JobatAchieving the number of hours of a full-time contract in four days: it has been possible for over a year, but people are only gradually making more use of the system. How many employees are involved, and in which sectors? What holds employees and employers back? “It is always a personal decision,” Annelies Bries, legal expert at Acerta Consult, tells Jobat.be.
Few questions about the topic
According to a survey by Acerta in August, one in 130 Belgian employees in the private sector performs their full-time job on four days instead of five. That is an increase of 56.5 percent since the beginning of this year. “Yet its popularity remains rather limited,” says Bries. “We receive few questions about the introduction of the four-day working week, which is why I think the system is not yet well known. But a lot also depends on the job and someone’s personal considerations.”
The four-day working week was introduced – as were a series of measures – to get more people to work. “Flexibility is increasingly important for employees,” says Annelies. “Therefore, this system can be a useful measure for employers to attract more applicants. If that extra day off suits a potential employee, it can encourage him to take a job that he might not otherwise have considered.”
What happens to your meal vouchers and vacation if you go for a four-day working week? You can read it here.
Completely without obligations
When an employee requests to work full-time in four days, an employer must respond in writing. He is free to refuse, but he must provide reasons for his refusal. “If he agrees, he must include the four-day working week in the employment regulations or collective labor agreement, and must request the employee in writing every six months to have a four-day working week. There is quite a bit of administration involved.”
Reading tip: Since April 1, you no longer have to justify yourself if you do not immediately respond to an email or message from your boss after working hours.
Not for every employee or employer
What prevents more people from signing up for the four-day working week, while many people prefer to work part-time? “Younger employees are more often motivated to have an extra day off, for example to pursue a hobby or flexi-job. Or parents want an extra day to spend with their young children – until those children go to school and need to be picked up from school. It is always a personal decision, and then there are other factors. People over 60 more often choose a runway; Applying for one-fifth time credit is not possible with this system.”
The type of company and work must also accommodate the four-day working week. The system is possible in any sector, but is most popular in the catering industry (2.71 percent of employees), logistics & transport (0.71 percent) and social profit (0.70 percent). “The work planning in those sectors may be more suitable,” says Annelies. “Longer days can be very convenient in catering establishments or transport companies. But anyone who does heavy physical work or has to concentrate all day for their job, for example, is not comfortable with working ten hours a day. So someone must be very motivated for that extra day off.”
“The idea that you have to work that long for six months – instead of choosing to stay longer – also has a mental impact. Moreover, your colleagues must be able to cope with the fact that you are not there one day a week. This works better in larger companies.”
More and more employers are open to flexible working: what are your (other) legal options?
What is the best way to apply for the four-day working week?
“Consult in advance before sending your question by email,” the expert advises. “Then explain why it would be an advantage for you to perform your hours on four days.” If you submit an application again after six months, your employer is free to refuse this time – again with a written motivation, for example if he believes that it does not benefit your productivity. “You are then free to ask again. There are no waiting periods laid down in the legislation.”
“The intention is that you will consult with each other to possibly reach an agreement, and your employer may not disadvantage you if you want to work a four-day working week. For example, he may not terminate the employment contract because of your request.”
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