BELGIUM: reform of the system of recognition of occupational diseases and work-related diseases

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“This reform is necessary because the rules are no longer appropriate for today’s society and today’s complaints, such as job burn-out for example. We should also place more emphasis on prevention,” according to Maggie de Block, Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health. 

The first stage is to carry out the merger of the Occupational Diseases Fund (FMP) with the Occupational Injuries Fund (FAT), initiated in June 2015. This merger will create a single public social security institution dedicated to occupational risks, and thus provide citizens with a stronger, more effective service, but also a single contact point.

The second stage is the establishment, at the end of April, of an independent multidisciplinary commission, the “Commission for reform of the occupational diseases of the 21st century”. This commission will be responsible for examining which reforms will help to ensure a better system for compensation, and especially prevention, of occupational risks. It will then formulate concrete proposals to achieve this. Moreover, a support committee formed of the social partners will be established, so that they may express their viewpoints.

Currently, the legislation relating to occupational diseases emphasizes individual compensation for damage, with far less emphasis on prevention. Moreover, it has changed little since 1963. And yet, the working world and society are changing constantly, leading to the emergence of new occupational risks. At the same time, a growing number of people are suffering from chronic diseases, which are not recognized as occupational diseases because their main cause is not the performance of a job, but they can be caused by multiple factors, private, societal and occupational. These diseases and complaints can be recognized as work-related diseases, which allows the authorities to develop risk prevention programmes, as is already the case with the programme for the back proposed by the Occupational Injuries Fund. Minister de Block is for the time being working for the recognition of burn-out as a work-related disease. 

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