- Employment incentive
- Fostering mobility
- Territorial coordination
- Working time flexibility
The creation of an employer group is open to any natural person or legal entity, under public or private law, on condition that it meets certain criteria:
- it must involve at least two entities who have a business activity
- it cannot employ more than 50 employees (if this should be the case, additional approval by the ministry of labour and the National Labour Council is needed).
- The formal goal of the group can only be to provide employees to the members.
An employer group is a separate legal entity established by several companies. It hires workers and makes them available to the partner companies. Employees can be hired on a full-time or part-time contract, both permanent or temporary type.
According to the contract binding the members, workers are hired and shared by member companies. In times of reduced or increased need for labour, bilateral agreements are established among member companies regarding the use of the workers. The employer group can be a non-profit organisation or an 'economic interest group' with its sole objective being the sharing of workers. Members must be held jointly liable for its funding (while no capital is being paid into the constitution of the company).
Most of the employer groups are created to share specific qualifications during recurrent cycles. For that kind of employer group, the workers are employed for their relatively high-skilled and specific profile: infographics specialists, accountants, prevention advisors and similar. Other employer groups are created to share workers because of cyclic peaks in production. In that case, the workers may have a lower initial skill profile and are selected based on their robustness.
They are also entitled to an annual sliding scale reduction in social contributions. The group is administered by a board of directors appointed by the general meeting. Each company has an identical voting right and in general, decisions are taken by consensus.
- Regional funds
- National funds
Legal framework. Ministry of Labour.
The Walloon region is the only Belgian entity actively promoting the employer groups concept.
Public employment services
Federal PES gives authorisation to proceed to the creation of an employer group.
Chambers of commerce, recruitment agencies. Employers who are member of the employer group (co-funding).
Until now, only a few organisations are involved in a Belgian employer group, in June 2020 there were approximately 30-35. The majority of them is active in the Walloon region (25-30), around 5 are active in Flanders. The system is spread across many different sectors but is slightly more concentrated in the culture and media sector.
The following strengths apply to this scheme.
- it is often the only economically and organisationally viable solution;
- greater flexibility, allowing for volatility regarding company activity;
- it allows companies to restructure their organisation without having to lay off staff;
- a higher level of job security for workers, due to indefinite contracts;
- loyalty is built up among staff, which in turn provides a certain level of stability for the user company, as the loss of good quality work and knowledge is avoided;
- the closeness that comes about as part of an employer group often creates various types of collaboration among members that goes beyond the strict framework of sharing workers (examples include joint initiatives for external publicity and advertising, grouped purchases or the exchange of good practices);
- hourly cost of the worker is a net cost;
- the administrative burden is reduced for each company, as it is taken on as a collective responsibility;
- it is easy to replace a worker who is ill or absent;
- the employer group organises the training of workers based on the needs of the companies involved;
- the pool of workers formed in this way constitutes a potential reserve for more long-term recruitment;
- for the company, it can be less expensive to use a shared worker than hiring a consultant
- the employers group (not individual companies) can benefit national funds aimed at supporting the hiring of long-term unemployed
- avoiding high severance payments and long notice periods that normally have to be paid when dismissing permanent employees; in case of a decrease of work volume the user company can rely on the employer group to compensate the reduced working time of the shared employee;
- additional forms of flexibility to overcome business cycle variations but without the negative aspects of short-term temporary agency work;
- access to qualified staff is a key outcome and benefit for the companies concerned, especially SMEs;
- the sharing of an employee may enable the often very small SMEs to recruit a professional on a stable and long-term basis which they would not be able to attract on their own – for example, technical profiles, health and safety or prevention staff, quality controllers in the food industry, specific ICT expertise, accountancy and website development;
- hiring such professionals may give them access to new knowledge, innovations and techniques to which they would not have access otherwise – this can support their professionalisation;
- including a worker in the company on a more stable basis than in case of temporary agency work or a temporary contract, which is beneficial for the integration and the atmosphere among the staff.
- job creation/employment opportunities – the employer group enables companies to recruit additional staff that they might otherwise not have done;
- more employment security as compared to temporary agency work because the shared worker gets a permanent contract;
- integration into the labour market;
- although they work in several different companies, the workers involved have a single employer, which makes negotiation easier and increases transparency in terms of responsibility.
- the worker can develop skills more quickly because he/she is facing different challenges at each company.
Trade unions consider that an employer group is intrinsically better than other atypical job arrangements since it offers stability of employment, predictability of the postings, the creation of new jobs and an interesting mediating role of the employer group manager (source: Eurofound - New forms of employment: Developing the potential of strategic employee sharing).
In practice, the temporary transfer of workers remains reliant on the willingness of other participating companies to increase their use of shared workers. The process of creating an employer group requires at least three months (and often more), to find partners, to define the status of the pool and to secure agreement from the authorities. It may be the case that the remuneration of these workers differs from that of permanent staff. Finally, the scheme is only possible to the degree that the time the periods for which participating companies need certain workers are complementary.
- it could mean that they get assigned to tasks that 'nobody else wants to do';
- no upward mobility;
- few chances of interacting with peers (if function is very specialised in a small company the only expert could be the shared worker);
- the requirement of flexibility and adaptability might not suit long-term unemployed characteristics;
- high requirements concerning personal attitudes and skills – shared employees need to possess certain qualities and exhibit specific attitudes as compared to the more regular forms of employment, such as the ability to adapt to different working environments, colleagues and company practices, discretion, awareness of confidentiality issues, mobility and so on. employability based on more learning opportunities as compared to working in one company;
- risks of work intensification by combining different part-time jobs;
- question of sustainability in the longer term and for less fit people;
- risks of unequal treatment if working conditions or benefits differ from regular staff if the employer group resorts to a different sectorial committee and different collective agreements than the user companies.
For trade unions
Since they are not members of an employer group, trade unions cannot control the working conditions of the shared workers and the respect of law by the manager and/or the user companies, as is the case in temporary agency work (TAW), where a formal social consultation exists at all levels (company, sectorial, regional, cross-sectorial, etc.) (source: Eurofound - New forms of employment: Developing the potential of strategic employee sharing).