international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Belgium – Labour Court of Appeal sheds light on the distinction between teleworking and homeworking

Although the concepts of homeworking (also called domestic work) and telework are often confused with each other, as they both entail the situation that the worker does not work from the office of the employer, there are important differences. In a judgment of 2 July 2019, the Brussels Labour Court of Appeal has denied the claim of an employee to the benefits of a domestic worker as she was actually a teleworker.

The Labour Court of Appeal repeats the provisions of Title VI of the Law of 3 July 1978 on domestic work, making it clear that, as mentioned in article 119.1, § 2, these provisions do not apply to the workers targeted by the collective bargaining agreement no. 105 on telework concluded in the National Labour Council: a teleworker cannot therefore claim the lump-sum allowance of 10% of the salary as reimbursement of costs as is provided for domestic workers.

In this case, after the closure of an office, the employee chose to work voluntarily from home, using the necessary information technology made available to her by the employer, instead of moving to another office of the company in a city nearby. After the employment contract ended, the employee demanded the payment of the lump-sum allowance of 10% for domestic workers.

The Labour Court of Appeal reiterated that telework may be carried out at the home of the teleworker or at any other place chosen by the teleworker. According to the Court, the essential difference between a domestic worker and a teleworker is that the latter makes use of the modern means of telecommunications that are necessary for him or her, and which is not the case for a domestic worker. Moreover, the person concerned was under the authority of the employer, who was able to follow her activity precisely by means of the computer tools made available to her, while domestic workers are normally not under the direct supervision of an employer. The Court also referred to the mandatory voluntary nature of the teleworking for the employee and employer concerned. As the employee opted to work from home, instead of moving to another office, while using the means made available to her by her employer, the telework was definitely of a voluntary nature. The Court therefore rejected the claim that she would be a domestic worker.