Belgium’s labor laws are mainly sourced from the Constitution and a broad array of royal decrees and parliamentary acts including the Labour Act 1971, Public Holidays Act 1974, other regulations on Annual Vacation, etc.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The maximum weekly working time is 38 hours. This means –
- either an average weekly working hour that must be observed over a reference period by granting compensatory days of rest;
- or about effective working hours that must be observed every week.
Daily working time may be increased as follows:
- 9 hours if the worker does not work more than 5½ days a week (work schedule in which the worker, in addition to his weekly day of rest, has at least half a day’s rest);
- 10 hours if the workers are absent from home for more than 14 hours a day because of the distance between the workplace and their place of residence or stay.
The maximum number of working hours is 50 hours per week and 11 hours per day.
The duration of each work period may not be less than 3 hours, interrupted by short breaks, etc.
Internal limit of Working Hours
The internal working time limit is the maximum number of hours of exceeding the normal weekly working time limit that still has to be made up within the applicable reference period.
The internal limit of the working hours is 78 hours if the duration of the reference period, within which the normal weekly working hours must be observed on average, is less than one year. This internal limit is raised to 91 hours if the duration of the reference period, within which the normal weekly working hours must be observed on average, is one year. This increase to 91 hours only applies after the first 3 months of the reference period of a year.
The internal limit is 143 hours regardless of the duration of the reference period within which the normal weekly working hours must be observed on average. This limit of 143 hours can be increased (but not reduced) by a collective labor agreement. Labor Code, 10 August 2001, Art. 19.
Overtime can be allowed when the regular work requires either indispensable preparatory or finishing tasks, urgent loading and unloading of merchandise, work with material that deteriorates very quickly, exceptional and unforeseen increase in work, etc.
Overtime work is paid at a rate of time and one half. Overtime worked on Sundays and holidays are paid at double time. Employers cannot require employees to work more than 78 overtime hours in three months or 91 hours in one year.
A new form of overtime called voluntary overtime was introduced, which would allow employees to supplement their wages. An employee who performs voluntary overtime shall not be entitled to compensatory time off. The maximum limit of 11 hours per day and 50 hours per week cannot be exceeded.
The employee will be able to perform up to 100 voluntary overtime hours per calendar year that give rise to the payment of overtime pay, 50% for the hours worked in the week and 100% for the hours worked on Sundays and public holidays, but they will not give rise to compensatory rest.
100 overtime hours could be increased by a sectoral collective labor agreement declared universally binding by Royal Decree. However, the increase is limited to 360 hours per calendar year. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), art. 25ibis, 29.
Night work is considered as the hours worked between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is a general prohibition on night work but various exceptions exist to this general prohibition.
In principle, workers who engage in night work (between 8 pm and 6 am) are not entitled to a supplement to their wages/salary (bonus). Night work is paid in the same way as work carried out in the daytime. There are two exceptions to this principle:
- In particular sectors, the joint committees have concluded collective agreements which make provision for additional remuneration for night work;
- In the absence of collective agreements, it is additionally provided that specific compensation should be granted to workers employed under schemes which regularly involve work between midnight and 5 am. From 1 June 2017, EUR 1.16 (EUR 1.41 for employees of at least 50 years).
Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), art 35 – 38.
When the workday exceeds six hours, employees are entitled to a rest period of at least 15 minutes. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), arts. 38quater.
Daily Rest Period
An employee is entitled to at least 11 consecutive hours per period of 24 hours. This obligatory break must be combined, depending upon the situation, either with the Sunday rest (24 hours) or with the compensatory rest in case of work performed on Sunday, so that the employee has a total weekly break period of 35 consecutive hours.
However, an interruption with a duration of fewer than 11 hours or the non-combination of this interruption with Sunday rest is permitted in cases of successive shifts, continuous work, etc. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), art. 38ter.
When the workday exceeds six hours, employees are entitled to a rest period of at least 15 minutes.
Sunday is a mandatory day of rest. An employee who works on a Sunday is entitled to compensatory time, which is generally taken within six days after the Sunday worked.
The compensatory rest should not be deducted from the working hours. For example, the rest should not necessarily coincide with the employee’s normal working day: this rest may coincide with the day on which the company usually does not work (usually Saturday). However, the rest may not coincide with a public holiday, nor with a day of catch-up rest granted within the framework of the regulations on public holidays, nor with a day of rest granted due to exceeding the normal working time limits.
Employees who work in consecutive shifts may be employed on Sundays, provided that their work is interrupted once a week for a period of 24 consecutive hours, of which at least 18 are on Sundays.
The length of the period of compensatory rest is granted, as follows:
- a full day if the work on Sunday lasted for more than four hours;
- half a day if the work on Sunday did not last more than four hours; compensatory rest should be granted before or after 1 pm and on that day the worker may not work for more than five hours.
If work is done on Sunday, the worker is entitled to his normal remuneration unless they are entitled to receive overtime. Overtime worked on Sundays are paid at double time.
In particular sectors, provision may be made in collective agreements that work on Sunday also gives entitlement to a wage/salary supplement (bonus). Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), arts. 11 – 18.
Employees are entitled to the following 10 national holidays per year with pay:
- Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
- Easter Monday
- May 1: Labor Day
- July 21; Independence Day
- Aug. 15: Assumption of Our Lad
- Nov. 1: All Saints’ Day
- Nov. 11: Armistice Day
- Dec. 25: Christmas
An employee who is required to work on a holiday is entitled to compensatory time. Overtime worked on holidays is paid at double time. If employees work fewer than four hours on a holiday, they are entitled to a half-day of compensatory time, if more than four hours, a full day of compensatory time. Compensatory time must be taken within six weeks of holiday work.
When a public holiday falls on a weekend, employees are entitled to an additional day off, which is typically the first working day following the public holiday.
The catch-up rest must coincide with the employee’s normal day of activity. The catch-up rest may therefore not coincide with a normal day of inactivity or with a rest day granted if the normal working time limits are exceeded or in the context of a reduction in working time.
Pay during the Holiday
The employer must pay for the public holidays, the replacement days, and the recovery days.
- The wages for a public holiday or a replacement day are equal to the wages that the employee would normally have earned if he had actually worked that day.
- For the catch-up rest day, the employee is entitled to the normal wage that he would have received if he had actually worked that day (normal wage, premiums, and benefits).
Act Regarding Public Holidays Art. 4 – 11.
An employee’s entitlement to vacation is based on the amount of time worked in the preceding year. After one year of full employment, an employee is entitled to:
- 24 working days if they work 6 days per week; and
- 20 working days if they work 5 days a week
An employee is entitled to a maximum of 4 weeks of vacation per year. The vacation days to which an employee is entitled is in relation to the benefits for the year preceding the year in which an employee takes a vacation. This includes –
- the actual working days (the days when you worked);
- the days of inactivity (days when you did not work) that are related to actual working days.
An employee is entitled to vacation pay which consists of:
- The simple vacation pay: the normal salary which the employer pays for each day of vacation allocated;
- The double vacation fee holiday: a supplement to any effective month of work or assimilated during the holiday period. It corresponds to 1 / 12th of 92% of the gross salary for the month in which vacation is being taken.
If an employee is fully or partially remunerated on the basis of variable remuneration, this is taken into account for the calculation of the single pay and the double vacation pay. The simple vacation pay is calculated on the basis of the daily average of the 12 months preceding the vacation.
Vacation Pay upon Termination
An employer shall pay:
- for the vacation year during which the contract ends, the simple allowance for the balance of days of vacation to be taken and the double allowance if the employee has not yet received it;
- for the vacation year following the one during which the contract ends, the single and double vacation pay in advance.
Vacation Pay on Reduced Working Time
In December of the year in which an employee reduces his/her working time, the employer will pay single and double pay on the basis of wages for the past year. The employer will first deduct the single and double pay that an employee has already received.
In December of the year following the year in which an employee reduces his/her working time shall be paid by employer single and double pay on the basis of wages earned during the previous year. The employer shall first deduct the single and double pay that you have already received. Royal Order of 30 March 1967 Art.14,22, 23, 38.
Effective June 1, 2020, the minimum wage in Belgium is €1625.7 per month.
The minimum wage stated above is subject to change and may not be updated. Kindly access the link to get the current rates.
A whitecollar worker is entitled to take up to 30 days of sick leave at 100 percent pay. If a white or blue-collar worker returns to work and has a relapse within 14 days, the employee is not entitled to an additional period of sick leave benefits. Additional sick leave benefits are available, however, if the employee suffers a new illness or injury within 14 days of returning to work from a prior illness or injury. Article 54, § 2 of the Employment Contracts Act of 3 July 1978.
An employee who is about to give birth are entitled to maternity leave of fifteen weeks. If multiple births are expected, the maternity leave is in principle seventeen weeks but can be extended to nineteen weeks. Maternity leave is made up of two periods: the leave taken before childbirth (called prenatal leave or maternity leave) and the rest that, in principle, starts on the day of the birth (called postnatal leave or maternity leave).
Under no circumstances may the employee perform work activities in the period of seven days preceding the expected date of birth and in the nine weeks that in principle start on the day of the delivery. The other weeks can be taken either before or after delivery.
If the worker gives birth to a lifeless child, maternity leave is granted on the condition that the pregnancy has lasted at least 180 days from conception.
A female employee is entitled to six weeks of paid prenatal maternity leave immediately prior to the expected date of childbirth or eight weeks prior to that date if she is expecting more than one child. She must take maternity leave beginning no later than seven days before the due date; the remainder of the prenatal leave is optional. If she does not take the full amount of available prenatal leave, she may extend her postchild birth leave by the amount of unused prenatal leave. The employee is entitled to nine weeks of postnatal paid maternity leave plus any remaining prenatal maternity leave. The employee also may choose to stockpile two weeks of unused prenatal maternity leave and take that leave at any time during the first eight weeks after she returns to work. If childbirth requires hospitalization of more than seven days, maternity leave may be extended by the amount of time hospitalization exceeds seven days, up to a maximum of 24 weeks of postchild maternity leave.
Women employees who work for more than 4 hours are entitled to 30minute rest periods per day and who work for at least 7 and half hours are entitled to a 1-hour break. Such breaks are considered as working hours and are paid by social insurance. After her child is born, a female employee is entitled to rest periods for as long as 9 months after childbirth to breastfeed her child. Article 29, § 2 of the Employment Contracts Act of 3 July 1978.
From 1 January 2021, the number of days of maternity leave will be gradually increased to 20 days in 2023. The first three days of leave are paid by the employer; the remainder is paid by social security. A father may take the remainder of the mother’s postnatal leave to care for his newborn child if the mother is hospitalized or dies during maternity leave.
These days may be freely chosen by the employee within four months from the day of the delivery. They do not necessarily have to be admitted all at once but can be spread over a period of four months from the time of delivery, at the choice of the employee. The day of delivery is the first day of that four-month period.
In the case of twins or multiple births, the days of birth leave are only granted once. During the first three days of the maternity leave, the employee retains his full salary at the expense of his employer. To be entitled to this wage, the employee must notify the employer in advance of the delivery.
An employee who takes in a minor child in his family as part of a long-term placement is entitled to an individual credit of a maximum of 8 weeks of foster parent leave. This means that this credit of six weeks of foster parent leave cannot be transferred to the other foster parent.
The six-week individual credit can be doubled if the child is affected by a physical or mental incapacity of at least 66%. or has a condition that results in at least 4 points being awarded in pillar 1 of the medical-social scale within the meaning of the child benefit regulations or that at least 9 points are awarded in the three pillars of the medical-social scale within the meaning of the child benefit regulations. The individual credit can be extended by two weeks in the event of simultaneous reception of several minor children as a result of placement as part of long-term foster care.
The duration of the foster care leave is set at a maximum of 6 days per calendar year. During these days, the performance of the employment contract is suspended and the employee cannot claim wages at the expense of his employer. To compensate for this loss of wages, a benefit is provided for the employee who makes use of his right to foster care leave.
If the foster family consists of two employees, who are jointly appointed as foster parents, the 6 days of foster care leave should be divided between them. To this end, each of them must submit a declaration on their honor to his or her employer, stating exactly how the number of days of foster care leave will be divided among them each year.
An employee is entitled to 6 weeks of leave in case of adoption of a minor child. The leave shall be taken at the latest within 2 months of the registration of the child in the population register. An employee shall take such leave only in periods of one-week duration. The employer shall pay for the first 3 days of leave, and the remaining leaves shall be paid by the social security except for Sundays.
Any employee, male or female, is entitled to take parental leave of up to four months at any time during the first 12 years after the birth or adoption of a child. Article 30, § 2 of the Employment Contracts Act of 3 July 1978.
Employees are entitled to the time credit for educational purposes, provided:
- either recognized by one of the three Belgian Communities (French, Flemish, or German-speaking) or by the sector;
- totals at least 360 hours or 27 credits per year or 120 hours or 9 credits per academic term or per uninterrupted period of 3 months;
In addition, this time off can also be obtained if an employee wishes to follow an education provided in a center of basic education or training focused on obtaining a diploma or a certificate of secondary education, the limit of which is fixed at 300 hours per year or 100 hours per school term or per uninterrupted period of 3 months.
The time credit allowed for this period is 36 months maximum. The amount of this allowance is fixed. Employees are paid a monthly interruption allowance by Social security(ONEM). Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
Employees are entitled to take short periods of paid leave for family events such as marriages, funerals, and a child’s first communion, as well as for civic events such as jury duty, voting, and military enrollment. In addition, employees are entitled to paid leave of up to one day a month to attend to duties relating to local political office, such as membership in a provincial council. Although the employer must pay the employee’s salary during such leave, the political entity served by the employee is required to reimburse the employer for the expense. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
An employee is entitled to take family care leave to attend to any sick relative who lives with the employee. Similarly, an employee is generally allowed to take leave to care for a person with a terminal illness, who in this case need not be a family member. An employee who seeks family care leave must give the employer seven days’ advance notice; the leave may be deferred at the request of the employer but not refused. Family care leave is limited to an initial period of one month and maybe extended an additional month. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
If employees are over 50 and return to work after a period of complete unemployment or disability, then most often employees are not entitled to 4 weeks of paid leave, instead, they can take a senior vacation in addition to incomplete vacation entitlement. For senior vacation days, employees are paid by social security, senior vacation allowances equal to 65% of capped salary. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
Employees are entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid leave per year for compelling reasons relating to unforeseen events. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
Employees who have the requisite seniority can take a sabbatical or work reduced hours. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
An employee is entitled to time credit which allows to either completely or partially interrupt services for one of the below reasons –
- For the purpose of providing care to his/her child under the age of 8 – The minimum duration per request is 3 months.
- Per palliative care patient, – An employee can receive only a period of 1 month, extendable by 1 additional month.
- Caring for a seriously ill household or family member: Employees can obtain the time credit for this reason by period from a minimum of 1 month to a maximum of 3 months, per request.
- Caring for his/her disabled child under the age of 21: Employees can receive a minimum duration of 3 months per request.
- Caring for a seriously his/her minor child or minor child belonging to the household: You can obtain the time credit for this reason by period (s) from a minimum of 1 month to a maximum of 3 months, per request.
For “care” reasons, an employee can obtain a complete interruption or a partial interruption part-time or half-time for a maximum of 51 months. The amount of this allowance is fixed. Employees are paid a monthly interruption allowance by Social security(ONEM).
In addition, from the age of 55, an employee can also obtain an end-of-career time credit, in order to reduce benefits half-time or by 1/5 time, up to retirement. The end of career time credit must not be justified by a reason.
However, it requires at least 25 years of salaried professional past. During the end of career time credit, the ONEM can grant a monthly interruption allowance if an employee has reached the age of 60. As an exception, this allowance can be granted from age 55, if one of the derogatory conditions provided for by the regulations is met. (eg: an employee has at least 35 years of salaried professional experience, has carried out a heavy profession, etc.). The amount of this allowance is fixed.
Political leave gives private-sector employees the opportunity to be absent from work to exercise a political mandate. Any employee from the private sector can take political leave under the following conditions. Employees from the public sector and employees employed in educational institutions of the freely subsidized sector are not covered by this scheme. The maximum duration of political leave and the formalities to be complied with depending on the office or mandate held.
Last updated on: January 11th, 2021