Belgium permits 4-day week to boost work flexibility post Covid-19

Commuters exit Brussels-Schuman underground station in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

BRUSSELS - Belgian employees will be able to work a four-day week after the government on Tuesday agreed a new labour accord aimed at bringing flexibility to an otherwise rigid labour market.

Speaking after his seven-party coalition federal government reached a deal overnight, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the coronavirus pandemic had forced people to work more flexibly and combine their private and working lives.

"This has led to new ways of working," he told a press conference.

Employees who request it will be able to work up to 10 hours per day if trade unions agree, instead of the maximum eight now, in order to work one day less per week for the same pay.

Belgians will also be able to choose to work more during one week and less the following one, allowing people to better manage their work-private life, in case of co-parenting for example.

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"I think that giving flexibility to employees is a great idea actually so you can organise yourself differently, maybe have a three day weekend, organise yourself if you have children, it's easier," 44-year-old musician Amaury Massion told Reuters TV.

The agreement also introduces the right to disconnect after normal working hours for companies with more than 20 employees.

It sets out new rules for so-called platform workers -- people employed by internet platforms like Uber -- including new criteria for considering them employees.

Belgium aims at an employment rate of 80 per cent for 2030, against 71.4 per cent at the end of last year.