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Belgium approves 4-day week, grants employees right to disconnect
Belgium has introduced a four-day week and granted employees the right to remain disconnected when not at work, effectively allowing people to ignore their bosses when contacted out of hours.
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The move was announced by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo as part of a series of labor market reforms.
The reform package agreed by the country's multi-party coalition government grants workers the right to turn off work devices and ignore work-related messages after hours, without fear of reprisal.
"We have experienced two difficult years. With this agreement, we set a beacon for an economy that is more innovative, sustainable and digital. The aim is to be able to make people and businesses stronger," De Croo told a press conference announcing the reform package earlier this month.
A significant portion of the reforms will impact the work-life balance of employees in both the public and private sectors, and grant employees the ability to request a four-day week.
"This has to be done at the request of the employee, with the employer giving solid reasons for any refusal," Belgian Labor Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne told the press conference.
A government spokesperson confirmed to Euronews Next that employees would be able to ask to work four days a week for a period of six months. After that, they could choose to continue the arrangement or return to a five-day week with no negative consequences.
The period of six months was chosen so that an employee would not be stuck for too long in case of a wrong choice, the government said.
Under the new system, employees would be able to condense the current five-day week into four days. In practice this means maintaining a 38-hour working week, with an additional day off compensating for longer work days.
Workers will also be able to request variable work schedules. The minimum notice period for shifts is also changing, with companies now required to provide schedules at least seven days in advance.
In January, civil servants working for Belgium's federal government were given the right to disconnect, allowing them to turn off work devices and ignore messages after hours without reprisals from bosses. Now all Belgian workers, including those in the private sector, will receive the same right.
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