Belgium: Labour Time Reduction Days - What To Do In Case Of Suspension Of Employment Contract?

Last Updated: 15 April 2015
Article by Catherine Longeval

It is possible to work more hours per week than the number of working hours determined by law (e.g. statute, collective bargaining agreements at sector and/or company level) on the basis of labour time reduction days ("LRD"). LRD ensure that the maximum weekly working time is not exceeded on an average level.

As a general rule, the number of working hours is 38 hours per week (but deviations exist at sector and/or company level). However, some companies introduce a 40- hour working week and, in order to compensate for exceeding the maximum working hours, grant 12 paid LRD. This should then result on an annual basis in an average of 38 working hours per week. The number of LRD will be determined based on the difference in working hours between the actual hours performed during a week (e.g. 40 hours) and the normally applicable weekly working time of 38 hours.

Most employees consider the LRD as an acquired right, even if their employment contract is suspended. This is not correct as the status of the LRD is not determined in applicable legislation. It should thus be analysed whether and when an employee will be able to claim the LRD in case of inactivity/suspension of his/her employment contract (illness, holiday, time-credit, etc.).

Only a limited number of joint committees have determined the terms governing the granting of LRD. The majority of the joint committees only provide that labour time reduction can be achieved by granting LRD, without any further specification.

Therefore, with regard to the entitlement to LRD the collective bargaining agreement concluded at sector level or, failing that, the rules determined at company level will apply. In case of a suspension of the employment contract, some collective bargaining agreements indicate which days of inactivity should be likened to working days to determine the entitlement to LRD and thus will result in the granting of LRD. This differs from sector to sector.

The collective bargaining agreement for joint committee 218 (joint committee 200 as of April 1st 2015) does not determine the periods that should be taken into account to determine the LRD. If the terms are determined at the level of the company (through collective bargaining agreement or works rules) these provisions should be respected.

If nothing is foreseen, the entitlement to LRD should, according to legal doctrine and case law, be determined based on the actually performed working hours. Therefore, days of inactivity should not be taken into account to determine the number of LRD, except if this is explicitly stipulated in a regulation or a convention. The employer remains free to include days of inactivity in the calculation of the number of LRD even in the absence of a regulation or convention to that effect.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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