Belgium ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of employee satisfaction and workplace happiness. International employers recruiting in Belgium can thus be sure to contract a productive and happy employee who is likely to be very loyal to the company.
Furthermore, the country’s workforce was declared third-most talented in the world by the IMD World Competitiveness Center in 2017. Especially when it comes to English skills, the Kingdom of Belgium repeatedly scored high in past years.
Although Belgian employment law does not mandate indefinite employment contracts to be in writing – a written form is only legally required for fixed-term, part-time and several other types of contracts – it is best practice in Belgium to always put a written employment contract in place which spells out the basic terms of employment, including:
- Identification of both parties
- Date of commencement (and employment duration for temporary contracts)
- Job description, duties and responsibilities
- Base salary as well as other compensation or benefits
- Working hours
- Annual leave
- Notice periods for employment termination
- Training and non-competition clause
The language of the employment contract is to be chosen in accordance with the company’s place of business. Companies based in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium should thus provide their new employees with an employment contract in Dutch. Likewise, companies based in the French and German parts of Belgium have to observe the respective language regulations in place.
Ever since the Unified Employment Status Act entered into force, probation periods are no longer allowed – except for students, temporary workers and temporary agency workers.
Working Hours and Breaks
As a standard, employees in Belgium work eight hours a day and 38 hours per week. In exceptional cases, standard working hours may be longer but should in no case exceed eleven hours within one single working day or 50 hours per week – however, this requires special authorisation.
Sunday is generally considered to be a rest day and employees usually get at least one additional rest day per week. Daily rest periods must not be shorter than eleven hours. During shifts which exceed six hours, employees are to be given a break of at least 15 minutes.
Where authorised by law, overtime work must be remunerated at a minimum rate of 150% of normal wages. Employers must respect the statutory limits on working hours and rest breaks at all times.
Employees in Belgium usually get paid once a month.
Minimum wages in Belgium depend on qualifications and job level and vary from region to region. As an example: While highly skilled employees have to be paid at least EUR 42,869 per year in the Brussels and Walloon region, minimum annual remuneration for the same type of work is only EUR 42,696 in the Flemish region (as of 2020).
Sick pay is to be provided to employees upon presentation of a medical certificate. For white-collar employees, employers are obligated to provide full pay during the first month of sickness-related absence from work. For blue-collar workers, sick pay entitlements decrease progressively as follows:
- up to seven days: 100% of normal wages
- from the eighth to the fourteenth day: 85.88% of normal wages
- from the fifteenth to the thirtieth day: 25.88% of normal wages up to the threshold set by the disability health insurance and 85.88% of the amount exceeding the set ceiling
After one month, the employee starts to receive sickness benefits from his or her health insurance fund amounting to 60% of his or her usual earnings.
It is common practice for employers in Belgium to award their employees with performance-based bonuses.
Taxes and Social Security Contribution
Employees and employers in Belgium are subject to the following tax and social security contribution rates (as of 2021):
25% corporate tax rate
21% VAT (standard rate)
individual income tax rates:
25% (up to EUR 13,540), 40% (up to EUR 23,900), 45% (up to EUR 41,360), 50% (over EUR 41,360)
around 25% of employee’s salary
for white-collar employees: 13.07% of employee’s gross salary
for blue-collar employees: 13.07% on 1.08 times the employee’s gross salary
Employees in Belgium have the right to four weeks of paid annual leave. Depending on their type of work, they may even be entitled to additional paid days off under collective agreements.
In addition, employees receive a vacation bonus amounting to the equivalent of what they would normally earn during three weeks and three days of work. During their first year, employees receive an adequate proportion of their annual leave entitlement.
Not included in the employee’s annual leave entitlements are the country’s public holidays. Belgium typically observes ten public holidays – without counting Easter Sunday and Whit Sunday – on which work is generally prohibited.
Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave
Female employees can claim up to 15 weeks of maternity leave during which they receive maternity benefits from the health insurance fund. These benefits amount to 82% of their normal salary during the first 30 days and 75% of their normal salary for the remaining maternity leave period.
Fathers can claim up to ten days of paternity leave in the first four months following their child’s birth. During the first three days of paternity leave, the employee receives his full salary paid by the employer. For the remaining days, paternity leave allowance is paid by the employee’s health insurance fund at a rate of 82% of the usual wage.
Adoption leave is to be granted to adoptive parents. However, its length depends on the child’s age and is limited to a maximum of six weeks for children under the age of three.
In addition to maternity and paternity leave, both mother and father have the right to take further paid parental leave until the child turns twelve. However, this leave is limited to four months. There are various options concerning the distribution of the leave period.
Additional Leave and Benefits
In addition, employees can claim paid time off under the following circumstances:
- important family events
- civil obligations
- court appearances
- unpaid leave for any other “compelling” reason that requires the employee’s immediate attention and action – limited to ten days per year
Furthermore, Belgian employees enjoy a range of options concerning career breaks with special statutory benefits being available under certain conditions.
In addition to employment termination by default – i.e. in case of a fixed-term contract – resignation and mutual agreement, employment in Belgium may be terminated due to one of the following reasons (non-exhaustive list):
- collective dismissal, redundancy or other business-related reasons
- summary dismissal due to gross misconduct
- underperformance and incapability
When terminating an indefinite employment relationship, employees and employers alike have to give prior notice to the other party. The length of the notice period depends on the employee’s seniority and is calculated as follows (according to the new rules introduced 2014 and 2018):
|Length of Service
||Notice Period for Employers
||Notice Period for Employees
|during the 1st year
||2 – 7 weeks
||1 – 3 weeks
|during the 2nd year
||8 – 11 weeks
||4 – 5 weeks
|during the 3rd year
|during the 4th year
|during the 5th year
|during the 6th year
For any additional year, notice periods for employers increase by three weeks up to 19 years of service.
Payment in lieu of notice is possible and severance pay is only required in those cases where notice periods are not observed – thus equaling the amount of money the employee would have earned if the notice period had been respected – but may also be made after prior notice has been given.
Hiring in Belgium?
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