4-day working week in Belgium, what do the political parties think? “We are going to increase the risks of burn-out”

The 4-day week is not popular

By Antonio Morettini


Encouraged by some, criticized by others, the 4-day work week is much talked about. While some countries have revolutionized their working rhythm by adopting it, and others, like France, dream of imposing it, the 4 days of work have not been very successful here.

“There is, first of all, an important distinction to make,” says Laura Couchard, legal expert at Acerta Consult. “We often talk about a 4-day week, but in reality, what was introduced for more flexibility is a week where full time is spread over 4 days.”

The concept, introduced into Belgian legislation by the Vivaldi coalition (PS, CD&V, Open VLD, MR, Vooruit, Ecolo and Groen) in 2022 as part of the employment deal, closely resembles the project led by Gabriel Attal in France . The aim here is to include the 38 hours of work, usually spread over 5 days, in the space of 4 days. “This does not reduce working time,” confirms Laura Couchard.

Mixed success

The benefits of this new distribution of working hours are, however, contested. “At Acerta, this is something we have been doing for quite a long time,” continues the legal expert. “We introduced it before it became law.”

However, as Laura Couchard points out, this “flexible” situation does not suit everyone, and its success remains mixed, since the measure does not target all workers: “It can become complicated for family management. How do we go about picking up the children? », she questions.

Less than one percent

On the employee side, it is therefore clear that this measure taken by the government does not convince everyone. Indeed, as a survey conducted by Acerta shows, nearly 60% of Belgians remain against this 4-day week. In August 2023, less than one percent of workers in the Belgian private sector (on permanent contracts) worked under the 4-day week regime.

While this flexibility may suit some, it is clear that a shorter 4-day week, with no reduction in hours, remains a major obstacle for many employees, who simply cannot afford it.

In order to resolve this, a solution does indeed exist: a “real” 4-day week, and therefore, reduced… “If the 4-day week goes in parallel with a reduction in working time, that would give more time free to workers,” believes Laura Couchard. “This would allow workers to slow down and engage in more meaningful activities.”

However, despite the benefits highlighted, this week also encounters several obstacles. “This project is also not a complete success, because this also includes a reduction in profitability,” concludes the expert. “As much as we want to slow down, we live in the world as it is, and we cannot change everything…”.

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