Making teleworking compulsory until the Christmas holidays is not an acceptable measure to curb the current rise in infections, stress several employers’ federations in a joint statement following the leaked GEMS advice.
In the statement, the Voka, Unizo, VBO and Boerenbond employers’ organisations recognise the need for measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and affirm their commitment to maintaining the social distancing rules, the wearing of masks and hand hygiene.
Employers even support making maximum use of telework provided that it does not jeopardise the normal operation of companies. To this end, they state that “there can be no question of a general telework obligation.”
Most companies are already broadly implementing the telework recommendation, said Hans Maertens, managing director of Voka, the Flemish network of companies.
“We do not see any point in a general teleworking obligation. Our companies are Covid-safe and must be able to continue working that way,” he said. “We are not going to give the economy an unnecessary blow.”
The employers argue that many companies and sectors have already paid a very high price in this respect over the last year and a half. This time, they urge the government to adopt a different approach and ask for a rapid roll-out of the booster vaccination.
Companies are ready to make this logistically possible, and vaccinations on the shop floor will be an essential element in getting everyone re-vaccinated as quickly as possible, they say.
“We ask everyone – including our companies – to be careful. But we oppose measures that would hamper entrepreneurship,” said Danny Van Assche, delegate director of UNIZO.
“We have shown that we are world leaders in vaccinations. Let us pick up that thread and quickly give everyone a booster vaccine,” he added.
Currently, telework regimes are already the norm in almost every company and are well followed by employees, but companies stress that it is important that they are and remain responsible for their own work organisation.
Unnecessary and unhelpful
An obligation to work from home on the part of the government would be an unnecessary and unhelpful measure, as it would (in)directly cause further economic damage to the companies and trigger expensive support measures in the long run.
“Together with its members, the Boerenbond is already taking a wide range of measures to combat the spread of the virus,” said the president of the association Sonja De Becker.
“Where possible we encourage teleworking, but we are of the opinion that mandatory teleworking would be unnecessary and even counterproductive for the time being,” she added.
Last week, the employers and the unions, united in the Group of Ten, unanimously adopted a position to strongly recommend – but not require – teleworking in the private sector.
“It is unacceptable that we should once again have to telework full-time because of a few people who do not want to be vaccinated,” said Pieter Timmermans, CEO of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (VBO).
“We must not punish those who have done their duty because a few evade it,” he said, adding that the authorities should keep making every effort to raise awareness about vaccination.