Last updated on: September 5th, 2023
The main source of employment law in Belgium is the Labor Act, which came into force in 1971(last amended in 2020). The Labor Code governs the terms and conditions of employment such as working hours, holidays and rest periods, wages, overtime, and employment relationships. Another important source of law is the Constitution of Belgium Public Holidays Act 1974, regulations on Annual Vacation, etc.
Hours & Pay Regulations
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
- 16 working days if they work a 4-day week system.
An employee is entitled to a maximum of 4 weeks of vacation per year. The vacation days to which an employee is entitled are 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.
Part-time employees are entitled to annual leave in proportion to their service performance. In concrete terms, this means that an employee who is employed on a part-time basis is entitled to 10 days of vacation, which can be taken at times when they usually work.
The holiday must be granted within 12 months following the end of the holiday service year. An uninterrupted holiday period of 1 week must in any case be granted.
An employee is entitled to vacation pay which consists of simple holiday pay (continued payment of the monthly salary during the vacation period) and double holiday pay (holiday bonus) which is a supplement on top of the monthly gross salary to cover extra holiday expenses. The double holiday pay corresponds to 92% of the monthly gross salary (for a complete holiday leave).
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 the 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 14-24 and 35-36.
Effective August 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Belgium is 1,842.3 euros 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.
An employee is entitled to take up to 30 days of sick leave at 100 percent pay. The employer pays the normal wage (guaranteed weekly wage) for the first 7 days. From the 8th day to the 14th day the employer pays 85.88% of the normal wage. From the 15th day, you are covered by the health and disability insurance; the health insurance fund will pay the employee 60% of the wages and the employee will also receive 25.88% of the wages from the employer.
If an employee returns to work and has a relapse within 14 days, the employee is not entitled to an additional period of sick leave benefits.
Medical Certificate – Employees are required to provide a medical certificate by the 4th day of their illness if they take sick leave for 2 or more working days. Employees are not required to produce a medical certificate for the first day of their incapacity to work. 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 15 weeks. If multiple births is expected, the maternity leave is in principle 17 weeks but can be extended to 19 weeks (see below).
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 employee 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 6 weeks of paid prenatal maternity leave immediately prior to the expected date of childbirth or 8 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 post child 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 post child maternity leave.
In the event of the mother’s death, the remaining part of the maternity leave can be converted into leave for the father or the co-mother.
Breast Feeding Break – Women employees who work for more than 4 hours are entitled to 30 minute 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 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.
Every employee, regardless of the working regime in which they are employed (full-time or part-time), has the right to be absent from work for 20 days following the birth of a child whose parentage has been established on the father’s side.
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 birth 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 their 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 adoption leave of maximum 6 weeks per adoptive parent is increased by 2 weeks for the parent concerned or for both parents together.
The individual credit can be extended by 2 weeks if several minor children are adopted at the same time.
The individual credit of six weeks can be doubled if the child is affected by a physical or mental incapacity of at least 66 pc. or has a condition that results in at least 4 points being awarded in pillar 1 of the medico-social scale within the meaning of the regulations regarding child benefits or that at least 9 points are awarded in the three pillars together of the medico-social scale scale within the meaning of the regulations on child benefits.
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 4 months at any time during the first 12 years after the birth or adoption of a child.
Every full-time employee can continue to work part-time for a period of 8 months (‘half-time parental leave’); the eight-month period can be split at the employee’s discretion. However, a duration of two months or a multiple of this must be taken into account for each application. There is also a right to parental leave in the case of adoption. 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 may be extended an additional month. Collective Agreement No. 45 of December 19, 1989, Time Credit – General Scheme.
Employee shall be entitled to 10 days in the case of the death of one of the following:
- spouse of the employee;
- cohabiting partner of the employee;
- child of the employee;
- child of the spouse or cohabitant partner;
- a foster child in the context of long-term foster care.
The 3 days will have to be taken between the day of the death and the day of the funeral, and the remaining seven days in the year following the day of the death. However, at the request of the employee and with the consent of the employer, it will be possible to depart from these two rules.
Death of a First-Degree Relative
Bereavement leave is extended to two days in the event of the death of one of the following living with the employee:
- sister or brother of the employee;
- brother-in-law or sister-in-law of the employee;
- grandparent of the employee;
- a grandchild of the employee;
- great-grandparent of the employee;
- a great-grandchild of the employee;
- son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or cohabiting partner of the employee.
These days must be taken between the day the individual dies and the day of the funeral. If the deceased did not live with the employee, the bereavement leave remains at one day, to be taken on the day of the funeral. In both cases, as for the timing of the leave days, parties can agree otherwise at the employee’s request.
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.
Every employee has the right to suspend work performance completely or to reduce their work performance in order to devote himself to the palliative care of a person suffering from an incurable disease. Palliative leave can be taken in one of the following ways:
- each employee (full-time or part-time) can suspend work performance completely for a period of maximum 1 month per patient. This period can be extended twice with 1 month;
- each full-time employee can reduce work performance by 1/5 or ½ during a maximum period of 1 month per patient. This period can be extended twice with 1 month.
Every employee who is a recognized informal carer of a person in need of care is entitled to a leave for informal care in the form of a complete suspension of the performance of their employment contract or a reduction in the work performance.
Leave for informal care can be taken in one of the following ways:
- every employee (full-time or part-time) can completely suspend the performance of their employment contract for a period of three months per person in need of care. The full interruption must be taken per month or a multiple thereof.
- each full-time employee can reduce their work performance by 1/5 or half over a period of six months per person in need of care. The reduction in work performance must be included per period of two months or a multiple thereof.
Each full-time employee can also combine both forms of admission on the understanding that the leave for informal care for the same person in need of care may not exceed the equivalent of three months of complete interruption.