The notion of workday in employment law - Saturday remains a workday after all

The new Book 1 of the New Civil Code enters into force on the 1st of January 2023. This new Book 1 has many new features, including the provision that Saturday is no longer considered a workday (Art. 1.7, §3 New Civil Code).

This reform could have far-reaching implications for employers because Saturday has been considered to be a workday under Belgian employment law ever since the Court of Cassation’s ruling of 27 February 1995.

Given the legal uncertainty that this new Book 1’s entry into force would create in employment law, the Federal Minister of Labour, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, sought the National Labour Council’s opinion on the notion of workday.

In its opinion, which was issued on 16 November 2022 (No 2.325), the National Labour Council noted that the current system, in which Saturday is considered a workday, has been integrated into practice. Moreover, it said the current system should be kept to ensure legal certainty and foreseeability in this area of the law. For these reasons, the social partners expressed that they prefer Saturday to continue being considered a workday after 31 December 2022, i.e., after the new Book 1 enters into force.

Since the National Labour Council's opinion does not amend Book 1 of the New Civil Code, which becomes effective on 1 January 2023, it requested the government to act promptly in this regard and to keep the social partners informed (and involved) in the procedures following this opinion.

On 30 November 2022, the majority parties followed the National Labour Council’s opinion and submitted a bill that would ensure that the new provision, i.e., Article 1.7 §3 New Civil Code, would not apply "to the provisions whose object is to govern the employment relationship, social security and social and labour assistance."

Pending the bill’s publication in the Belgian Official Gazette, it can be concluded that Saturdays — under Belgian employment law — will still have to be considered a workday after 31 December 2022.

 Stefanie Tack

 Geoffrey Vanden Bossche