Belgium could move to a four-day working week, as the government discusses broader reforms of the labor market.
“The corona crisis has radically changed the way we work,” a spokesperson for the Belgian economy and labor ministry told POLITICO. “The idea is to give a worker more flexibility to organize their working week.”
Greater flexibility in working hours could cut the number of working days per week, from five to four. In the Belgian proposal, the number of working hours would remain the same. To get the extra day off, employees would have to work about 9.5 hours per day, assuming a full-time workload of 38 to 40 hours per week.
A large-scale trial from 2015 to 2019 of a shorter working week in Iceland, with no reduction in pay, showed that productivity remained the same, and workers perceived less stress and burnout.
According to the spokesperson, consensus on the proposal is growing among Belgium’s seven-party coalition government. Once the federal government commits to the proposal, a more detailed concept will be drawn up. “More clarity should be provided on Sunday or Monday regarding the proposal,” the spokesperson said.
The framework for the four-day working week will be created together with representatives of industry and trade unions. After that, the plan could become Belgian law, though the process could take at least six months.
Discussions about reducing the number of working days per week have gained increasing momentum in recent years. A large-scale trial from 2015 to 2019 of a shorter working week in Iceland, with no reduction in pay, showed that productivity remained the same, and workers perceived less stress and burnout. In March 2021, the Spanish government agreed to launch a trial for a four-day working week.
The Belgian government told Euronews it had “no intention” of making the four-day working week mandatory.