Working time and the performance of overtime are matters which, traditionally, are strictly
regulated, albeit that throughout the last decades a trend has emerged to ease the strict
During the last five years, new initiatives, following that trend, were taken and in the context of the modernization of the employment law additional easing came into force as from 1 October 2013.
Since quite some time, the possibility exists to calculate the working time as an average over a fixed reference period, which, in principle, corresponds to a quarter. This reference period can be extended to a calendar year. This allows daily working time to fluctuate to a certain degree.
Up until now, the worker had to take compensation rest as soon as the total number of hours
effectively performed – in the course of the reference period – exceeds the number of working
hours, normally to be performed, by more than 65 hours.
That maximum number of excessive hours has now, since October first, 2013, been increased to 78 hours and to 91 hours if the reference period corresponds to a calendar year. Moreover it is allowed, in a first phase, to increase the limit of 91 hours to 130 hours. In principle, that limit of 130 must be laid down in a CLA entered into within the joint labour-management committee.
If the industrial relations partners have not concluded such a CLA on the first of April 2014, the companies, within which a union delegation is established, may provide for this increased limit of excessive hours by CLA at company level, provided the CLA is executed by all trade unions represented in the union delegation. The stipulations of this CLA are, as far as necessary, automatically incorporated in the work regulations. Thus, the procedure to amend the work regulations does not have to be complied with.
For companies without a union delegation, the excessive number of 130 hours can be introduced, either by CLA at company level – the stipulations thereof are also automatically being incorporated, to the extent necessary, in the work regulations –, or by amending the work regulations; in that case, the procedure for amending the work regulations is made more rigorous because of a possible intervention of the joint labour-management committee.
The limit of 130 hours can subsequently be increased up to one 143 hours by CLA entered into within the joint labour-management committee; the limit of 143 hours may be introduced by agreement at company level, as far as the sector CLA explicitly provides for that possibility and according to the procedures stipulated in the sector CLA.
For overtime, performed because of an abnormal increase of work or because of an unforeseen necessity, the employee can waive his right to compensation rest. The number of hours of overtime for which the employee can waive his right to compensation rest, was legally restricted to 65 hours per calendar year. This legal limit is being increased since October first, 2013 to 91 hours. Since 2005, the number of 65 hours could be increased up to 130 hours per calendar year, subject to compliance with special procedures. Since October first, 2013 the procedure, as defined above, shall apply. Furthermore, as from 1 October 2013, this limit of 130 hours can be increased up to 143 hours by a CLA entered into within the joint labour-management committee or by agreement at company level as far as the sector CLA explicitly provides for that possibility and according to the procedures stipulated in the sector CLA.