At a glance
- On 9 November 2023, new legislation on delivery activities was approved by the Belgian Parliament. This legislation is the act which contains various provisions in relation to the working conditions of deliverers of postal parcels (Act).
- The Act applies to all delivery activities of postal parcels.
- The Act sets out the number of hours that parcel deliverers can work, regulations about remuneration and, the requirement to monitor subcontractors.
The working conditions of people conducting delivery activities is commonly discussed in the Belgian Parliament. Litigation is currently pending on the question of whether Deliveroo drivers are workers or self-employed, and there is also a case pending where two managers of the Belgian subsidiary of PostNL have been temporary imprisoned.
On 9 November 2023, the new Act on delivery activities was approved by the Belgian Parliament.
The Act applies to all delivery activities of postal parcels (defined as all addressed packages with a weight of up to 31.5kg) in Belgium. An exception applies to companies who deliver its own goods through self-delivery (for example, a driver employed by a shop and only delivering the products sold by that shop). It is important to note that the Act also applies to delivery activities which are only partially performed in Belgium.
The Act does regulate on the matter of whether the people who are handling delivery activities are workers or self-employed. Therefore, it is still possible to use self-employed contractors for delivery activities, but the obligations under the Act apply regardless of the worker's status.
Regulating working hours
The basic rule under the new Act is that people handling delivery activities can work for a maximum of nine hours per day however, as it can be difficult to estimate in advance how long it will take to deliver a number of parcels due to external factors, the Act allows for deliverers to work for up to ten hours for two days a week. The number of hours per week spent on delivery activities should not exceed 56 hours and in a two-week period, this time should not exceed 90 hours. These thresholds don’t apply if the delivery activities are performed using a vehicle that needs a tachograph, as the rules on the maximum number of hours driving are then applicable.
To ensure these limits are respected, it’s now mandatory to use a time registration system for all delivery activities covered by the Act. A Royal Decree is expected to determine how the time registration system will work.
A second important change is that the Act introduces a minimum price that every company delivering parcels in Belgium should apply, which will also be determined by a Royal decree. It will depend on the minimum wage applicable to blue-collar workers of the joint committee for transport activities, the transportation method (e.g. by bicycle, by car, by van) and the cost insurance. This minimum price applies both if the delivery activities are performed by workers and by self-employed subcontractors.
A further change is that a contractor can be held liable if a subcontractor violates the legislation on postal services or the essential requirements in relation to conditions of employment. This presumption of liability can be reversed if a contractor can establish that they have not acted negligently in monitoring the work handled by the subcontractor.
The Act is unclear on how this should be construed. While the Parliamentary Works specify that it is not the intention that a contractor should monitor subcontractors every day, they also add that a contractor should be careful that monitoring subcontractors to check they respect all their legal obligations does not amount to exercising the employer’s authority on those subcontractors. This will require a careful balancing exercise. Contractors should ensure that they have sufficient monitoring procedures in place to combat subcontractor infringements, but they have to monitor it in such a way that they don’t exercise the employer’s authority on the people involved.