Working hours and time off

In Belgium, night work (i.e., between 8pm and 6am) is forbidden. Exceptions to this rule are provided either by the law or by Royal Decree.

Many companies in the distribution sector regard the existing exceptions to the prohibition of night work as not constituting an effective solution. As a result, hardly any Belgian companies conduct e commerce activities. 

Sectoral negotiations, held to improve this situation, resulted in five identical CBAs for joint committees 201 (independent retailing), 202 (retailing in foodstuffs), 201.01 (middle-sized food business), 311 (large retail establishments), 312 (warehouses).

These CBAs attracted great attention in the media but they are only a first step. A second step is a Royal Decree to enable night work for e-commerce in the distribution sector. This Royal Decree is still awaited.

The introduction of an internal work regulation with night performances requires i) a legal exception to the prohibition of night work and ii) a procedure to be introduced at company level.

What will change?

Exception to the prohibition of night work?
The CBA itself does not provide an exception to the prohibition of night work. This can only be done through a Royal Decree.

To be continued.

CBAs form a sectoral framework of the legal procedure for the introduction of an internal work regulation with night performances.

The legal procedure has still to be complied with. This means that the negotiations have to be conducted at company level resulting in either a CBA  (signed by all the trade unions represented in the trade union delegation), or a modification to the work regulations (if there is no trade union delegation).

In addition, the CBAs lay down that negotiations have to include:

  • The categorising and listing of the activities and functions that are covered under e-commerce activities;
  • Which form of night work is necessary to develop e-commerce in the company;
  • The types of contracts, work arrangements, work schedules of the employees hired for e-commerce;
  • The framework of student labour.

This night work is to be performed by volunteers from those already in service.

Then, the legal rules are to be confirmed:

  • The normal framework rules of CBA no. 46 have to be complied with;
  • The allowance for night work is at least equivalent to those of CBA no. 49 (EUR 1.12 per hour for employees younger than 50 and EUR 1.35 for older employees).

It is self-evident that these CBAs have no impact on the discussion about opening hours and Sunday opening of e commerce shops.

Finally, the regimes established are to be monitored at sectoral level.

> Action point
The additional sectoral framework of the procedure has still to be worked out for the introduction of a work regulation for night work.