The end of mandatory telework?
On Friday 4 June 2021, a new Ministerial Decree was published in the Belgian State Gazette that includes new provisions regarding telework. For the time being, telework remains compulsory and employers remain obliged to register their non-teleworkable positions with the National Social Security Office (NSSO) and to provide workers whose presence at the workplace is needed with a certificate confirming this fact. However, as from 9 June 2021, employers will have the option to organise weekly ‘return moments’ to the workplace. It is expected that from 1 July 2021, if the number of vaccinations and infections allow it, teleworking will only be recommended and no longer compulsory.
Teleworking remains compulsory (at least) until 30 June 2021
The Ministerial Decree of 4 June 2021 requires that, at least until 30 June 2021, teleworking remains compulsory in all companies, associations and services, except if the employee’s role or the continuity of business operations, activities and the provision of services does not allow for telework.
The Ministerial Decree now explicitly clarifies that this rule also applies (and has always been so) to (i) so-called vital companies and (ii) to all ‘persons’ working in the company, regardless of the nature of the working relationship (i.e. not only to employees, but, for example, also to self-employed persons providing services to the company).
In line with this general obligation, employers still have to provide their employees who cannot telework, with a certificate stating that their presence at the workplace is needed.
In addition, employers must still submit the monthly declaration with the NSSO (i.e. the so-called “Corona telewerkaangifte”/“Corona declaration télétravail”) containing the total number of people working for the company and the number of people who hold a position for which teleworking is impossible (unless these total numbers have not changed since the employer’s last declaration).
The Ministerial Decree now provides that certain companies are exempt from this registration obligation with the NSSO, such as small and medium enterprises who employ less than 5 people and employers in the construction, cleaning and meat industries.
Returning to the work place once a week will be possible
As from 9 June 2021, employers may organise so-called returning moments for employees (and the self-employed) for whom teleworking is still compulsory, to improve their psycho-social well-being and team spirit. These returning moments are subject to compliance with the rules on social distancing and the implementation of appropriate prevention measures.
The following conditions should be fulfilled for such returning moments:
- Employees cannot be forced to participate in these returning moments and the employer cannot impose any (negative) consequences if any employees refuse to participate;
- Employees should receive prior instructions on the measures that are required for a safe return;
- Employees should be informed that they cannot return if they are feeling ill, are showing Covid-19 symptoms, or are in quarantine;
- Commuting to and from work with public transportation during peak hours and carpooling should be avoided as much as possible;
- The decision to organise returning moments must be made in accordance with the rules on social dialogue within the company (i.e. the social dialogue within the Health & Safety Committee, or in its absence, the trade union delegation, or in its absence, directly with the employees themselves).
These returning moments must be limited to one working day per week per person. Moreover, no more than 20% of the people for whom teleworking is compulsory may be present at the workplace at the same time. However, for small and medium enterprises employing fewer than 10 people, no more than 5 people for whom teleworking is compulsory may be present at the workplace at the same time.
The end is near
It is expected that from 1 July 2021, teleworking will only be recommended and no longer compulsory.
However, the final decision still has to be made and will depend on the number of vaccinations and infections at the end of June 2021.
Any questions? ALTIUS’ Employment Team is available to provide you with further guidance regarding this development.
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