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Belgium gets rid of sick note for one-day absence

Sick notes will no longer be needed for one-day absences. Credit: Canva

The Federal Government has decided to abolish the need to submit a sick note when an employee is absent from work due to illness for just one day, as part of its ongoing budget discussions.

So far, individual companies could decide whether or not to ask for a sick note for a one-day absence. This measure will now be extended more generally although it will not apply to SMEs (businesses with 250 or fewer employees) as someone taking a day off can have major consequences for these businesses.

An electronic certificate will also be introduced, allowing doctors to inform health insurance companies about what someone who has been ill for a longer period can still do.

In the long run, it is hoped that this reform will be extended so the certificate can also be sent to the employer but the government has not yet approved this change, according to reports from De Standaard.

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Ahead of this reform being approved, employers spoke out against it, fearing that it would spark a “Monday morning sickness” trend and pointing out that people could use the mechanism to pretend to be sick in order to prolong the weekend a little bit.

“The majority of employees take their responsibility. The bosses do know that,” employers’ organisation Unizo told Belga News Agency last week. “But there is a minority who cuts corners.”

To prevent this from happening, the Government has put a cap on the number of times someone can be off sick without providing a sick note. Those who are absent for longer than one day or are ill for one day more than three times a year will still have to submit a note.

Once the reform has been implemented for a longer period, there may also be an evaluation of the measure to ensure it is not being abused in this way.

Agreement reached

This decision was made during discussions for the 2022 budget agreement, which are expected to be finalised by Tuesday afternoon ahead of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s State of the Union speech in Parliament at 2:30 PM, which will include the main focus points.

De Croo’s cabinet has since confirmed to The Brussels Times that an agreement has been reached on the budget.

So far, it has been decided that the budget deficit will be reduced next year to -3.1% of Belgium’s GDP, as opposed to the current -5.4%, which means a combined effort of €2.4 billion euros and an overall increase in the balance of €10 billion in 2022.

Reportedly also included in the labour market reforms is the allowance for companies to reduce the set working week from five days to four.

Last-minute issues came up between French-speaking majority parties PS and MR about regulations regarding night work in e-commerce.

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