Covid-19 numbers flaring back up in what is called a fourth wave, the discussion about (compulsory) teleworking was unfortunately one of the topics discussed by the Council of Ministers last Wednesday November 17th 2021.
Compulsory teleworking in both the private sector and public administrations, unless made impossible due to the nature of the job or because of the continuity of the business, was reintroduced.
One day of return per staff member per week is possible. From 13 December 2021, the number of return days will be increased to a maximum of two per staff member.
A monthly electronic register must be kept and made available through the social security portal.
Here is a refresher on what is meant by telework and which allowances the employer must / can grant in the framework of telework.
What is telework?
Telework is a form of work organisation in which, with the use of information technology, activities that could also be carried out at the company site are carried out outside the company.
Belgian labour law comprises two systems of telework: Structural telework and occasional telework.
Structural telework is regulated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) # 85. It concerns telework that is constant, regular and permanent. Regular telework is when it is agreed that your employee will work at home, for example, two days a week.
Occasional telework is regulated by the Act on Workable and Agile Work of March 5, 2017. It concerns exceptional telework. Employees can ask to telework occasionally for personal reasons (e.g. doctor’s visit) or in case of force majeure (e.g. train strike, snow alert), i.e. an unforeseen situation independent of their will.
Drawing up a written agreement is absolutely necessary and even mandatory for structural telework. For occasional telework, an annex to the employment contract is not mandatory.
Corona telework With the entry into force of the CBA # 149, a temporary regimen specifically for telework recommended or required by the government as a result of the Covid-19 crisis has been added to Belgian labour law. For the content of this new system, we refer to the contribution published by Emmanuel Wauters in our news section on 8 February 2021.
Which allowances should be granted to teleworkers?
In case of structural telework, the employer is obliged to provide, install and maintain the necessary equipment. He must also pay the costs of communication and connections related to the telework. If the teleworker uses his own equipment, the employer bears the costs of installing softwares for the operation and maintenance of the equipment and the costs of depreciation of the equipment.
If the employer organises occasional telework, he can agree with the employee to bear any costs caused by the telework. There is no mandatory intervention.
The CBA # 149 relating to the Corona telework prescribes that for each teleworker, arrangements must be made regarding (i) the provision by the employer of the equipment and technical support necessary for telework, for example, the provision of a portable computer; (ii) in case of the use of the teleworker’s own equipment, the reimbursement or payment by the employer of the costs of installing the relevant computer programmes and the costs of their use, operation, maintenance and depreciation; and (iii) the additional costs of connection.
Expense allowances paid for telework
In a recent circular, the tax authorities give a detailed description of the interventions of the employer in case of telework (its application surpasses pandemic related issues). The NSSO (National Social Security Office) and the tax authorities are now in agreement about the reimbursement of these expenses. The new rules entered into force on March 1st 2021.
An employer can grant, who structurally and regularly perform a substantial part of their working time from home, a fixed office allowance of maximum EUR 129,48 per month, to both part-time and full-time employees. For the second and third quarter of 2021, this amount was even temporarily increased to EUR 144,31. For the fourth quarter of 2021, no extension of the temporary increase has yet been announced.
This is a maximum amount. A smaller amount may therefore be granted. It is not compulsory to prorate the amount in the case of part-time work.
By ‘structural and regular’ performing a substantial part from home, the equivalent of one working day per week during normal working hours is meant, for both part-time and full-time employees.
In addition, an extra allowance can/must be given:
- of maximum EUR 20,00 per month for the professional use of a private internet connection and subscription; AND
- of maximum EUR 20,00 per month for the professional use of the private computer with equipment;
OR EUR 5 per month per item but maximum EUR 10 per month for all equipment together during maximum 3 years for the professional use of a second computer screen, printer and/or scanner without a private computer.
If an employer wants to grant a higher amount, he will have to proof that it is still an actual expense allowance covering genuine costs.
For further information