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Belgium – Temporary workers to enter the public sector

22 February 2012

Last month the National Labour Council (NLC), which represents unions and employers’ organisations in Belgium, agreed with the Belgian Parliament to review regulations for temporary employment and it has now been confirmed that the Government also plans to introduce temporary workers in the public sector to revamp the staffing industry.

This is likely to provide a very welcome boost to staffing agencies in the country as local newspapers report up to 33,000 temporary workers could soon be working in the public sector.

Hendrik Bogaert, the State Secretary for Civil Service & Modernisation of Public Services, has been a clear supporter of this while unions and the Minister for Employment, Monica De Coninck, “are on the brake” regarding this matter.

However, the European Agency Directive (AWD), which gives temporary workers more protection and aims to remove any barriers for temporary agency work, states that temporary agency workers should not be restricted from working in any sector unless it can be justified “on grounds of general interest relating in particular to the protection of temporary agency workers, the requirements of health and safety at work or the need to ensure that the labour market functions properly and abuses are prevented”. Although Belgium, like many other continental European countries, has not fully implemented the AWD yet, it is in the process of doing so and allowing temporary staff into the public sector is a major step towards achieving this.

The Belgian Federation of Employment Agencies, Federgon, confirmed to Staffing Industry Analyst that “the order was given to start to change the regulations concerning temporary work in the public sector. The new regulations, allowing temporary work in the public sector, should be final by 30 July 2012.”

The general manager at Federgon, Herwig Muyldermans, “is convinced that the introduction of temporary workers in the public sector will go gradually, step by step. Federgon believes that in 5 years, 1% of the public workforce will be temporary or 10,000 on a total of 1,000,000 public co-workers in Belgium,” the federation stated.

Federgon currently estimates that in 2010 a total of 520,000 people have been employed at least once as temporary workers in the country. It is mainly students aged between 21 and 25, as well as those aged between 31 to 45 years of age that make up almost two thirds of the temporary workforce. The value of the sector currently lies at €3.762 billion.

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