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 workday is eight hours, the standard workweek 38 hours.
Reduced working hours exist in a number of industry and trade sectors and are also applied to shift work, night work, etc. A reduction in working time is generally achieved by providing additional time off at the same salary, rather than by formally reducing working hours per day or per week.
The daily limit may be increased to 11 hours when a shift system is introduced, and even to 12 hours for continuous work.
The weekly limit of 38 hours (or less) may be averaged over a period of three months or sometimes over 12 months, taking into account detailed limits on the extent to which the regular limits may be exceeded. An annual average system always requires a collective bargaining agreement and is used when seasonal fluctuations determine the work volume. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), arts. 19; Law on the Reconciliation Between Employment and Quality of Life, 2001 (as amended), art. 2; An Act Respecting Work that is Feasible and Manageable, 2017, art. 33-39.
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.
Pregnant employees cannot work overtime. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), art. 29.
There is a general prohibition on night work, i.e., work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., but various exceptions exist to the 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 December 1, 2012, the amount of this bonus is €1,12 (€1,35 for workers aged 50 and over).
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.
This is an unpaid compensatory rest.
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;
- A half a day if the work on Sunday did not last more than four hours; the 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 and holidays 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).
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 Sundays and holidays are 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 the holiday worked. 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. Law of January 4, 1974, on Public Holidays (as amended), arts. 11, 14 (French); Labor Regulations Holidays (French); Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), art. 29.
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
For white-collar workers/employees, the employer is required to pay annual leave pay directly to the employees. They receive their normal remuneration for the time of holidays and a supplementary 1/12th of 92% of their gross salary of the month in which the annual leave starts. The payment of annual leave pay is made at the time of commencement of such leave. If the annual leave period is split, the payment is made at the time when the worker takes the main period of leave but not earlier than 02nd May of each year.
The employer can mandate when vacation is taken. Royal Decree Determining Method of Execution of the Laws Relating to the Annual Vacation of Employed Persons, 1967, No. 1967099001, arts. 35, 46, 64.
Minimum wages typically are set by collective bargaining agreements. If an employee’s work is not covered by a collective agreement containing a minimum wage provision, the legal monthly minimum wage is 1,622.48 euros for workers age 20 or older.
Lower minimum wages apply to younger workers.
Once a year, the Central Economic Council advises the government as to the appropriate wage adjustment for the upcoming year. Collective Bargaining Agreement No. 43, 2007; Act of March 30, 1994, Relating to Social Provisions.
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 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 childbirth maternity leave.
Pregnant women are entitled to two 30 minute rest periods per day with pay. After her child is born, a female employee is entitled to rest periods for as long as seven months after childbirth to breast feed her child. Women on maternity leave also are protected against dismissal during the period from the date the employer is notified of the pregnancy until the end of the month following the maternity leave. Labor Act, 1971, March 16 (as amended), arts. 39-42.
A father is entitled to take 10 days of paid paternity leave within four months after the birth of his child. 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.
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.
Employees are entitled to take paid educational leave of up to 120 hours per year for professional courses and up to 80 hours per year for general education courses. For employees who wish to take both professional and general education courses, educational leave is limited to a total of 120 hours per year. When an employee takes leave to attend professional education courses, social security reimburses the employer for 50 percent of the employee’s salary. With respect to general education courses, social security reimburses the employer for 100 percent of the employee’s salary subject to a cap.
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.
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.
A ‘white-collar 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.
Employees are entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid leave per year for compelling reasons relating to unforeseen events.
Employees who have the requisite seniority can take a sabbatical or work reduced hours.
Last updated on: November 21st, 2019