The Right to disconnection: Employers now have to adopt specific measures
The Belgian legislative authorities have recently passed new rules on the stimulation of employment and the organisation of work in the company. These measures are commonly referred to as the employment deal. Among the legislative novelties contained in this deal, some provisions relate to the right to disconnection employees should benefit from and the specific measures employers should take in this respect. We invite you to take a look at these measures and how they possibly impact your employees and your company.
Who is CONCERNED?
Every company with 20 or more employees must take specific measures regarding the right of its employees to disconnect from work. To calculate the threshold of employees, each person employed in the company should be considered, not in terms of full-time equivalents.
Such companies will now have to ensure that their employees benefit from their right to disconnect when they are no longer expected to work and determine the modalities to be applied in this respect.
What should be put in place?
The authorities have issued specific guidelines for employers to effectively guarantee the right to disconnect.
Specific measures and provisions…
The aim is to allow the worker to concentrate on his or her private life outside working hours. This can be achieved by providing a framework for not answering emails or phone calls outside working hours.
In this framework, the employer must define the practical modalities for the worker to exercise his/her right to disconnect and not be available outside working hours, as well as guidelines on the use of digital tools in a way that respects the employee’s rest periods, holidays and private life.
On the one hand, under the modalities, the employer may recommend to its employees not to answer business calls or e-mails outside working hours (except in exceptional urgent cases) or may invite them to use automatic "out of office" replies when they are on leave.
On the other hand, the employer should take into account the increase in psycho-social risks related to the use of electronic means of communication and the balance between private and professional life that employees should benefit from.
In addition, an educational and preventive aspect should be put in place through training and awareness campaigns for workers and managers on the importance of disconnection and the risks of increased connectivity.
It is therefore important for companies to reflect on these issues in order to formalise compliance with this right, especially in the absence of a sectoral collective labour agreement. This could include the efficient use of the e-mail box or specific measures depending on the function.
… in a collective labour agreement or in the labour rules
In companies with social consultation bodies, these measures must be included in a collective labour agreement. Conversely, if it is not possible to conclude such an agreement in the company, all the mandatory elements relating to the right to disconnect must be included in the employment regulations.
As a reminder, these changes must be made in accordance with the legal procedure for changing labour rules. This means that the new draft of the work rules must be communicated to the workers, who then have 15 days to provide their comments. If no comments are received, the employer must then register the new labour rules with the authorities.
Initially, companies had to comply with by 1 January 2023. However, the authorities have given companies an extra three month period to get themselves in order. Employers therefore have until 1 April to develop and implement the necessary measures to incorporate the right to disconnect.
Do you need help to develop modalities and guidelines in your company? Our Payroll & HR experts are ready to assist you in this regard, from the first reflections to the registration of your new labour rules. If you have any questions regarding this topic, do not hesitate to contact our RSM Belgium | Tax team ([email protected]).