Belgium's four-day teleworking obligation 'absolutely incomprehensible'

Belgium's four-day teleworking obligation 'absolutely incomprehensible'
Credit: Voka

The Consultative Committee's decision to make teleworking mandatory for four days a week (to be scaled down to three from 13 December) is "absolutely incomprehensible," according to employers' organisations.

An obligation to telework for most of the week will cause economic and, above all, mental damage, says Flemish network of companies Voka in a press release. On top of that, it will also cause an extra administrative burden.

"Companies are already organised in a Covid-proof way," said Hans Maertens, delegate director of Voka. "A combination of teleworking, limited staffing and hygiene rules such as distance, face masks and ventilation has led to almost no infections on the work floor."

"To now twist companies' arms with compulsory teleworking for four days is absolutely incomprehensible and shows a lack of trust," he added. "We regret the decision and ask that the administrative impact of the telework obligation be kept to a minimum."

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For Voka, the imposed obligation is "not substantiated," as the infection figures show that the coronavirus is hardly passed on in companies, partly thanks to the high vaccination rate in Flanders.

Companies have long been familiar with structural teleworking and are also taking numerous measures to keep the work floor Covid-proof. "Employers are responsible for the safety and health of their employees, a responsibility they do not take lightly."

They also stressed that the compulsory teleworking rule should only be in force for a short period, as prolonged compulsory telework "weighs on business operations, puts pressure on services and has a significant impact on the mental well-being of employees."

No witch hunts

The National Social Security Office (NSSO)'s tool that was used for this purpose last spring was "far too cumbersome" and its added value in combating the pandemic has never been demonstrated. The control of the telework obligation should not turn into a witch hunt against companies, warned Voka.

On Thursday morning on Radio 1, Flemish Economy and Work Minister Hilde Crevits said that she is committed to limiting the red tape as much as possible.

"Companies have some autonomy in that, as long as they are reasonable," she said. "But I do expect the attitude that they themselves demand, namely responsibility. See who can telework and make sure they work from home for four days in the coming weeks."

According to Voka, however, the only way out of "this misery" is vaccination and speeding up the roll-out of the booster shot.

"Since March, we have been advocating for people to be vaccinated at work. Employers have years of experience with administering flu vaccines," the organisation stated. "We do not understand at all that the outstretched hand of the business world to make this possible has been simply ignored for months now."

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