21 december 2011

Commission requests Belgium to end compulsory postponement of workers' annual leave

Press release of 24 november 2011 by the European Commission

The European Commission has requested Belgium to end rules which prevent some workers from taking any annual holidays for over a year.

Under Belgian law, all workers are entitled to the minimum holiday leave required under the Working Time Directive (four weeks in total for each year worked), however some workers can face very long delays (up to 12 months) before they can actually take even one day of their holidays.

For instance, a worker who starts a new job on 1 January 2011 and works throughout 2011 is entitled to four weeks' annual leave. However, certain of these workers are not entitled under national law to actually take a single day of that leave until the following calendar year (after 1 January 2012).

These restrictions under national law apply particularly when workers are in transition between different employment situations – for example, moving from unemployment into employment, from public sector to private sector employment, from college via voluntary service into a first job, or moving between fixed-term contracts. Under a special exception, school or college students who move into a first job within the calendar year of their graduation are exempt from this problem.

The Commission considers this situation contrary to EU working time rules, which expects that a worker can take minimum annual holiday entitlements within a reasonable period to ensure effective rest and recuperation.
Based on a number of complaints from EU citizens, the Commission’s request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. Belgium now has two months to inform the Commission of measures they have taken to bring their legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice.

Also see:
ECJ, C-350/06, 20 january 2009, Schultz-Hoff
ECJ, C-214/10, 22 november 2011, KHS

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