Bosses will no longer be allowed to contact employees out of work hours under new laws in Belgium – which is also considering a four-day week

  • Law will grant civil servants the “right to disengage” from work.
  • Similar arrangements are being considered for private sector employees in Belgium.
  • Ministers also consider implementing a forty-hour, four-day work week 

Belgium’s civil servants won’t have to return work calls after normal business hours.

Federal employees have the right to disconnect starting February 1.

This move should be implemented to private sectors. Additionally, a change to a weekly work schedule of four days is considered in order to bring about a culture shift in Belgian companies.

Civil servants in Belgium will no longer have to answer work calls from their bosses outside of normal working hours (file image)

Belgian civil servants will not have to respond to work calls outside normal hours. File image

Staff may only be contacted ‘in the event of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances requiring action that cannot wait until the next working period’, the memo seen by De Morgen from the Minister of the Civil Service, Petra De Sutter, states.

A civil servant ‘should not be disadvantaged by not answering the phone or reading work-related messages outside normal working hours’, according to the new measures.

De Sutter claimed that this change would help to combat ‘excessive stress at work and burnout’ in an era when it is becoming increasingly difficult for professionals and others to separate their professional and private lives.

Her circular explained how disconnecting can lead to better well-being, such as improved focus, recovery and more energy.

The minister added: ‘The computer stays on, you keep reading the e-mails you receive on your smartphone… To better protect people against this, we now give them the legal right to disconnect.’

Under the new rules, it is not clear which exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances are allowed to allow work calls.

Iceland's four-year experiment with a 'four-day working week' has been dubbed an 'overwhelming success' by researchers who want the model adopted elsewhere (file)

Researchers who wish to see the Icelandic experiment of a four-day work week over four years have called it an “overwhelmingly successful” model (file).

However, managers can make agreements with their employees or unions in order to implement measures. 

A spokesperson for Federal Labour Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne told The Brussels Times that a similar arrangement is in place for the private sector.

He stated that this would be implemented with the introduction and maintenance of the 4-day work week. 

In October, the Liberals submitted this proposal. Full-time employees would work an average of 38-40 hours per week. However, it would be divided over four days.

However, the socialist trade union has already criticized the change and said that employees should work less per week.  

Iceland tested a week-long four-day period. Results published last year showed that it was a ‘overwhelmingly successful’.

An analysis found workers had less stress and a better balance between work and life, while bosses did not see a drop in productivity.

The experiment ran between 2015 and 2019, where 86% of Icelandic workers negotiated permanent shortened hours contracts.