
If the employer agrees, he concludes an agreement with the worker that includes the worker's specific working hours. This agreement must contain the following elements:
- Beginning and end of the working day;
- Time and duration of the rest periods;
- The days of regular interruption of work;
- The start and end dates of the period during which the four-day week applies.
This agreement is concluded in writing at the latest when the worker starts working the new working hours. It is renewable upon a new request by the worker.
A copy of this agreement shall also be provided to the worker.
Consultation and storage
The request and the agreement (or a copy thereof) must be kept, for the period covered, in paper or electronic form at the place where the employment regulations can be consulted. Afterwards, the employer must keep them for a period of 5 years from the end of the period to which they relate. The employer who fails to comply with these obligations may be subject to a criminal sanction.
Overtime pay and overtime hours
Overtime pay is normally due when daily working time exceeds 9 hours per day. When the four-day week is introduced, overtime pay is not due for time worked above 9 hours per day.
As the aim of the four-day week is to free up one day a week, the worker cannot work voluntary overtime hours on that day. However, he/she may work other types of overtime hours (e.g., in case of an extraordinary increase in work).
Adverse treatment and protection against dismissal
A worker who requests to be employed in a four-day week cannot be treated adversely and is protected against dismissal. The employer cannot terminate the contract except for reasons not related to the request. However, there are no specific sanctions for non-compliance with this obligation.
Do you want to introduce the four-day week in your company?
This new measure will enter into force on 20 November 2022.
Do you have any questions about the four-day week? Please contact our Legal Partners via email@example.com.
Source: Law of 3 October 2022 containing various work-related provisions, Belgian Official Gazette, 10 November 2022.