Belgium may move to a four-day working week, and the government is discussing broader labor market reforms.
“The coronavirus crisis has radically changed the way we work,” said a spokesman for the Belgian Ministry of Economy and Labor. “The idea is to give employees more flexibility in organizing their work week.”
Increasing the flexibility of the work schedule can reduce the number of working days per week from five to four. In the Belgian proposal, the number of working hours will remain the same. To get an extra day off, employees will have to work about 9.5 hours a day, with full-time employment of 38 to 40 hours a week.
According to the spokesman, there is a growing consensus among the seven-party coalition government in Belgium on the proposal. As soon as the federal government accepts the proposal, a more detailed concept will be developed. “There should be clearer information on this proposal on Sunday or Monday,” the spokesman said.
The framework of the four-day working week will be established jointly with representatives of industry and trade unions. The plan could then become Belgian law, although the process could take at least six months.
In recent years, there has been a growing debate about reducing the number of working days per week. A large-scale study conducted in Iceland from 2015 to 2019, on the introduction of a shorter working week without reducing wages, showed that productivity has remained at the same level, and workers are less stressed and burned out.
In March 2021, the Spanish government agreed to begin testing the four-day working week.
The Belgian government told Euronews that it had “no intention” of making the four-day working week mandatory.