Employment Contracts

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A successful business largely depends on its employees. By creating working contracts that include the right terms and benefits there will be no misconception and the perfect work-life balance can be created. At Bradford Jacobs, this is our aim, and we support companies in over 100 countries with creating compliant and balanced labor contracts. Our team keeps track of the Belgian laws and regulations on a daily basis to be duly aware of updates that can be implemented in working contracts. By using our PEO and EOR services, we can provide compliant labor contracts for employees in Belgium, including local benefits. To support your plans, we made this guide including the basics of employment contracts in Belgium. After reading this guide you will know everything about social security, notice periods, and the average working hours.

How do you hire Belgium Employees?

International companies hiring employees for their expansion into Belgium face wide-ranging tax, employment and social insurance regulations set at both national and regional level with further directives from the European Union. There are also three legislative regions (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels-Capital region) with their own governments, while Belgium has three official international languages – French, Dutch and German. These add up to extra complications – on top of complying with legislation and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). This legal framework covers payroll and tax law, social security, termination and severance rights, vacations, sick leave, minimum wages, and other areas. These factors apply particularly when a foreign company wants to hire local employees in Belgium, as they must comply with all obligations on behalf of the employees.

In drawing up their employment contract or agreement, parties cannot ‘opt out’ of statutory regulations or CBAs. General observations include:

  • There are specific requirements for written contracts covering fixed-term, part-time, temporary replacement work, and remote working-from-home arrangements.
  • Open-ended or indefinite contracts do not have to be in writing.
  • Trial periods cannot be included in an employment contract, other than for students, temporary workers or interim agency work as ruled in the Unified Employment Act.
  • Workplace regulations in the contract should cover work schedules, disciplinary measures, grievance procedures, health and safety provisions and policies regarding drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Copies of the workplace regulations should be sent to the Social Information and Investigation Service, but beyond that there is no legal requirement for lodging contracts with any outside third parties or obtaining approval from them.
  • Changes to the agreement can only be made with both parties’ agreement and any contract that states the employer is allowed to make unilateral changes is legally null and void.
  • Written contracts must be in Dutch, French or German, depending on the region where the work is based, but the employee can ask for a translation in English or a language they fully understand.

Employment Contracts in Belgium

  • Open-ended Employment Contracts: These are the norm in Belgium, as in most countries. They do not have to be in writing.
  • Fixed-term Employment Contracts: These must be in written form, stipulating a start and termination date for the employment.
  • Specific Assignment Employment Contracts: The contract details the project or work to be carried out and does not have to give an end date.
  • Replacement Employment Contracts: For employees who replace existing staff members for a specific reason, such as maternity cover. Contracts cannot exceed two years and must detail the identity and duties of the person being temporarily replaced.
  • Temporary Employment Contracts: These are usually between agencies and workers, who are placed with a client for a specified time.
  • Apprenticeship Contracts: These can be offered to individuals aged between 16 and 18 years, who are also attending an educational establishment one or two days per week.

What Employment Laws exist in Belgium?

Belgium’s employment framework is largely based on collaboration and cooperation between employers, employees and negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), which form an important part of Belgium’s employment laws. Also, the responsibility for employment regulations is often devolved from federal level to the autonomous regions. Outside of this framework, Belgian employment law is largely uncodified apart from the Health and Safety Code, the Social Penal Code and Act on Employment Agreements. This combination successfully provides employees in Belgium with mandatory provisions covering such as working hours, minimum wages, paid vacations, health and safety, anti-discrimination, illness, and injury benefits. These include:

  • National Minimum Wage: Minimum wages apply either through Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) or as a national minimum, whichever is the greater. The Belgian Government reviews the NMW bi-annually and in 2021 left rates at €1,627 (US$1,925) per month or €19,508 (US$23,086) per year based on 12 payments each year.
  • Working Hours: These should not normally exceed eight per day or 38 each week, with 40 hours permitted in some sectors. Different rules apply to shift work, while CBAs may impose fewer hours in some industries. After working six hours, the worker receives a break as per a collective agreement, or for 15 minutes if there is no agreement.
  • Overtime. Where this is permitted, employees receive 50% extra on their hourly rate for working Monday to Saturday with a 100% premium for overtime on Sundays or public holidays. Overtime hours must not exceed normal working hours, on average, and employees receive compensatory time off or paid rest time during overtime.
  • Paid Vacation Leave: Holiday allowance depends on length of service and months worked during the preceding year, which generally equates to 24 vacation days (six-days-a-week scheme) or 20 vacation days (five-days-a-week scheme) i.e., a maximum of four complete weeks of paid leave for a full-time working employee.
  • Maternity Leave: The allowance amounts to 15 weeks comprising two periods taken pre- and post-natal. Benefits are paid by the employee’s mutual insurance fund. Co-parents are entitled to four months’ paternal leave following the birth.