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BRUSSELS: Belgian employees will be able to work a four-day week after the government on Tuesday agreed to 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, PM 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 8 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 or opening the possibility to permanent long weekends.
The agreement also introduces the right to disconnect after normal working hours for companies with more than 20 employees. All without any reduction in salary.
However any request needs to be approved by the boss — meaning that, in practice, such managed flexibility would only be an option for those working in big companies, where the workload can be more easily distributed.
Belgium’s labour overhaul comes after Iceland’s fourday work week trial between 2015 and 2019 was hailed as a success. Now 86% of the country’s workforce is working a shortened work week. Spain, Scotland and Japan too have announced plans to try four-day work weeks.



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