What are the rules regarding telework

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What is telework?

The definition of telework is 'work carried out at a distance from the work or client using information and communication technology'.

Legal Framework

In Belgium, the law distinguishes between 2 forms of telework:

  • Occasional teleworking
  • Structural teleworking

Both forms are obviously linked to legal consequences. We will discuss both of these below.

A national collective labour agreement on corona telework was concluded. The collective agreement came into force immediately and applies to all companies that did not have a telework policy or individual telework agreements by January 1, 2021.

Types of Teleworking

Occasional Teleworking

General

Occasional teleworking is often used in the context of situations of force majeure (an unforeseen strike on public transport or heavy snow), but can also be used for personal reasons (a doctor's visit that cannot take place outside working hours).

The employee must request occasional teleworking from the employer in advance and within a reasonable period. He must also state the exact reason for their request.

The employer and employee reach an agreement on how the occasional telework will be carried out. These agreements may concern the employee's accessibility, the compensation involved or the provision of equipment. It does not have to be a written agreement between the two parties, but the employer should adapt this in the work regulations or draw up a telework policy for this. The employer can refuse the employee's request, but he must, of course, give reasons for this.

Compensation for Occasional Teleworking

The costs that can be reimbursed in the context of occasional telework include:

  • Fixed costs accepted by the RSZ/ONSS (office costs with a maximum acceptable amount, use of own PC, use of internet connection)
    Reimbursement of expenses
    Please note that the tax authorities do not follow the amounts applied by the RSZ/ONSS. You can always request a tax ruling if you want to have legal certainty.
  • Actual costs (use of own telephone, purchase of screen, etc. -> proof must be provided)

Working Time in the Case of Occasional Teleworking

The employee follows the normal schedule applicable within the company as if they were present within the company with the necessary flexibility. The time they are not available for personal reasons will have to be made up.


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Structural Teleworking

General

All the rules concerning structural teleworking are contained in collective agreement No. 85. This form of teleworking provides for a regular and non-occasional event. It usually involves teleworking at fixed and regular times.

The conditions linked to this form of teleworking are strict.

It must be a written agreement between employer and employee that includes the following elements:

  • The frequency and possibly the days and hours when teleworking is applied or the days and hours of presence in the company.
  • The times or periods when the employee must be available and by what means.
  • The costs, if any, associated with the teleworking.
  • The time at which the employee can call for technical assistance.
  • The precise rules on returning to the company.
  • The place where the employee will carry out the telework.

The employee will be informed about the various working conditions (determining the work that needs to be carried out, their department of work , clarity about their supervisor or any other individuals to whom they can turn with questions or to whom they must report).

Providing information to the employee about the policy of health and safety and the explicit will to respect it. The internal prevention services have the possibility to check the telework place. Should this involve the employee's residence, they must, of course, give their consent to this.

The working conditions of the teleworker should be the same as for employees working on the company's premises (working hours, availability of the necessary equipment or possible reimbursement of expenses when using own equipment).

Compensation for Structural Teleworking

In the context of structural teleworking, there are two possibilities to reimburse the costs, namely through benefits in kind or an expense allowance.

  • Benefit in Kind

This is a benefit that the employer grants to their employee, such as a company car, a laptop or a mobile phone. The employer remains the owner of these goods, but the employee may use them to perform their work.

If the employee also uses the benefits for private purposes, this becomes a benefit in kind on which social security contributions and withholding tax are withheld. If, on the other hand, the benefit is used purely for professional purposes, no flat rate is calculated.

The flat rate by the RSZ/ONSS and FPS Finance can be found via this link Benefits in kind

These are flat rates for making a fixed or mobile PC, cell phone or tablet, internet connection and a fixed or mobile telephone subscription available.

The employee may pay their own contribution for the benefit. Of course, the flat rater must then be reduced by the personal contribution.

  • Expense Allowance

The employee who incurs certain costs in order to carry out structural telework can receive an allowance for this from the employer.

This reimbursement is exempt from social security contributions if three cumulative conditions are met:

  • The costs are incurred within the scope of employment.
  • The costs are real.
  • The expenses can be justified by the employer with supporting documents.

Reimbursement of expenses can be made in two ways:

Flat rate costs accepted by the RSZ/ONSS (office costs with maximum acceptable amount or an application of the 10% gross wage rule, but in that case the reimbursement is limited to that part that relates to telework).

Reimbursement of expenses

Please note that the tax authorities do not follow the amounts applied by the RSZ/ONSS. You can always request a tax ruling if you want to have legal certainty.

Actual costs (use of own telephone, purchase of screen, etc. -> proof must be provided)

It is extremely important that the costs are not paid twice.

Working Time in the Case of Structural Teleworking

In this context, the employee can organise their work freely. The employer may, however, require moments/periods of mandatory accessibility.

Insurance Against Accidents at Work

Employees work at a location other than the company, so it is important to report this to the insurer.

Should an accident occur during teleworking, it is assumed to be a work-related accident.

The rule applies to both forms of teleworking.

Conclusion

It is important that the imposed rules are applied and that prior agreements are made with the employees. Especially since teleworking is currently a mandatory measure imposed by the government. Be sure to inquire with the various public authorities. In certain cases, support from the government is provided if you want to implement a telework policy in your company.

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Heidi Vergauwe

Dedicated and meticulous Payroll & HR Advisor, always willing to go for the extra (s)mile!