A bill has been adopted governing the introduction of 120 so-called ‘relance’ overtime hours. This flexible overtime regime was already in place between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2022 and has now been reinstated.
(i) General principles governing overtime in Belgium
As a general rule, working time legislation in Belgium prohibits employees to exceed the working time limits. Overtime is normally only permitted if statutory exceptions apply, for instance, force majeure or an exceptional increase in workload. Also, specific formalities may apply such as notification obligations vis-à-vis the labour inspectorate and the company’s trade union delegation (if any) or even a requirement for the employer to request prior authorisation.
Employees who perform overtime are as rule entitled to overtime pay and compensatory rest:
Overtime hours give right to overtime pay equal to 50% of the employees’ regular rate of pay, and to 100% of the regular rate if overtime hours are performed on a Sunday or on a bank holiday; and
Employees also benefit from compensatory rest, however, exceptions to this principle may apply. Generally, each hour of overtime gives right to an hour of compensatory rest
(ii) 120 ‘relance hours’
The draft bill provides employees in all industry sectors the opportunity to perform up to 120 additional ‘relance’ overtime hours (hereinafter ‘relance hours’) per calendar year.
In this respect, employees may work:
A maximum of 120 ‘relance hours’ between 1 July 2023 and 31 December 2023;
A maximum of 120 ‘relance hours’ between 1 January 2024 and 31 December 2024; and
A maximum of 120 ‘relance hours’ between 1 January 2025 and 30 June 2025.
The ‘relance hours’ are flexible compared to ‘regular’ overtime hours in the sense that:
They do not have to fall under one of the statutory exceptions for performing overtime (e.g. force majeure);
No formalities apply vis-à-vis the labour inspectorate or the company’s trade union delegation (if any). The only formality is a written agreement with the individual employees that is valid for a renewable term of 6 months;
They do not give right to overtime pay or compensatory rest;
They are not taken into account to calculate the thresholds regarding overtime in the applicable reference period; and
They are exempt from social contributions and employment tax withholdings, although the administration has confirmed that pending the publication of the bill employment taxes must nevertheless be withheld.
The ‘relance hours’ come on top of the existing regime of voluntary overtime set forth in Article 25bis of the Labour Act 1971. Moreover, employees are not required to use up the overtime hours under this regime (which – contrary to ‘relance hours’ - do give right to overtime pay) before being able to take up the 120 ‘relance hours’.
Note that it concerns a bill that has not been published in the Belgian State Gazette. Therefore, the bill has not entered into force yet. The Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue has however announced that it will apply the ‘relance hours’ effective 1 July 2023.
(iii) Take-away points
Effective 1 July 2023, employees may perform 120 ‘relance hours’ per year until mid-2025, without any overtime pay or compensatory rest being due. Also, the ‘relance hours’ are exempt from social security contributions and employment tax withholdings. Formalities are limited as a written agreement with the individual employees suffices. Such agreement is valid for a renewable period of 6 months.
Our Employment & Benefits team would be delighted to address any queries you may have in relation to working time matters such as the ‘relance hours’.