Belgium announces labour market reforms to protect workers 

In Belgium, a new set of labour market reforms will mean that workers will shortly be given additional rights, including being able to choose a four-day working week and the right to turn off work devices and ignore work-related messages after hours without fear of reprisal.

The reform package has now been agreed upon by the multi-party coalition government and will add to the proposed European Union directive. This directive provides extra protection for gig economy workers by setting out five criteria for whether someone should be an employee. 

Under the new rules, gig economy workers in Belgium will have more legal protection, and full-time employees will have the right to choose a more flexible work schedule. 

Better work-life balance 

In a press conference, Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo said “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”. 

The changes will help employees in the public and private sectors achieve a better work-life balance, as they can request flexible hours like a four-day week or variable work schedules. Additionally, the minimum notice period for shifts will be increased to seven days. 

Being able to switch off their phones is also a huge improvement for employees, as it enables people to disconnect from work and ignore messages after hours without reprisals from bosses. 

Protection for gig economy workers 

The reforms also aim to protect gig economy workers, who most commonly work for platforms like Uber and Deliveroo, by setting clearer rules on who is or isn’t self-employed. 

At the moment, many gig-economy workers are missing out on employee benefits like sick pay, holiday pay, and the minimum wage. These rules will still allow people to work as contractors or freelancers, but workers meeting certain criteria will be legally considered employees. 

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