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The 4-day working week, what do you need to know?

23 November 2022

Since November 20th, the new rules regarding the full-time 4-day working week are officially in force. From now on, many employees in the private sector have the opportunity to perform a full-time job in four working days per week instead of five. This measure from the latest labor deal of the Federal Government should ensure a better balance between work and private life. What does a 4-day work week mean? How do you request this? And what should you pay attention to? Find out all about it in this article.

What does a 4-day working week mean?

Studies have long shown that many employees are interested in a more concentrated working week in exchange for an extra day off. That is why the Federal Government has decided, since November 20th, to give every full-time employee the right to ask his employer to perform full-time work on 4 days a week. This is indeed a full-time employment. So you will not work less, but work differently. More specifically, you do not work 7 or 8 hours on those days, but 9.5 hours (in a 38-hour week) or 10 hours (in a 40-hour week).

There will also be the possibility to work more one week and less the next week. This should give divorced parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children.

It is important to know that the initiative lies with the employee. And so the 4-day working week is not something that employers can impose. Each request is for the next six months. After that, the 4-day working week must be requested again if you wish to extend it.

How do you request a 4-day working week?

As an employee, you have the right to submit an application. In other words, your employer is not obliged to approve your application. But if he refuses, he must explain why. A request must be made in writing and can be accepted for a maximum of six months, which can then be extended. At the end of each period, if the employee wishes to continue working in this way, he can again submit a written request to his employer.

  • Request granted

If the employer agrees to the request, the practical modalities such as when a working day starts and ends are set out in an agreement between employer and employee. This agreement must be put in writing, at the latest when the employee starts working in the new 4-day working arrangement. Subsequently, the employer must provide a copy of the agreement to the employee and must also keep the agreement for five years at the same place where the work regulations can be consulted.

  • Request rejected

An employer who refuses to grant the request must motivate this refusal in writing within one month and send it to the employee. The employee’s request may not give rise to unfavorable treatment on the part of the employer and may certainly not be a reason for dismissal or termination of the employment contract. Although the legislation currently unfortunately contains little or no information about what a valid reason for refusal can be, there are some logical reasons why an employer cannot comply with such a request. Just think of a small SME, shop, factory where physical presence is necessary for the company five days a week.

What should you pay attention to?

  • Those who switch to a 4-day working week continue to work full-time. In concrete terms, this means that they will continue to receive the same salary and therefore the same pension rights. There may be some changes in terms of extra fees. Reimbursements that are granted per day worked, for example meal vouchers and commuting allowance, can only be paid out four times instead of five times, which is the case with a 5-day full-time working week.
  • With a 4-day working week you are entitled to a minimum of 16 days’ leave, compared to a minimum of 20 days’ leave with a 5-day working week. The legislation currently says that those who work full-time are entitled to four weeks’ holiday in the work regime. Those who work five days a week are therefore entitled to twenty days of leave. In a four-day system you would then be entitled to 16 days of leave. Which corresponds to four weeks of vacation, so you keep your vacation rights.
  • In terms of public holidays, you are still entitled to ten public holidays per year with a 4-day working week. Suppose an employee with a 4-day working week does not work on Mondays and there is a public holiday on a Monday, then this employee will continue to be entitled to an alternative public holiday.
  • Voluntary overtime on your day off in a 4-day working week is prohibited. This would undermine the purpose of the measure to be able to offer a better balance between work and private life.
  • Not everyone will qualify for a 4-day working week. The measure applies almost exclusively to the private sector. The public sector is largely left out because they are not covered by working hours legislation in which the 4-day working week is registered. In the private sector, almost everyone is subject to this legislation, from the hospitality sector to IT to the metal and food sector.
  • A 4-day working week has nothing to do with a 4/5 employee! An employee with time credit is a part-time and not a full-time worker. In other words, a part-timer cannot apply for a 4-day working week.
  • Conversely, employees who work in the system of a 4-day working week can no longer claim 1/5 time credit, because there is the condition that the employee must be employed in a 5-day working week. It is not yet clear whether the legislation on time credit will be adapted to this.
  • Tip for employers: It is in the interest of the company to develop a policy and rules regarding the application of the 4-day working week. For example, if everyone wants to work from Monday to Thursday and not on Friday, this could potentially cause problems.


With the introduction of the right to apply for full-time employment in a 4-day working week, a great opportunity has been added to facilitate a good balance between work and private life. It is important to know that the initiative lies with the employee and that the employer has the right to accept or refuse this request.

As an employee, carefully weigh your pros and cons when switching to a 4-day working week. Working more hours in fewer days also means having less free time on the days you work. Make sure you know what you’re getting into!

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