As the legislative session slowly winds down to the May elections, the federal parliament this week passed a number of measures affecting the self-employed, prisons, small business owners and others. The self-employed will now be able to claim sickness benefit from the first day they are unable to work, on condition their illness lasts for at least seven days. At present the illness has to last for two weeks before the self-employed person becomes eligible, and until recently the period was one month, counting from the first day the diagnosis of unfitness to work is made by a doctor.
The national competition authority has been given more powers, to allow it to intervene when small and medium-sized businesses have unfair contract conditions imposed on them by larger business partners or clients. The measure is similar to the protection currently enjoyed by consumers facing unfair contract terms from sellers. The law foresees four conditions where it may apply: abuse of a position of economic dependency, unfair contract clauses, aggressive market practices and misleading market practices.
N-VA voted with its former coalition parties to form a majority in passing a law which will be the first step towards a minimum service obligation for prison officers. In the event of a strike, prison officers will be obliged to provide a skeleton service in prisons, where on previous occasions that role was taken over by police. The plan for such an eventuality will be worked out by negotiation with all parties in each prison.
Parliament also adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to enter talks with its German counterpart to bring an end to the payment of German pensions to Belgians who collaborated with the Nazi regime. The question concerns only about 20 surviving recipients. N-VA abstained, while Vlaams Belang voted against.
As we report elsewhere, parliament also voted to approve a lowering of the age at which children must legally attend school from six years to five. The measure comes into effect at the start of the new school year in September 2020.