Living and working conditions

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Belgium


Working conditions

Working hours

 

In Belgium, working hours (the time during which the worker is at the disposal of the employer) must not exceed 8 per day or 38 per week (on average over the course of a year). In principle, it is forbidden to work more than the legal working hours, outside the applicable hours of work, on Sundays, on public holidays and at night.

Exemptions with and without prior authorisation: it is possible to derogate from the principle of 8 hours per day and 38 hours per week. In some cases, exemptions are possible with prior authorisation and provided that the work does not exceed either 11 hours per day or 50 hours per week. It is up to the employer to request this authorisation. Exemptions without prior authorisation are also possible. The maximum daily working hours can thus be extended to 9 hours where the total weekly number of hours is spread over a five-day week and there is provision for half a day, a day or more than a day of rest per week, not including a Sunday. In the case of work that cannot be interrupted, working hours may not exceed 12 hours per day. In most cases of force majeure, there is no limit. If work arrangements include night work, a collective bargaining agreement must be concluded with the trade unions. Such work arrangements may be introduced by amending the existing arrangements.

Flexible working hours: flexible working hours should not be confused with flexitime: the latter allows workers more freedom to choose when they begin and end their working day. Flexible working hours, on the other hand, are set by collective agreement or as part of the work arrangements. Flexible working hours allow normal working hours to be extended (though not beyond 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week), and the application in the company of working hours that differ from the normal ones, providing employees are informed by posters displayed in public seven days beforehand.

Compensatory leave and overtime: in most cases where working beyond the statutory working hours is authorised, either in the context of regular work arrangements or in the context of overtime, compensatory leave must be granted. Such leave must be granted in such a way that normal, average weekly working hours are respected over a given reference period. Overtime is paid at a minimum of 150% of the normal rate, or 200% in the case of work on Sundays or public holidays.

Sunday work: working on Sundays is forbidden by law. Some activities may be performed on Sundays, however, for example when the normal work of the company does not allow these activities to be performed on another day of the week, in addition to work in certain undertakings and institutions (hotels and catering establishments, healthcare establishments and services). Workers who work on Sundays are entitled to compensatory leave during the six ensuing days.

Night work: it is prohibited to work between 8 pm and 6 am, but exemptions may be granted. They apply to both male and female workers, provided that they are at least 18 years of age. Night work is permitted where the nature of the work warrants it. Thus, night work is permitted for instance in hotels, the entertainment sector, newspaper firms, healthcare, preventive healthcare and hygiene establishments, pharmacies, agricultural work, craft bakeries (and patisseries), education and housing facilities, etc.

 

Text last edited on: 05/2020

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