The National Labour Council recently announced CLA no. 149, a new legal framework for teleworking in Belgium. CLA no. 149 is set for a fixed term and is valid until 31 December 2021. If an employer in Belgium has not yet introduced a formal teleworking policy within their company, they must do so as quickly as possible.
Before the introduction of CLA no.149, telework was categorized as either structural and voluntary telework or occasional telework.
- Structural and voluntary is governed by CLA no. 85 and under this employer and the employee must agree upon an amendment to the existing employment contract.
- Occasional telework referred to work that was occasionally performed, such as when the employee is unable to come to work due to unforeseen circumstances, and so they teleworked. This type of telework does not require a formal framework and is governed by the Act concerning Agile and Workable Work.
CLA no. 149 creates a new type of telework, “corona telework”, and creates a separate legal framework for this type of work.
What does CLA no. 149 mean for organizations?
Here are the key elements that organizations need to understand.
Reimbursement of costs
An employer is obliged to reimburse the employee for all costs associated with connections and communications. Apart from these costs, the employer can also decide to reimburse the employee for other telework costs, for example, electricity and heating, small office supplies, printing material expenses.
There are several ways to reimburse an employee, such as granting a lump sum office indemnity. In the case of regular and structural telework, the employer can grant a lump sum indemnity of €129,48 per month without applying for a ruling.
Please note: the Belgian tax authorities stipulate as a condition for this indemnity that all employees, without distinction in function, must receive the same indemnity.
In addition to the maximum amount of € 129,48 per month, the employer can reimburse the following:
- € 20 per month if the employee uses their personal computer for professional purposes.
- € 20 per month if the employee uses their internet connection for professional purposes.
These payments are only made if the office and internet costs are not reimbursed to the employee in another way.
What employees are covered by the policy?
All employees who perform telework based on a government decision and did not have an existing telework policy before 1 January 2021, are included.
If an employee did have a telework policy before 1 January 2021 (for example, in the form of an annex to the employment contract in the framework of CLA no. 85), that policy continues to apply.
CLA no. 149 still allows employers to introduce a structural telework policy for an indefinite duration, for example, in the framework of CLA no. 85.
How does the employer introduce this policy?
There are several ways:
- A collective labor agreement on company level (if there is a trade union delegation in your company)
- A modification of the workers’ regulations
- Individual arrangements with employees
- Internal communications. The individual arrangements and telework policies have to be communicated explicitly, for example, via the company’s intranet, or email.
What should the policy include?
CLA no. 149 aims to create a framework for the corona telework. Employees need to be informed about the specific employment conditions complementary, or otherwise, that apply when they return or start work at the employer’s premises.
The employer and employee need also to ensure that they cover the following:
- the provision by the employer of the equipment necessary – for example, a laptop, as well as technical support
- who will pay the expenses related to the installation of relevant IT programs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and deprecation, if the employee uses their personal equipment
- additional connection costs, for example, an employee’s personal phone subscription.
Every employer and employee should, to the extent possible, make arrangements about:
- the working schedule, which typically will correspond to the current working schedule
- the process for following up on results and evaluation criteria
- the availability of the employee.
Furthermore, the employer should inform the employee about:
- the company rules concerning the protection of data as well as limitations and sanctions for the use of IT equipment and tools
- the methods used by the employer to monitor the results and/or the employee’s performance (if applicable). Any monitoring should be done in an appropriate, proportional manner and respecting GDPR rules
- company wellbeing policy and prevention guidelines, in particular about the outfitting of the workplace at home, adequate use of screens, and the available support in terms of technology and IT
- the names, contact data, and a description of the support offered by the employee’s direct supervisor, and occupational health officers.
Other obligations of the “corona telework” employment situation
Teleworkers have the same rights and obligations regarding employment conditions as those applicable when an employee works at the employer’s premises.
Teleworkers can organize their work timetable to align with the company’s working hours schedule.
Finally, CLA no. 149 recommends that every employer take appropriate measures to maintain the teleworker’s connection with their colleagues and the company to avoid isolation, paying particular attention to “vulnerable” employees.