One in five businesses is still not doing everything possible to allow employees to work from home, according to the head civil servant at the federal employment ministry.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, and the first lockdown in March last year, one of the main measures take to prevent the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19 has been for people to work from home where at all possible.
Now, ten months later, 80% of companies are doing their best to allow teleworking for a maximum number of employees, according to Geert De Porter, head of the ministry’s management committee, speaking this morning on VRT radio.
De Poorter was asked about news that traffic volumes on the roads are beginning to increase. Is that not a sign of more people commuting to work?
“We have to consider that figure about congestion carefully,” he said. “During the first lockdown last year, 1.2 million people were temporarily unemployed. Today there are still about 380,000 people unemployed. That means that about 800,000 people are back at work and they cannot always work from home,” he explained.
Nevertheless, he described the figure of one in five companies still not doing everything possible to allow teleworking as “surprising”.
“Mandatory teleworking is one of the most efficient ways to reduce virus pressure,” he said. The main culprits, he explained, tend to be small to very small companies.
“They do not always have the means to be supervised by prevention advisers. In large companies there is also more social control. There you have, for example, trade unions and a works council.”
The ministry has inspectors on patrol every day to check whether companies are doing all they can to permit teleworking, down to lightning visits and spot checks. In the beginning, companies that had no plan for teleworking to present to inspectors were given a warning. Not any more.
If found in breach of the regulations, companies will now face a summons and legal follow-up. Those companies who have a plan established but are technically in breach on certain points may still receive a warning and a deadline to bring their affairs in order, he said.