Initiatives to improve the well-being at work and training of workers in the Service Voucher sector in Belgium
Peter Van de Veire, Sectoral training fund for the service voucher sector (Form-TS)
- 1 Introduction to the Service Voucher sector in Belgium
- 2 Organisation and role of the sectoral training fund for the service voucher sector (Form-TS)
- 3 The Form-TS projects and campaigns
- 4 Different training courses organised or co-financed by Form-TS
- 5 Tools developed and made available to sectoral players by Form-TS
- 6 References
Introduction to the Service Voucher sector in Belgium
The Service Voucher scheme, introduced by the Law of 20 July 2001 aims to promote the development of local services and jobs, such as cleaning the home, ironing, shopping, etc. In practical terms, individuals may use Service Vouchers to pay an approved company for local services performed by a worker within the framework of an employment contract with this company. The Service Voucher scheme was originally an initiative of the federal government, launched in 2004. Since 1 July 2014, management of the Service Voucher scheme has become a regional competence.
The majority of Service Voucher workers (also termed personal and household services (PHS) workers at the EU level) are women who are poorly-qualified with a partner and children or from single-parent families of non-Belgian origin. A growing proportion of PHS workers are also aged over 50 years of age. This profile tends to demonstrate the integrating role of the Service Voucher scheme for the most vulnerable workers who are often remote from the labour market. At the European level, the sector accounted for 9.5 million jobs in the EU27 in 2019, including 6.3 million declared and 3.1 million undeclared workers. Moreover, 90% of these workers are women.
Organisation and role of the sectoral training fund for the service voucher sector (Form-TS)
Form-TS is the sectoral training fund for the service voucher sector. It is represented by all social partners in the sector: Federgon, Atout EI and Vlaams Platform Dienstencheques in terms of employer federations and the FGTB, the CSC and CGSLB in terms of trade unions. Its mission is to be the partner and expert in the service voucher sector thanks to its interaction and connections with the important players in the sector.
A study carried out in 2018 by Form-TS showed that the sector was facing many difficulties in terms of the occupational safety and health of PHS workers. To this end, several actions that could improve their well-being at work were identified and recommended, including to:
- Identify the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), material and products required in the sector
- Provide clients with more information about what is recommended, permitted and prohibited in the sector
- Provide PHS workers with more information about what is recommended, permitted and prohibited in the sector
- Increase coaching and training for PHS workers
- Increase the supervision and monitoring carried out by the Service Voucher company
A certain number of these recommendations were followed and have led to various actions to improve training and well-being at work in the sector.
Below we list all the projects, training and tools implemented by Form-TS in the sector in recent years.
The Form-TS projects and campaigns
In recent years, Form-TS has organised and launched various projects and campaigns with the aim in particular to further raise awareness among those in the sector about what is recommended, permitted and prohibited in the sector.
A job that says thank you!
As part of the calls for projects from the Federal Public Services Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, Form-TS receives a budget to develop initiatives aimed at young people (under 26 years old). All these initiatives are grouped under the “A job that says thank you!” concept, and consist of training, tools, a Facebook page and a website. In this way, Form-TS wants to highlight the importance of the PHS profession.
Since 2019, the Sustainability Fund has launched a major awareness-raising campaign every year aimed at service voucher users to increase respect for PHS workers. Different types of media are used to convey the awareness-raising campaign to clients. The theme of the 2021 campaign was “Safety” and it was aimed at ensuring the safety of PHS workers and offering 5-star working conditions. To this end, Form-TS has launched a website which contains advice on guaranteeing 5-star working conditions, with several articles and videos.
The Sustainability Fund
In April 2016, the social partners sitting on Joint Committee 322.01 on Service Voucher concluded a sectoral agreement in which they agreed on the establishment of a “Sustainability Fund”. This fund was established to generate a “leverage effect” on feasible and flexible work policies in the service voucher sector. The actions which are being implemented over several years target 4 groups: service voucher workers and their union representatives, supervisory staff, approved service voucher companies and their management and clients.
They are organised around the following themes: well-being at work, coaching by experienced colleagues, awareness-raising and training of authorised service voucher company members, and awarding of a sector-specific incentive bonus when taking certain themed time credits and leave. The Sustainability Fund also launched a campaign in 2021 focusing on the safety of PHS workers, from 3 different angles: the working environment, the equipment provided and health (see above).
Different training courses organised or co-financed by Form-TS
Form-TS also organises several training courses and provides grants for the training of external partners in order to improve the well-being at work of workers in the sector. Below, we detail some of these training courses for illustrative purposes. These training courses are essential in order to ensure, among other things, that workers have the appropriate ergonomic postures when working, they use products that respect their health as well as enabling them to manage their clients’ requests.
|Cleaning techniques||During this training, participants learn to:
|Organisation of cleaning||During this training, participants learn to:
|Cleaning products and floor types - Basic training||During this training, participants learn to:
|Ironing in the homes of private individuals||During this training, participants learn to:
|Being assertive or how to say things to your clients properly and dare to say NO!||A PHS worker requires not only technical skills but also communication, behavioural and social skills. These skills, which have become essential for the job, must now be integrated into training aimed at helping them to develop their professional know-how, to adapt their professional attitudes in an appropriate manner with regard to clients, colleagues and the company.|
Tools developed and made available to sectoral players by Form-TS
Finally, in recent years, Form-TS has developed and made available to those in the sector a whole range of different tools such as scenarios, videos, websites, etc. that help explain the PHS profession, identify the skills required, provide tips and tricks, etc. in order to improve the well-being of workers in the sector. These different tools are described below.
Soft skills sheets
FORM-TS has developed 10 sheets covering the personal and professional skills required for any PHS worker. Different topics are covered: adaptability, assertiveness, professional autonomy and financial management, empathy, time organisation and management, self-confidence, stress management, motivation, presentation and initiative. These sheets contain examples and useful tips and tricks for the workers.
Soft skills videos
Form-TS has developed 10 “punchy” videos that address behavioural skills related to the PHS profession such as assertiveness, listening skills, presentation, motivation and others.
“My Perfect Day” online training and information tool
“My Perfect Day” is an online training and information tool created at the initiative of Form-TS which allows you to learn about the PHS profession by immersing yourself in the day-to-day life of Cécile, a young woman who knows what she wants. The aim of the tool is to dispel misconceptions about the profession, present the real opportunities it represents for young people and teach the basics of the profession. To help them with this, participants have access to online training on the techniques and attitudes needed for the PHS profession. The video aims to inform future workers and motivate them to take up the job.
Linguistic Organisation Tool (L.O.T.)
The L.O.T. is a visual communication tool in the form of cards. These cards have been developed for companies in the service voucher sector and allow the PHS worker to better understand the household chores requested, thanks to the picture instructions. The objectives are to:
- Optimise communication through clear instructions.
- Increase satisfaction through better understanding of expectations by the worker.
- Promote the well-being of workers and their professional effectiveness, while enabling them to learn the language.
Address the topic of tobacco
Form-TS has material to help address the topic of tobacco in the workplace with the PHS worker and/or the client:
- A guide on “How to protect your workers from client passive smoking"
- Flyers to “Inform about the existence of a tobacco policy and get staff and clients to sign up”.
The sustainability scan is a measurement instrument available to service voucher companies. The aim of the scan is to determine where the service voucher organisation is positioned in terms of job sustainability, how the sector is positioned, how workers perceive sustainability in their job, and how to better organise itself as a service voucher company.
Non-discrimination sector guide
The service voucher sector is a sector where people are at the center of everything: people at the service of people. The sector offers a job opportunity to people from diverse backgrounds, serving customers who are also all different from each other. This diversity can involve some difficulties or even discrimination. The Form-TS guide does not claim to deal with the entire subject, but nevertheless makes it possible to better identify the risks, to better understand discriminatory requests and therefore to fight against discrimination in the sector.
The guides deal with the basic themes of the PHS profession. They can therefore be used as training material, as a reference and/or for targeted themed campaigns. The guides cover the following themes:
- Work organisation
- Communication & Attitude
- Knowledge and safe use of products
- Cleaning of floors
- Cleaning of sanitary facilities
- Interior cleaning
- Ergonomic cleaning
- Laundry and ironing in the client’s home
For example, the “Ergonomic Cleaning” guide explains how to work ergonomically as a PHS worker and how to maintain physical and mental health.
The guide covers the following:
- Cleaning ergonomically using correct postures
- Good basic posture
- Mopping (e.g. wringing out a mop)
- Lifting and picking things up (e.g. lifting a bucket)
- Laundry (e.g. lifting a laundry basket)
- Dusting (e.g. vacuuming under beds)
- For more information, see the following web pages: Walloon region: https://titres-services.wallonie.be/; Brussels region: https://www.titre-service.brussels/ and Flemish region: https://dienstencheques.vlaanderen.be/.
- More information about the “Personal and household services” available at https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1427&langId=en
- C189 European Alliance, 2021, Step up efforts towards decent work for domestic workers in the EU: 10th Anniversary of ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) C189_ALLIANCE_REPORT_EN_01.pdf (efsi-europe.eu)
- Form TS | Form TS (form-ts.be)
- See discussion paper: Well-being at work in the Service Voucher sector in Belgium