Employees who are sick during the days they originally took off for holidays will soon be able to recuperate those days and re-use them for actual holidays rather than lose them, which is the case under present regulations.
Currently, people who fall ill while on leave are out of luck, as under current regulations, they will lose those holidays. Economy and Employment Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne is working on a law to "rectify this unjust situation" from next year, his cabinet confirmed on Tuesday. This will result in those holidays being cancelled, allowing people to turn them into sick days.
"If, due to an illness, your holidays cannot be taken during your holiday year, those days can be carried over to the following year," Dermagne's spokesperson Laurent Teerlinck told The Brussels Times.
In practice, this means that if an employee took holidays from a Monday to a Friday but fell ill on Wednesday, becoming bedridden until the final day, the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will no longer count as days off, but will instead be regarded as sick days.
The holidays themselves can be recuperated at a later date, up to two years, if necessary.
Following EU request
The decision follows a request from the EU, which has repeatedly called on Belgium to bring its rules regarding annual and sick leave in line with European directives.
These directives are based on a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled in 2012 that a worker who becomes unfit for work during his or her paid annual leave should be entitled to a period of leave of the same duration as that of their sick leave at a later point in time, following a court case in Spain.
During this case, the Court's philosophy was that the purpose of the right to paid annual leave is to "enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure," while the purpose of the right to sick leave is to "enable the worker to recover from an illness."
Teerlinck noted that Dermagne has a proposal ready and the Council of Ministers has already "given its agreement." The opinion of the Council of State is currently being analysed, while the opinion of the data protection authority will follow.
"Then comes the parliamentary processing," Teerlinck explained. Once implemented — the target date for this new regulation to come into force is 1 January 2024 — it will apply to all employees (blue and white collar).