What about Belgium?
According to the European agency Eurofound for the improvement of living and working conditions, the “right to disconnect” refers to a worker’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails or other messages, during non-working hours.
To date, there is no existing or proposed EU legislation that directly addresses that right. On 21 January 2021, members of the European Parliament have called the EU Commission to propose such a regulation, including to ensure that workers who invoke their right to disconnect are protected from victimisation and other negative repercussions and that there are mechanisms in place to deal with complaints or breaches of the right to disconnect.
In the meantime, what is the current situation in Belgium?
Pursuant to Articles 15 to 17 of the Belgian Act of 26 March 2018 regarding the strengthening of economic growth and social cohesion, in order to ensure the respect of workers’ resting times, annual vacations and other vacations and to protect a work-life balance, employers from the private sector are required to organize a consultation with their Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work (CPPW) (which is an internal body for the prevention of accidents and protection at work which is established as soon as a business employs 50 or more people) at “regular intervals” (without specific timeframes though) and whenever the employee representatives within the CPPW request it, about the “disconnection from work” and the use of digital means of communication. The CCPW may formulate proposals and issue opinions to the employer on the basis of this consultation.
If the employer concurs, any arrangements resulting from such consultation with the CPPW can be confirmed in the company’s work rules or in a collective bargaining agreement.
In other words, unlike France, Belgium does not grant employees a general “right to disconnect” (yet) but rather a right to address and discuss the issue, without any obligation for the employer to enter into such arrangements. That being said, one could, however, claim that any unreasonable refusal by an employer indirectly violates the general well-being-at-work legislation.
NB: In the absence of a CPPW, its functions will be performed by the trade union delegation or, otherwise, by the employees themselves.
The European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2021 with recommendations to the Commission on the right to disconnect is available here:
The above Belgian Act of 26 March 2018 is available here: