Labour law: Better balance for both work and private life
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the government has safely manoeuvred our country through the pandemic and the energy and inflation crisis. Especially in times of crisis, the DP has proven that it leaves no one out in the rain. We have saved tens of thousands of jobs with decisive action and intelligent crisis measures. The DP will continue to stand for responsible economic and labour policies that create secure and well-paid jobs and prosperity instead of endangering them.
With three successfully concluded tripartite negotiations, the DP has strengthened the social dialogue as a tried and tested successful model in Luxembourg. We have preserved the index mechanism and, with the help of socially graduated direct aid and tax credits amounting to billions, we have strengthened people’s purchasing power, having already increased the minimum wage by 100 euros net before the pandemic.
The Democratic Party stands for a modern labour law that takes into account the needs of both workers and employers and also restores the necessary appreciation for self-employment.
The DP is committed to a high quality of life at all stages of life. This includes a better reconciliation of family and work. By creating flexible working time models, we want to give people more time for family and leisure.
The DP will safeguard state pensions, provide more support for private pension provision and make the voluntary transition from working life to retirement more flexible.
Our labour law offers workers a high level of protection. In some respects, however, it is outdated and not adapted to the demands of today and the wishes of many workers for more flexibility. Some labour law instruments have not fulfilled their desired purpose, lead to a high administrative burden, remained ineffective or are not in the interest of workers, such as the rigid and inflexible working time rules. The DP will review the entire labour law to ensure that it is goal-oriented and, if necessary, revise it. The DP also needs more flexibility in intra-company agreements between employers and workers.
Every individual’s life is different and goes through different phases in which people sometimes want to work more, sometimes less. The DP wants to take this individuality into account in the best possible way. In previous legislative periods, the DP has already enabled workers to have more time for family and hobbies by reforming parental leave, upgrading paternity leave and introducing an additional day of celebration and leave.
At the same time, we reject ill-conceived experiments that endanger jobs in Luxembourg. The study commissioned by the government on the opportunities and dangers of a general reduction in working hours has clearly shown that under the current circumstances there are more potential dangers from a reduction in working hours than proven opportunities for such a reduction. Especially in difficult economic times, it would be irresponsible to put jobs at risk like this. The DP will by no means close its mind to a discussion on modern working time models and is willing to support cbusinesses to try out working time reductions on a voluntary basis.
The DP will enable people to organise their work so that they can spend more time with their family. We continue to strive for a family-friendly flexibilisation of working time by dissolving the current rigid regulations and introducing an annual working time (e.g. 1,800 hours). At the same time, worker protection, for example in the form of maximum working hours per day and week, which will continue to apply, is to be guaranteed. Only in exceptional cases should longer working hours be allowed, with corresponding financial compensation, so that employers – such as craft enterprises – can better react to unforeseen circumstances.
The corresponding surcharges for Sunday and public holiday work will of course continue to apply. The digital availability of workers must also have clear limits for the DP. A more flexible regulation of working time should also allow businesses to adapt to a permanently changing economic environment and contribute to an increase in productivity. We will therefore seek a reform of the current European Working Time Directive.
In future, working hours should be negotiated individually between workers and employers without being unnecessarily restricted by inflexible labour law. We do not want to abolish the traditional 40-hour week, but we want to give more flexibility to people who are not interested in a 9 to 5 job. Workers and employers who do not want this can continue to rely on the existing regulation.
Young families in particular, who are in the ‘rush hour of life’, will be the big winners of our flexibilisation initiative. Many parents would like to arrange their working hours so that they can spend more time with their children. Employers will also benefit from this scheme, as they will be able to use their workforce more efficiently and exactly when they are needed most. The flexibilisation of working time that we seek is to be combined with the general introduction of working time accounts and the greater use of home office.
Working time accounts are a successful model in the public and various sectors. These time accounts allow employees to organise their working time and free time more flexibly. The DP will make this instrument available to every worker by law. Workers shall be able to transfer overtime and remaining leave to a personal working time account. The hours saved during busy periods can be used, for example, for family time, a longer holiday trip, sabbatical time or further training.
The exact modalities of the labour accounts are to be discussed with the social partners in order to achieve balanced decisions between workers and employers. In conjunction with the DP’s planned flexibilisation of working hours, the introduction of working time accounts will give the workers considerably more freedom to organise work and leisure time.
In the course of digitisation, working from home is increasingly becoming an alternative for many employees and businesses. Since the pandemic at the latest, teleworking has proven its advantages: Long journeys to the office are no longer necessary and workers who work from home have more time for their family and hobbies. Government has improved teleworking regulations in the public sector and concluded bilateral agreements with our neighbouring countries so that cross-border workers can also work from home several days a year without tax disadvantages. The DP will review with the social partners how telework can be further promoted within businesses.
In addition to traditional teleworking, i.e. working from home, we want to give workers additional flexibility in choosing where they work. This should make it possible to work temporarily from a different location than home. This can be done both within Luxembourg and temporarily abroad. To this end, we want to create a legal framework for remote working in order to provide employees and businesses with the necessary legal certainty. Employers are to be supported through subsidies.
Refer to the chapter on Tax policy
The advancing digitisation of the world of work can lead to a blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure time. This can create a culture of permanent accessibility, which has a negative impact on the well-being, health and work-life balance of workers. For these reasons, the DP will strengthen the right of non-availability. In cooperation with the social partners, we will work to ensure that this right is respected in all areas.
There are many special leave days that workers can apply for in the context of further training or sporting and cultural activities. The DP will review all existing special holidays for consistency and harmonise them where necessary. Workers should be able to apply for these earmarked special leaves in a centralised manner via their working time account, so that they have an overview of the days of leave still available at any time.
Re-skilling and up-skilling play a crucial role in helping people meet the demands of a changing working world of work. The DP will carefully examine the existing possibilities and offers and adapt them if necessary. In this context, the promotion of in-house continuing vocational training will also be analysed.
Refer to the chapter Digitisation and Media
Refer to chapter on Family policy
Refer to chapter on National planning
Buying behaviour has changed in recent years and people are increasingly turning to e-commerce offerings. This is available round-the-clock, accessible from home at the click of a mouse and can thus be easily integrated into everyday life. The goal is more flexibility and a pragmatism that accommodates businesses, employees and customers. The DP therefore advocates for a reform of Sunday working hours. This way e-commerce does not become an unbeatable competition to retail, but fits into the system in a complementary manner.
In addition to the liberalisation of opening hours (see chapter Economy), the DP will allow every worker to work up to eight hours on Sundays. Of course, the increased remuneration prescribed by law will be maintained. This step would particularly benefit employees who take longer trips to work, especially cross-border commuters. In addition, opening shops on Sundays means greater flexibility for customers.
Refer to the chapter on Tax policy
The loss of a child is a traumatic experience, this also applies to the loss of an unborn child. In order to give parents time to process the terrible experience of a miscarriage or stillbirth, the DP will extend special leave for parents in the event of the death of a child to the death of an unborn child.
Belgium and France introduced cheques a few years ago which private individuals can use for services (household help, gardening, childcare, etc.). In Belgium, these cheques are co-financed by the state. A private individual buys an hour of work from a service provider for a certain amount of money. The state finances the remaining costs of the working hour. In addition, the private individual can benefit from tax reductions.
The DP sees such a system first as a way of combating undeclared work in private households. Secondly, such service vouchers would also be beneficial in some areas of work, for example in the catering or event industry, where additional staff are spontaneously needed to help out for a very short period of time during labour-intensive periods. Where complicated social security reporting procedures currently complicate the work of businesses, these cheques promise to save a substantial amount of time.
With three successfully concluded tripartite negotiations, the DP has strengthened the social dialogue as a tried and tested successful model in Luxembourg. We have maintained the index mechanism even in times of crisis and strengthened people’s purchasing power through additional tax measures and direct aids.
To ensure that salaries are regularly adjusted to inflation in the future, DP will stick to the current index system. Only if the social partners agree on a reform, such as adjusting the basket of goods to neutralise products that are harmful to health and the climate, is the DP willing to make changes to the index system.
The DP sticks to the planned legal adjustment of the minimum wage. In addition, the impact of any minimum wage increase on the economy and the unemployment rate should be reviewed. In the last legislative period, the government increased the minimum wage by 100 euros net, without this increase being entirely at the expense of enterprises. The DP will continue to focus more on benefits and socially adjusted tax credits in favour of low-income earners, which should not be at the expense of the competitiveness of businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
The social dialogue is one of the great strengths of our country. In negotiations at national level as well as at company level and in the public sector, the social dialogue contributes to finding constructive solutions. The DP will continue the tradition of the social dialogue. The DP believes that decisions on work organisation should increasingly be taken at company level, as employers and workers know best the specific needs of their company. The DP will therefore strengthen staff delegations and promote negotiation possibilities at company level, and in return examine overly rigid rules of labour law.
The Corona crisis has shown us injustices faced by the self-employed compared to employees. The DP appreciates the work of freelancers and self-employed people and wants to eliminate inequalities in the treatment of workers and freelancers and thus motivate more young people to become self-employed. We will, for example, introduce the right to short-time work for the self-employed and abolish unequal treatment in relation to the accumulation of early retirement pension with earned income or claiming full unemployment.
At the moment, only workers who have been made redundant by their employer can apply for unemployment benefits. The DP believes that workers should not be punished if they no longer feel comfortable in their jobs and resign of their own free will. We will therefore make unemployment benefits accessible to these people as well. In order to prevent abuses, each worker may make use of this new right once in his or her career. In addition, the person’s unemployment benefit will be withdrawn if he or she does not make the necessary efforts to find a new job.
The physical and mental health of workers must be guaranteed at all times. Following the French model, the DP wants to introduce a national observatory on quality of life at work in order to promote well-being in the work environment. This includes not only good working conditions, but also consideration of employees’ private lives.
The DP will clearly define the qualifications of occupational health practitioners and allow them to work in independent medical practices. Medical practitioners working for the National Occupational Health Authority should be allowed to issue sanctions for offences – such as disregarding deadlines for medical recruitment examinations.
The DP will take measures to significantly reduce the workload of occupational health services in order to optimise occupational health care and reduce the shortage of occupational health practitioners.
The DP will take measures to optimise the administration’s monitoring of sick leave in order to prevent abuses.
It is far too common for occupational and medical control administrations to provide conflicting assessments of a worker’s ability to work. In such cases, insured persons often risk losing their jobs or sickness benefits through no fault of their own. The DP will therefore review the introduction of an obligatory joint assessment of an insured person’s ability to work by both, the occupational and the control physician.
Our pension reserves are currently still well-filled. Over the period 2013-2020, reserves have increased by 88%. To ensure secure pensions in the future, we will continuously analyse income and expenditure and, if necessary, make adjustments to safeguard the state pension system and intergenerational justice.
Refer to the chapter on Tax policy
The DP will overcome the legal hurdles standing in the way of the introduction of pension splitting and ensure that couples can benefit from pension splitting in the future. We will also review the introduction of compulsory insurance during career breaks to prevent old-age poverty, especially for widows and widowers.
The DP will help both employers and employees to find common solutions for working longer in old age, if the latter wish to do so. In Luxembourg, the regular old-age pension can be claimed from the age of 65. However, under various conditions, many of our fellow citizens receive an early retirement pension (Pension de vieillesse anticipée) at the age of 57 or 60. The current legal situation limits the supplementary earnings possibilities in the case of an early retirement pension, in most cases, to one third of the social minimum wage. If the income is above this limit, the pension is reduced or even withdrawn.
TheDP wants to give retirees the opportunity to continue working if they wish to do so and leave them free to earn as much as they want. This additional income should be subject to social contributions and taxes and lead to higher pension entitlements.
In addition to the desire of many retirees to remain active at an older age, working longer at an old age is an important measure for transferring knowledge to younger employees and helps to counteract the shortage of skilled workers.
The legal framework of conjoint aidant is outdated and needs to be reformed. Currently, the law stipulates that the partner of a self-employed person must be affiliated with the social security system as a conjoint aidant in order to be covered by social security. The concept of part-time does not yet exist for the conjoint aidant . The DP advocates that such inequalities be abolished and that the conjoint aidant can also contribute up to five times the minimum wage to the pension. In addition, we want to provide more flexibility by allowing the conjoint aidant to choose between different contribution variants. Depending on the income from the business or self-employment, the assisting spouse or partner could contribute e.g. double, triple or quadruple the minimum wage to the pension.
The DP condemns any kind of bullying or discrimination. We are committed to the anti-bullying law that was passed in the last legislative period. We will conduct an evaluation of the law after two years to analyse its impact and make any adjustments.
Our unemployment rate is a relatively low 4.9%. In order to consistently counteract both unemployment and the shortage of skilled workers, we will promote further training initiatives and financially support company participation.
Equally, the DP will increasingly analyse the needs on the labour market in order to identify skill shortages at an early stage and to be able to initiate appropriate measures quickly.
Refer to the chapter on Economic policy
In many cases, young professionals are trained in the private sector and then later move to the civil service, municipalities or semi-state organisations. This can lead to an imbalance, as the private sector may not get enough qualified young people, while the public sector benefits from trained professionals. The DP will ensure that there is a balance between the training of young professionals in the private sector and their recruitment by the state, municipalities and semi-state organisations. The DP believes that the public sector should train at least as many people as they take onboard from the private sector.
The DP will launch a training offensive for the hard-to-place unemployed. Within just one month of reporting unemployment, the ADEM must provide the unemployed person with a training plan. We also want to hold job seekers themselves accountable and demand their own initiative. We will also redefine the thresholds which are reasonable preventing job seekers from arbitrarily rejecting jobs offered to them. In the case of abusive behaviour, we want the financial penalties to be applied consistently.
Artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid pace and will influence all areas of our lives. This development entails risks but also opportunities for the working world. Monotonous and time-consuming work will no longer be part of people’s jobs in the future. They can use their time more productively, creatively and innovatively. The DP will keep an eye on the further development of artificial intelligence, introduce necessary regulations to protect people and actively accompany workers and employers to adapt to the new realities with a wide range of training opportunities.
The victims of social dumping, which also occurs in Luxembourg, are both the workers concerned and the Luxembourgish businesses. The DP will consistently fight social exploitation. Even in the case of minor violations of the applicable law, the penalties imposed by the ITM shall always be reasonable and in fair proportion to the offences committed.