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Introduction of extra days of paid leave for older workers in the Belgian food industry

The previous government in power in Belgium changed the conditions for early retirement. Because of this, many workers close to retirement age are obligated to work longer than expected. The current government has decided to make the conditions even stricter and have increased the retirement age from 65 to 67 years. Hence, the social partners have decided to provide better conditions for workers with seniority. The objective is both preventive and a compensatory. In the recent negotiations, the social partners have renegotiated the conditions for extra days of leave.

Outcome and achievements

In the sector, all the social partners including Fevia for the employer’s side and ABVV-FGTB, ACLVB and ACV-CSC for the worker’s side, agreed in 2013 (and renewed their agreement in June 2015) upon extra leave for older workers, to make the extra years less strenuous.

  • Workers, who are 56 or 57 years old, get 3 additional days off.
  • Workers who are 58 or 59 years or older get 6 days off
  • Workers who are 60 or more will get 9 days off.

These extra days are paid leave.

Although there is no official data, in practice, workers do request these additional days off and express their satisfaction. However, additional measures would be welcomed. These measures should relate to health and safety risk prevention: the sectoral social partners agree to jointly focus their dialogue on quality of employment. To do so, they intend to identify challenges like working time and work organization and the high and low temperatures impact on health. They will draft recommendations on the basis of an “ergoscan” (ergonomic scanning) and they intend to set up a toolbox for the inclusion of workers with long term illness and serious health concerns.

Finally, the inter-professional social partners have signed a collective agreement (convention 104 of 27 June 2012) that invites company level employers to adopt action plans and a series of measures, in consultation with workers or their representatives, in order to improve older employees’ working environment including their redeployment within the company. However, the implementation of this agreement is difficult in practice and convention 104 does not foresee any sanctions.

Costs: extra days off are paid by employers.