8 February 2021

Covid telework: the new Collective Labour Agreement No. 149 of the National Labour Council

Since the outbreak of the Corona crisis, teleworking has become the norm. However, a legal framework was lacking. The National Labour Council has responded by concluding CLA no. 149 of 26 January 2021 (text available via the following link).

The Belgian law already provided for two types of telework: occasional telework (governed by the Workable and Agile Work Act) and structural telework (governed by CLA no. 85).

With CLA 149, a third – temporary – system comes into effect, which is applicable in case of compulsory or recommended telework as a result of the Corona crisis.

If your company has not yet developed a policy on structural or occasional telework, this CLA applies.

The principles:

  • CLA no. 149 is a supplementary CLA: the scheme only applies to companies that have not yet developed a telework scheme by the date of 1 January 2021 in accordance with the provisions of structural or occasional telework. For companies that have already developed a telework policy, nothing will change.
  • The starting point of the new collective agreement is that a teleworker has the same rights and obligations in terms of employment conditions as if he were working at the company site.
  • For each teleworker, an agreement must be made about the provision of the equipment needed to carry out the work and about the technical support provided by the employer. If the teleworker uses his own equipment, the employer will pay compensation for the costs of installing the computer software and for the costs of use, operation, maintenance, depreciation and additional connection.
  • The agreements can be laid down in a company CLA, the work regulations, an individual agreement, but also in a telework policy. The Collective Labour Agreement no. 149 provides that the agreements must be made in a flexible way and must be communicated explicitly, for example, via intranet, e-mail or a digital meeting. Thus, CLA no. 149 is less formalistic than CLA no. 85, which requires an annex to the employment contract.
  • Furthermore, the CLA no. 149 is also based on the principle that the teleworker organizes his own work within the framework of the working hours applicable in the company. If necessary, the hours can be adjusted, e.g. in a company collective agreement or in the work regulations. The teleworker’s workload and performance standards are identical to those applicable at the company site.
  • Agreements are also made with the teleworker about the times at which he must be available (or may be unavailable) during normal working hours. Account is taken of the fact that the work is carried out in a private environment and that there must be a balance between telework and private life.
  • The employer may only exercise control over the results and the execution of the work in an appropriate and proportionate manner. With respect for privacy. The employer informs the teleworker of the way in which they monitor.
  • Teleworkers are also informed of the specific prevention measures that the employer has taken in the context of telework: the possibility of adapting the workstation, the proper use of computer screens, etc. In fact, the employer must take appropriate measures to maintain the attachment of teleworkers to the company. A similar obligation was already provided for in CBA no. 85. What the current Collective Labour Agreement no. 149 adds is that the company must pay special attention to the “vulnerable teleworkers”, i.e. the employees who, due to their personal, family and/or housing situation, for example, have to deal with additional stresses during teleworking. In this way, the employer – who is not obliged to do so – can, among other things, plan well-organized and limited return moments, while respecting the sanitary regulations. We note here that a meeting in physical presence is not possible at present.
  • Finally, the employee representatives must be given the necessary facilities to communicate effectively with the teleworkers.
  • CLA no. 149 was concluded for a fixed term. It will cease to apply on 31 December 2021, but in practice will expire earlier if the corona measures are lifted before that date.

Which actions to take?

CLA 149 will apply to your company if, as an employer, you have not yet developed a policy concerning (structural or occasional) telework. On the basis of CLA 85, it remains possible to introduce a system of telework for an indefinite period.

In terms of well-being at work, the employer will have to comply with his obligations, in particular with regard to the (psychosocial) risks associated with teleworking during the corona crisis.

If you have any question with regard to this topic, do not hesitate to contact us.

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