Teleworking is not compulsory but remains the norm in Brussels, a business organisation said after confusion emerged that work rules had been tightened further in Brussels than in the rest of the country.
Announcing that Brussels would adopt stricter restrictions to curb coronavirus infections, Regional Minister-President Rudi Vervoort appeared to say that telework would become mandatory throughout the capital region.
Following a request for clarification from business, Vervoort's spokesperson later said that there had been a communication slip-up and confirmed Brussels would align to the rules imposed at the federal level.
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"An unfortunate mistake crept into our communication on Saturday. Telework is not mandatory, we are adopting the measures of the Federal Consultative Committee in full," the spokesperson said.
"Telework should therefore become the norm for functions that allow it and where it does not impact the continuity of business operations, activities and services."
Business organisation Beci has also stressed that Brussels will remain in line with the federal rules, stressing that the goal of making telework the norm is to reduce the risk of a company being forced to shut down if a cluster emerges.
"Above all, officials want to avoid the risk of having someone sick coming to work and having to have all employees quarantine," Olivier Willocx, Beci CEO, told Bruzz.
Employers will nevertheless be subject to inspections and can face criminal and administrative fines of up to €4,000 if they are found in violation of telework rules.
Social service employees, who have been carrying out inspections since the summer on whether businesses were complying with social distance rule and other hygiene norms, will be tasked with verifying whether employers were respecting the new "teleworking standard."
Pierre-Yves Dermagne, the new federal work minister, has conceded that it will be tricky for social workers to determine which employers are in breach of the norms.
"If an inspector finds a lot of people in the workplace, the employer will undoubtedly have an explanation for it," Dermagne said, before conceding that the difficult part will be for them to reach a conclusion on which functions effectively lend themselves to telework.
The Brussels Times