Draft labour market changes in Belgium will mean workers can opt to do a four-day week.
In practice, workers can ask to condense the work week into four days while maintaining a 38-hour working week, with an additional day off compensating for longer days.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the move would “make people and businesses stronger," after two difficult years.
Right to disconnect
Gig-economy workers are also to get stronger legal protections, and the right to disconnect after working hours will be enshrined in law.
The draft reform package agreed by federal government will grant workers the right to request a four-day week for a six-month trial period.
"This has to be done at the request of the employee, with the employer giving solid reasons for any refusal," Belgian labour minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne said.
Internationally, organisations are examining whether employees can operate at 100% productivity despite working for 20% less time and with no reduction in pay.
Similar Irish trial
In Ireland, 20 companies are taking part in a similar trial, which started last month.
For six months, workers will do 80% of their usual hours, but are expected to maintain the same levels of productivity.
Researchers will work with each participating company to measure the impact on productivity and wellbeing.
Lewis Silkin partner James Davies has written a report on how the pandemic has shifted focus to employee wellbeing.
The lawyer names ‘working less’ as one of his eight future-of-work predictions.
“As a result of evolving values, growing awareness of the health implications of a long-hours culture and increased flexibility … average working hours will continue to decline. Many more people will look to work only part of the week and during hours that fit with their family or other commitments,” he predicts.
Hybrid and remote working are now widespread, with 94% of Irish lawyers surveyed wishing to retain remote-working.