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07th Jan 2022

New law allows workers to ignore boss outside of work hours in Belgium

Charlie Herbert

It is known as the ‘Right to Disconnect’

A proposed law in Belgium is set to ban bosses from contacting their employees outside of work hours unless in an emergency.

According to a memo seen by Belgian paper De Morgen, a ‘Right to Disconnect’ will be introduced for civil workers from February 1, and will state that workers can only be “contacted outside normal working hours in exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, and where action is required that cannot wait until the next working period”.

It adds that employees “should not be disadvantaged” if they do not respond to contact outside of work hours.

The law has been proposed by Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter

In a tweet, De Sutter wrote: “For federal officials, the right to be offline outside of work hours is now enshrined in law and will take effect from early February.

“This means that we get rid of the mentality that you always have to drop everything for work.”

However, unions are concerned that extending the law to all employees will be a challenge.

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President of the Belgian union FGTB-ABVV, Thierry Bodson, told VICE World News: “This decision taken for public sector workers is very important [and] opens up a real right to disconnect for 65,000 federal civil servants.

“This is a step forward, but it cannot be automatically applied to other workers in Belgium. For workers in the private sector, several laws will have to be amended to allow this right to disconnect. Our union wants to extend this rule or principle to the private sector, but the legislative path will be longer and much more complex.”