Hire in Belgium

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Last updated at June 14, 2022
beautiful scenery in the country of belgium

Currency

Euro (EUR)

Capital

Brussels

Time Zone

GMT+1

Key Country Facts

Introduction

Belgium is a North-Western European country with a population of approximately 11.5 million people. Its capital is Brussels, and the other significant cities include Antwerp and Ghent. It is a federal constitutional monarchy. It has a highly industrialized and global economy and its people generally enjoy a high standard of living.

Area

The country is divided into three autonomous areas; Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south and the central Brussels capital region. With an area of just over 30,000 km2 it has borders with the Netherlands to the North, Germany to the East, Luxembourg to the South East and France to the South West.

Climate

Belgium has a temperate maritime climate with moderately warm summers and damp, cool winters.

Culture

As Belgium is not a homogeneous country with one national identity it is quite difficult to identify a Belgian culture per se. Belgian society is egalitarian and family values play an important role. Belgium is world famous for both it’s chocolate production and renowned breweries.

Religion

The Belgian constitution provides for freedom of religion and Belgium is indeed largely secular. Just over 60% of the population express Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic) as their religion, 30% express no religion and approximately 7% express Islam as their faith.

Official Language

Belgium has three official languages; French, Dutch and German. Generally speaking, French is spoken in the southern Wallonia region and Dutch in the northern Flemish region whilst Brussels is officially bi-lingual.

Belgium HR at a Glance

Employment Law

Employment law in Belgium is derived mainly from the following sources:

  • The constitution and additional national acts enacted by Parliament

  • EU regulations and directives

  • Decrees of the regions

  • Collective Bargaining Agreements

  • Individual employment contracts

  • Work rules (arbeidsreglement / règlement de travail)

Employment Contract

Belgian law does not regulate the presence of any particular clauses in the employment contract. However, mandatory legal and regulatory conditions, together with the collective bargaining agreements restrictions are generally deemed to form an integral part of the employment contract.

Generally, written contacts are required to be in place before employment commences.

Language requirements in HR and employment relations are very strict. Depending on the place of business, employment contracts and all social documents should be drawn up in French or Dutch.

Contract Terms

In Belgium, the standard type of employment contract is the open-ended, or indefinite, employment contract and these are considered default. Fixed term contracts are permitted, but in all circumstances a written contract must be concluded before the commencement of the employment at the latest. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the fixed term automatically being deemed to be an indefinite contract. A fixed term contract is also deemed to exist if the employee continues working following the end of the fixed term contract in the absence of a valid extension.

As a general rule, if at the end of a fixed-term contract the parties immediately sign another fixed-term contract, without a break, an indefinite-term contract is considered to exist.

However, there are several exceptions to this ban on successive fixed-term contracts:

  • an employer and employee can sign a series of up to four contracts of at least three months’ duration each, without breaks, as long as the combined length of the contracts does not exceed three years

  • if the employer obtains authorization from the Labour Inspectorate, the employer and employee can sign a series of contracts of at least six months’ duration each, without breaks, as long as the combined length of the contracts does not exceed three years

  • successive fixed-term contracts may be signed without a break if the employer can justify this due to the nature and type of work concerned (eg seasonal work) or other legitimate reasons.

Both employer and employee can terminate a fixed-term contract summarily before its end date for a “serious reason”. In the absence of such a reason, the rules on early termination are that:

  • during the first half of the contract’s term, up to a maximum of six months, either side can terminate the contract with notice (the same notice as for an indefinite-term contract after the same length of service)

  • during the remainder of the contract’s term, if one party terminates the contract it must pay the other party compensation equal to the remuneration due to the employee up until the otherwise scheduled end of the contract.

Probation Period / Trial Period

Probationary, or trial, periods are not permitted in Belgium (other than for the first three days of a temporary agency work contract).

Working Hours

In principle, an employee’s working time should not exceed eight hours per day and 38 hours per week, but there is a range of exceptions from these limits. These include both permanent exceptions and one-off exceptions that are valid when particular circumstances occur that make additional work necessary.

Employees must generally be granted an uninterrupted daily rest period of at least 11 hours in each 24-hour period. Employees are also entitled to a weekly day off (usually on Sunday — see below), generally directly adjoining a daily rest period, giving a minimum weekly rest period of 35 hours. The general rule is that work on Sundays is prohibited, although certain industries and types of business are exempt from this ban.

There are also various long-term working time flexibility schemes that allow employees to work more than eight hours per day or 38 hours per week. However, in any circumstances, the maximum working time for any employee is 48 hours per week on average over a reference period.

Generally, these rules on normal and additional hours, working time flexibility, minimum hours, night work, rest breaks and rest periods (except the prohibition of Sunday work) do not apply to senior managers. Certain other groups are excluded (e.g. homeworkers) or have their own adapted rules (e.g. air crew and medical staff).

Overtime

As a rule, overtime is normally prohibited. In those cases where it is allowed employees are in most instances entitled to a pay supplement if they work more than a certain number of hours — generally nine hours on any day or 38 hours in any week. The supplement is 50% for such overtime worked on Monday to Saturday and 100% for overtime worked on Sundays or public holidays. It is payable in addition to the compensatory time off that must usually be granted for additional hours.

Rules relating to working hours and overtime pay do not apply to certain categories of workers, including; sales representatives, homeworkers and employees in a managerial role or a position of trust.

Bonus

There is no mandatory requirement relating to the payment of bonuses. A 13th month salary payment may be applicable depending on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that is in force.

It is quite common practice to award a bonus to employees when certain agreed qualitative and/or quantitative targets are met within an agreed reference period (month, quarter or year). The conditions of the award of the bonus and its calculation are usually determined in a written bonus plan. Employers may also provide for a collective bonus system for the benefit of their employees linked to a number of predetermined company objectives.

There must, however, be objectively measurable results that determine which benefits are granted. Anti-discrimination legislation must also be always complied with.

Termination

Termination by the employer

In principle an employer has the right to dismiss an employee at any time by giving the required notice or making a payment in lieu. However, the employer’s freedom to dismiss with notice is restricted in various ways:

  • a dismissal must not be discriminatory in nature

  • certain employees receive special protection from dismissal at certain times (see below)

  • employers can also dismiss employees without notice for a “serious reason”, known as Dismissal Without Notice.

An employer may be required to pay compensation if the employees’ dismissal was “manifestly unreasonable” or an “abuse of rights”.

Statement of reasons/manifestly unreasonable dismissal

Most dismissed employees, with at least six-month service, have the right to receive a written statement of the reasons for their dismissal from the employer. If the employer does not provide the reasons for dismissal voluntarily, the employee may request a statement in writing. The employer must respond within two months of receipt of the request, providing sufficient information to enable the employee to understand the reasons for the dismissal.

Employees may thereafter claim that the dismissal was “manifestly unreasonable”, that is:

  • the dismissal was for reasons that are unrelated to the conduct or aptitude of the employee, or not based on the operational needs of the company, establishment or department

  • a normal and reasonable employer would never have decided to dismiss the employee.

Abuse of rights

Based on the civil law concept of “abuse of rights”, a dismissed employee can claim that the employer has abused its right to dismiss by exercising this right in a way that manifestly exceeds the right by a “prudent and diligent” employer. The abuse may lie in the reasons for the termination or the circumstances of the dismissal.

Dismissal without notice

An employer may dismiss an employee immediately, without notice or payment in lieu, for a “serious reason” (dringende reden/motif grave). This involves misconduct that immediately and definitively makes any further working relationship impossible. Examples of the kind of misconduct include; violence or threats at work, being drunk at work, sexual harassment, theft from the employer, being absent from work without permission or justification, competing with the employer and divulging confidential information. The employer should notify the employee of the immediate termination within a period of three working days following the day the employer became aware of the evidence establishing such serious reason. Furthermore, at the latest, within a period of a further three working days following the dismissal notification, the employer must notify the employee of the reason.

Resignation

Employees may resign at any time by giving the employer the applicable notice period. They can also resign immediately, without notice in the event of a “serious reason”, i.e., conduct on the employer’s part that immediately and definitively makes any further working relationship impossible.

Termination by mutual agreement

The employer and employee may jointly agree to terminate the relationship at any time. No particular rules apply to this form of termination and the parties are free to agree whether or not the employee will receive a compensation payment.

Collective dismissals

A collective dismissal is the dismissal, for reasons not central to individual employee(s) concerned (i.e., not on grounds of misconduct, inaptitude etc.), over a 60-day period of at least:

  • 10 employees in companies with 21–99 employees

  • 10% of the employees in companies with 100–299 employees

  • 30 employees in companies with 300 or more employees.

A national collective agreement provides that if an employer envisages a collective dismissal it must provide employee representatives with all useful information and notify them in writing.

Certain employees are protected against dismissal, meaning that they may not be dismissed on some grounds (e.g., pregnant women may not be dismissed because of their pregnancy, employees who have filed a complaint for harassment) or cannot be dismissed unless for specific reasons provided by law (e.g., employee representatives in the Works Council)

Notice Period

Employment contracts are generally terminated by either party serving a notice period or by payment in lieu of such notice period. A combination of both is allowed. Following reform, notice periods are, for contracts entered into after January 2014, based entirely on seniority as follows:

Seniority Notice to be given by Employer Notice to be given by employee
0-3 months 1 week 1 week
< 4 months 3 weeks 2 weeks
< 5 months 4 weeks 2 weeks
< 6 months 5 weeks 2 weeks
6-9 months 6 weeks 3 weeks
9-12 months 7 weeks 3 weeks
12-15 months 8 weeks 4 weeks
15-18 months 9 weeks 4 weeks
18-21 months 10 weeks 5 weeks
21-24 months 11 weeks 5 weeks
As from 2 years 12 weeks 6 weeks
3 years 13 weeks 6 weeks
4 years 15 weeks 7 weeks
5 years 18 weeks 9 weeks
10 years 33 weeks 13 weeks
23 years 65 weeks 13 weeks

Severance Pay

Employees generally have no statutory entitlement to a severance payment on termination of employment, except in the case of certain collective dismissals

Post-Termination Restraints

Non-compete clauses:

Employment contracts may contain a contractual non-competition clause whereby, when the employee leaves his employer, they are prevented from carrying out similar activities, either on his/her own behalf or by entering into the employment of a competitor. A non-competition clause may be agreed upon if the annual gross remuneration of the employee exceeds a certain threshold. In order to be valid the standard non-competition clause must:

  • be in writing;

  • relate to similar activities;

  • be of a duration not exceeding 12 months following the termination of the contract;

  • be geographically limited to Belgian territory;

  • must provide for the payment of a lump sum indemnity equal to at least 50% of the worker’s regular gross salary over the same period of time.

In the case that the employer carries out its activities on an international market there may be the possibility to extend the geographic area beyond Belgium.

Non-solicitation clauses:

Belgian employment agreements may contain a non-solicitation clause. The non-solicitation clause is not regulated by any legislation. However, it must be ensured that this is not an abusive clause. This is the case if the benefit to the employer is considered to be disproportionate to the loss of opportunity for the employee. That is to say, in practice, former employees are allowed to approach employees of the former employer, as long as such actions cannot be judged as unfair competition (i.e., with the sole intent to harm the former employer).

Timesheets

In 2019, the European Court of Justice stated that companies must set up a system to record the working time of their employees. Thus, employers are obliged to implement an objective, reliable and accessible system that allows recording of the daily workday performed by each employee.

Trade Unions

In Belgium, trade unions are not established as a separate legal entity, but they are legal bodies recognized by law. They represent employees interests typically by negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements. The Belgian constitutions recognize the right of individual employees to choose whether or not to become a member of a trade union.

Tax and Social Security

Personal Income Tax

In Belgium, tax income tax rates are the same for residents and non-residents. However, residents of Belgium are taxable on their worldwide income, while non-residents are only taxable on Belgian-source income.

Taxable income (EUR)
From To Rate %
0 13,440 25
13,440 23,720 40
23,720 41,060 45
41,060 and above 50

Social Security

  EE Contribution (%) ER Contribution (%)
Old age, disability and survivors 7.50 8.86
Sickness & Maternity  
-Medical Benefits 3.55 3.80
-Cash Benefits & Disability Pensions 1.15 2.20
-Maternity Benefits 0.15
Work Injury 0.32
Occupational Disease 1.00
Family Allowances 7.00
Unemployment 0.87 1.60
TOTAL 13.07 24.93

Social security contributions are required from both employer and employee. The current rate for employee contributions is 13.07%, the current rate for employers contributions is approximately 25%.

*The above rates serve as a broad guideline. Actual rates charged will differ.

Employees

Salary Payment

In principle, the employer and employee are free to agree the amount of remuneration and how it is determined. However, this must be agreed within the confines of any applicable collective agreement which establishes minimum pay rates for that sector and must be observed. There is also a general private sector minimum wage set by a national collective agreement. All collective agreed minimum rates are generally indexed to inflation.

The general rule is that white-collar employees should be paid at regular intervals and at least once per month. The date of payment may be set by an applicable collective agreement or the employer’s work regulations. In absence of a collective agreement or work regulations, the payment date must be no more than four working days after the end of the relevant period of work. Remuneration in monetary form must generally be paid in euros by cheque or bank transfer.

Payslip

Each salary payment must be accompanied by a written payslip, showing how the remuneration is calculated. In some industries In some sectors the content of the payslip is determined by collective agreement, but generally the payslip must state at least:

  • the employer’s name and address

  • the employee’s name and payroll number

  • the pay period concerned

  • the employee’s working time during the period

  • the basic pay rate per unit

  • the amount of remuneration due, i.e. basic pay, plus elements such as pay supplements (e.g., for overtime or work on public holidays), bonuses and sick pay

  • the social security contributions deducted and the amount of remuneration not subject to such deductions

  • the amounts of remuneration subject to income tax and not subject to income tax

  • the income tax deducted

  • the net remuneration due, after tax and social security

  • any further deductions

  • the final net remuneration due.

Annual Leave

Employees are entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks in each calendar year, provided they have worked full time throughout the previous calendar year (the reference year). Collective Bargaining Agreements in many industries increase the entitlement to paid leave.

Employees who did not work throughout the reference year, or worked part-time, will generally have their leave entitlement reduced pro rata.

A holiday schedule may be set by an applicable collective agreement or by the company council. Otherwise, the employee and employer agree on annual leave dates. Employees are generally entitled to take at least two weeks’ uninterrupted leave between 1 May and 31 October. In general, any unused annual leave entitlement cannot be carried over to the following calendar year.

During annual leave, employees receive both “ordinary” and “double” holiday pay (vakantiegeld/ pécule de vacances). Double holiday pay is a supplementary amount of holiday pay. It is equal to 92% of the gross monthly salary of the employee. Employees who did not perform full-time services during the preceding calendar year will receive 1/12th of that amount per month of services performed (or considered equivalent) in the preceding calendar year.

The double holiday pay is paid out annually and this should happen in the month during which the employee concerned takes his main holidays. However, in practice, most employers pay out the double holiday pay in the month of May, as it is more practically convenient for an employer to make all the double holiday pay calculations – i.e., of the entire workforce – at the same time.

Sick Leave

Employees who are absent from work owing to illness or injury are entitled to sick leave paid by the employer. All white-collar employees with an indefinite-term contract or a fixed-term contract with a duration of at least three months are entitled to receive 100% of normal remuneration for the first 30 days of absence.

In order to be entitled to paid sick leave, the employee must inform the employer of the absence as soon as possible and — if stipulated by an applicable collective agreement or the company’s work regulations or required by the employer — supply a medical certificate.

Following the 30 days period of the employers obligation to pay, employees who continue to be absent are generally entitled to sickness benefit of 60% for the first year and invalidity benefit of up to 65% (depending on circumstances) as of the second year.

Compassionate & Bereavement Leave

Employees have the right to be absent from work without loss of salary on the occasion of:

  • certain family events (marriage, funeral, childbirth, adoption, holy communion, etc.)

  • for meeting civil duties (jury service, participation in the electoral process, etc.)

  • appearance before a court.

The reasons for and durations of such leave periods are provided for in legislation. More favorable provisions may be determined at an industry or company level.

Other regulations allow for a variety of types of leave to provide care, deal with family and personal matters, and perform public or other duties. Some examples are:

  • Imperative Reasons Leave – up to 10 days per calendar year to deal with unforeseeable non work-related events, e.g., illness or hospitalization of a member of the employees’ household.

  • Leave to care for seriously ill family or household member – provision for full time leave however smaller companies may limit to 6-month full time or 12 months part-time due to operational reasons.

  • Palliative Care – full time leave for 1 month (renewable twice) or part time leave with reduced hours.

  • Fostering Leave – up to 6 days per calendar year.

  • Educational Leave – rules vary depending on courses and between regions.

Although the above are unpaid, in many circumstances the employee may be entitled to certain state benefits.

In addition, certain employees, and only those with over 24 months service for their employer, have a right to take long periods of full-time or part-time unpaid leave under the terms of a “time-credit” scheme (tijdskrediet/crédit-temps).

Maternity & Parental Leave

Maternal Leave

Female employees are obliged to take maternity leave from one week before the expected date of birth until nine weeks after the birth. An additional five weeks may be taken before or after the birth. They are also entitled to take a further five weeks of “optional” leave, in principle before the birth. An additional two weeks are granted for multiple births.

In cases where the child must stay in hospital for more than seven days after birth, the employee is entitled to increase her postnatal leave by as long as the child remains in hospital, though by no more than 24 weeks.

During maternity leave, the employee’s contract is suspended, and she has no statutory entitlement to be paid by the employer. Employees receive social security maternity benefit during the leave (including any postnatal rest days) if they meet certain conditions in terms of prior social security coverage and employment history. The benefit is:

  • 82% of the employee’s normal earnings for the first 30 days of leave

  • 75% of normal earnings, up to a cap (€146.98 per day as of May 2020), for the remainder of the leave.

Partner/paternity leave

An employee who becomes a father is entitled to take 10 days of paternity leave. The employee can take one period of 10 days’ leave, or several shorter periods. The leave must be taken within the four-month period after the child is born. The employer must pay the employee their full salary for the first three days of leave. For the remaining seven days employees are generally entitled to receive a social security benefit (worth 82% of normal pay, up to a cap).

Parental leave

Working parents are entitled to four months’ parental leave if they have at least 12 months’ service with their employer (in total, during the previous 15 months). The entitlement is an individual and parents can take leave together or at different times. The leave must be taken before the child reaches the age of 12 (or 21 if the child has a disability).

An employee may take all the leave at once or use it in several periods of at least one month each (or, with the employer’s agreement, several shorter periods). Full-time employees also have the option of taking parental leave on a part-time basis over longer periods.

During parental leave, the employee’s contract is suspended, and they have no statutory entitlement to receive salary from the employer. However, employees are entitled to receive a benefit which is not earnings-related. Currently the basic rate during full-time leave stands at €851.59 per month as at May 2020.

Adoption leave

All adoptive parents are entitled to take adoption leave, that is to say if a child has two adoptive parents, each is entitled to the leave individually. The basic entitlement is six weeks’ leave per adoptive parent, increased by two weeks per parent if more than one child is adopted simultaneously. There is also an additional entitlement of two week’s leave per child, which may be either shared by both adoptive parents (where a couple adopts) or taken by one of them. Employees must take adoption leave (both basic and additional) in a single, uninterrupted period.

Public Holidays

Belgium has 10 nationally recognized public holidays each year. As a rule, employees are prohibited from working on public holidays and are entitled to a day off without loss of pay. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday or other non-working day, the paid day off must be granted on another day. The rules on public holiday working, their exceptions and on compensatory time off for working on public holidays, are similar to those that apply to Sunday work.

Benefits to the Employee in Belgium

Statutory Benefits

For all employees, the Belgian social security system provides for a legal social coverage based on the payment of social contributions on income from their employment. These social security contributions, together with government resources serve to finance the social security system.

Employers and employees make monthly contributions to the social security fund. This fund is then used to pay benefits such as:

  • sickness and disability allowances

  • unemployment benefits

  • incapacity allowances

  • insurance in the event of accidents at work and industrial disease

  • family allowances

  • old age and survivors’ pensions allowances

Other Benefits

The following benefits are often granted to Belgian employees:

  • collective bonus such as profit sharing

  • company car or company bicycle

  • computer, smartphone, Internet connection

  • commuter travel subsidy

  • meal vouchers

  • eco-vouchers (compulsory in some labour agreements)

Visas and Foreign Workers

General Information

As a member state of the European Economic Area (EEA), Belgium recognizes the free movement of European citizens who can work in Belgium without any limitation. Other foreign nationals generally require a permit to work in Belgium. This generally takes the form of a combined work and residence permit, known as the single permit (gecombineerde vergunning/permis unique). The normal procedure for obtaining a single permit is as follows.

  • An employer in Belgium that wishes to employ a specific non-EEA national should apply for a permit on the individual’s behalf to the public employment authorities in the region where the employer is located. Each region has its own rules for applications and supporting documentation – this will often include a binding employment contract.

  • The decision on whether to grant a single permit is taken jointly by the relevant regional authority and the Federal Immigration Office The regions are responsible for the labour market-related conditions of permit applications and each has their own approval criteria.

  • Once an application is approved, the Federal Immigration Office issues them with the single permit.

  • Single permits are issued for a fixed term, which depends on the circumstances but is usually from 1–3 years. They are generally renewable.

The application and issue of employment permits and work permits is free however there is a fee of up to EUR 385 for the Single Permit.

Time frame – Obtaining a Single permit can take a minimum of four months.

Non-EEA nationals who work in Belgium for less than 90 days are not covered by the above procedure and should instead obtain a short stay Schengen visa.

Additionally, special rules apply to highly-skilled and highly-paid non-EEA nationals who may be considered under the EU’s Blue Card system.

Getting a Tax Number

The Belgian National Register Number (NN) is a multi-purpose identification number which acts as a Belgian tax identification number, a national register number, and a social security number. The Belgian government issues the NN through the Federal Public Service department. For individuals it is a unique 11-digit number. All residents of Belgium require a National Register Number.

Generally, individuals will receive their NN automatically following registration at their local municipality (commune/gemeente) which is the body responsible for registering foreign residents and issuing identity cards and residence permits.

Public Holidays in 2022

S.No Occasion Date
1 New Year’s Day January 1st
2 Easter April 17th
3 Easter Monday April 18th
4 Labour Day May 1st
5 Ascension Day May 26th
6 Whit Sunday June 5th
7 Whit Monday June 6th
8 National Day July 21st
9 Assumption Day August 15th
10 All Saints’ Day November 1st
11 Armistice November 11st
12 Christmas Day December 25th

If the public holiday is on a Saturday or Sunday, if no other options was chosen by the employer, the public holiday is automatically replaced by the first usual day of activity following the holiday.

Federal Public Services are also closed on November 15 (King’s Day).

 

 

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