Belgium Becomes Latest Country To Let Workers Try Four-Day Work Week

Topline

Workers in Belgium will be able to request a four-day work week without losing salary, as the government overhauled labor practices Tuesday in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming the latest country to offer a shortened work week to reduce stress and burnout.

Key Facts

Belgium’s governing coalition agreed to pass a package of workplace reforms, including the option for employees to work longer hours during the work week to get a three-day weekend.

Employers can reject a worker’s request for the four-day work week—where they would work the same amount of hours as in a five-day work week—but they will be required to justify their reasoning in writing.

Belgium’s labor overhaul comes after Iceland’s four-day work week trial between 2015 and 2019, which was hailed as an “overwhelming success”— now 86% of the country’s workforce is working a shortened work week or are gaining the right to shorten their hours .

Other European countries, like Spain and Scotland, have also announced plans for workers to try four-day work weeks without any loss to compensation.

The government of Japan has also proposed a four-day work week last year to help combat burnout and overwork throughout the country.

Crucial Quote

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference the labor reforms are aiming to help create a more productive and dynamic economy. “If you compare our country with others, you’ll often see we’re far less dynamic. After two difficult years, the labor market has evolved,” he said. “With this agreement, we set a beacon for an economy that is more innovative, sustainable and digital.”

Surprising Fact

Last month, civil employees working for Belgium’s federal government were given the right to turn off work devices and ignore after-hours messages without receiving repercussions, Euronews reports. As part of Tuesday’s reform package, all Belgian workers, including employees in the private sector, will have the same right.

Key Background

The push for a four-day work week has spread worldwide. The 4 Day Week Global pilot program has enrolled 35 North American companies and more than 20 international companies and countries are testing a four-day work week, where about 2,000 workers will receive a paid day off weekly throughout the trial. The United Arab Emirates also announced it would adopt a four and a half day work week to match global markets in December. In the US, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to shorten the standard work week from 40 to 32 hours last summer. Takano cited pilot programs run by governments and businesses across the globe which showed a better work-life balance, less need to take sick days, heightened morale and lower childcare expenses.

Further Reading

The Four-Day Workweek Is Gaining Big Momentum, Signing Up 50 Organizations (Forbes)

Iceland Tried A Shortened Workweek And It Was An ‘Overwhelming Success’Forbes)

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