Labour law reforms in Belgium: flexible and workable work, re-integrating long-term sick employees and safeguarding competitiveness

In a fast-evolving and ever-globalizing job market, employers and employees in Belgium are frequently confronted with the following three major challenges in the field of Belgian employment law:

  • Inflexible labor laws, which do not always provide for an adequate legal framework which is in line with the latest technological developments
  • The amount of employees on long-term sickness leave has increased during the recent years. However, the currently applicable labor laws do not facilitate an easy return to work after their long-term sickness leave
  • Compared to its neighboring countries, the employer salary costs are higher in Belgium, hence putting pressure on the international competitive position of Belgian employers. This competitive disadvantage is commonly referred to as the "salary cost gap"

The Belgian legislator wants to tackle these major challenges with the following legal reforms:

  • An act called "Flexible and Workable Work" (FWW-act), aiming at providing for a more flexible legal framework in terms of working time, whilst ensuring a balanced work environment for the employees. This FWW-act entered into force on 1 February 2017
  • The act of 20 December 2016 on various regulations with regard to work incapacity and the royal decrees of 28 October and 8 November 2016, introducing a re-integration procedure guiding employees on long-term sickness leave back to work, among others by temporarily or definitively adapting their working terms
  • The "Salary Moderation" act, aiming at safeguarding the international competitive position of Belgian employers by updating the applicable laws on eliminating the salary cost gap between Belgium and its neighboring countries. The Salary Moderation act entered into force on 1 January 2017