Despite face masks no longer being mandatory in the workplace, one-third of all Belgian companies have indicated that they will continue to use them.
As of 1 October, there is no obligation to wear face masks at work in Flanders; however, the Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia will retain the measure. But even if it is lifted in all regions, 35% of all Belgian companies would continue to use them, according to a survey by HR service provider Liantis.
"We occasionally get questions from employers who would like to keep the face mask. We advise them to carry out a risk analysis that examines whether wearing masks can reduce those risks," said Sylvia Vanden Avenne, the company's head of medical surveillance.
She explained that employers should consider factors such as whether it is possible to maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres and should also ensure that the workspace is well ventilated to improve air quality.
"If this analysis shows a clear benefit to wearing face masks, then an employer has the legal right can decide that staff still wear masks," said Matthias Debruyckere, a legal expert at Liantis.
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"In that case, it is advisable to communicate well with employees and explain why this decision has been taken. After all, an employer has a duty to ensure that health is maintained in the workplace," he added.
Around one-fifth of all employers will only ask employees to wear face masks if they walk around a lot or during meetings, while 16% want to make wearing them mandatory at all times.
According to the study, which surveyed 1,504 employers across Belgium, the main reasons to keep the measure in place are to prevent employees from getting sick and the fear of a fourth wave.
It also found that many workplaces (around 80%) will maintain other measures, including disinfecting (61%) and ventilating the workspace (47%), even if this is not mandatory.
Only 10% of companies responded that they will continue working from home most of the time, while more than 90% want to organise physical (team) events again.