A combination of statutes, royal decrees, case law and labour court decisions and the significant influence of legally-recognised Collective Bargaining Agreements generally covers Employee Benefits in Belgium. Employers must also be prepared for new regulations coming into force after a labour reforms bill goes before the Belgian Parliament in autumn 2022. This could allow employees’ rights to work four-day weeks, alternating the number of work days in successive weeks and varying their work schedules. It will also be illegal for employers to email, call or otherwise contact their staff for professional reasons outside of working hours.

When expanding your company’s presence in a new country, you must ensure compliance with your employment contracts and benefit guarantees. Foreign companies hiring employees in Belgium must operate within this complex framework of legislation and collective agreements that provide safeguards and guarantees for the workforce. Failure to comply with specific rules applying to benefits and entitlements runs the risk of fines and sanctions. Employers must have a firm grasp of what is guaranteed for their employees, which will affect the employer-employee relationship. This is where Bradford Jacobs points you in the right direction, drawing on over 20 years of experience as a Professional Employment Organisation (PEO) and Employer of Record (EOR).

What are the Compensation Laws in Belgium?

Statutes, royal decrees, case law and labour court decisions and legally-binding Collective Bargaining Agreements are the factors governing employee benefits in Belgium. 

National Minimum Wage (NMW): As of June 2022, the government increased the national minimum wage to EUR 1,842.28 (USD 1,919.48) per month. Higher minimums can be set by collective agreements at the industry or sector level, but where these have not been agreed upon, the government’s minimum applies. Collective agreements can depend on where the job is and where the employee lives, the role and seniority, and the hours worked per week.

Sick Leave and Benefit: The employer pays statutory sick pay for the first 30 days of incapacity, based on basic salary, taking into account white- or blue-collar status and length of service. Extra days are paid by the Heath Insurance Fund (Mutuelle in French /Ziekenfonds in Dutch). Employers can request a medical certificate and assign an independent medical officer to confirm the illness. Different percentages of benefits apply to manual, blue-collar workers.

Working Hours and Breaks: Daily working hours should be at most eight, between 8 am-6 pm, in principle, due to the ban on night work. Weekly hours should be at most 38 or an average of 38 over a specified reference period but still not exceed 40; compensatory rest days apply as of one day of compensatory rest for every eight hours of overtime. Exemptions apply to transport, energy distribution, hospitals, hotels and hospitality, security and surveillance sectors. Collective agreements and works committees can reduce the number of hours worked and set break terms. In the absence of agreements, workers have a statutory 15-minute break after six hours and must have 11 consecutive hours away from work.

Overtime: Authorised overtime applies when employees work more than nine hours a day or 40 a week unless collective or work agreements provide for fewer working hours before overtime starts. The overtime rate is 50% above the regular salary and twice the regular salary for working on public holidays or Sundays. Maximum limits, including overtime, are 11 per day or 50 a week. A further limitation on overtime is 78 hours in three months. Employees can elect to take a compensatory rest day instead of each eight hours of overtime.

Paid Vacations: White-collar workers’ holiday entitlement depends on the service length and months worked during the preceding year. In practice, employees receive two vacation days per whole worked month in the prior year. That means 24 vacation days (six-days-a-week scheme) or 20 vacation days (five-days-a-week scheme), or 16 days (four-days-a-week scheme) for a completed year of service. Collective agreements may provide for extra holidays. Employees receive a ‘holiday pay bonus’, generally around 90% of their regular salary.

Public Holidays: In addition to national public holidays, other ‘unofficial’ holidays are celebrated that may affect work, varying between the Dutch, French or German regions. These dates may be holidays for civil servants and employees of institutions controlled or supervised by them, such as municipalities or universities. King’s Feast is observed by all administrations (i.e. federal, community or regional, provincial and local), including some schools. Banks may also follow these dates. 

National public holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1
  • Easter Monday, March/April
  • Labour Day, May 1
  • Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter
  • Whit (Pentecost) Monday, 50 days after Easter
  • Belgium National Day, July 21
  • All Saints’ Day, November 1
  • Armistice Day, November 11
  • Christmas Day, December 25

Maternity/Paternity/Parental Leave and Benefit: Employed and unemployed receive 15 weeks’ leave (19 weeks for multiple births). Pre-natal leave is generally six, five of which are optional and can be added to the nine weeks post-natal, but the week before scheduled delivery is mandatory to take as leave. The benefit is 82% of salary for the first 30 days (no ceiling); 75% (capped at EUR 104.80, USD 104.30 each day) from the 31st day, paid from employees’ mutual insurance fund. Paternity, or co-parents’ birth leave’, is 15 days paid leave, increasing to 20 days from January 1, 2023, and can be taken up to four months following the birth. Birth leave is a ‘right’ but not mandatory for the employee.

Discrimination: Legislation bans discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, age, ethnic or national origin, religious, philosophical or other beliefs and disability. Further amendments criminalised acts based on racism, xenophobia, and inequality between men and women.

Termination/Severance/Redundancies: Those employed for more than six months can ask their employer to explain the reasons for dismissal. Although employers have no legal responsibility to do so, failure to justify dismissal may lead to a compensatory payment. With dismissal for alleged serious cause, employers must follow strict legal procedures. Regulations for severance pay are detailed in the Employment Contracts Act. Unjustified dismissal during an open-ended contract can lead to claims for between three and 17 weeks’ salary. Failure to comply with laws regarding mass redundancies is a criminal offence. Strict procedures must be followed if collective dismissals occur in 60 days affecting the following numbers:

10 redundanciesemploying more than 20, fewer than 100.

10% of employees – between 100 and 300

30 employees – employing more than 300

Notice Periods: The Unified Employment Status Act (2014) aligned notice periods for blue- and white-collar employees. Fixed notice periods apply in the unilateral ending of an indefinite contract. Fixed-term contracts can only be ended unilaterally in the first half of the agreement, up to six months. 

Examples of fixed notice periods during the first five years vary from:

Every 3 month of service Dismissal by the employer Employee Notice
0-3 months
Two weeks
One week
3-6 months
Four weeks
Two weeks
9-12 months
Seven weeks
Three weeks
15-18 months
Nine weeks
Four weeks
21-24 months
Eleven weeks
Five weeks

*Up to a maximum of 64 weeks’ notice from the employer (13 weeks from the employee) for more than 23 years’ service.

13th Month Salary: The mandatory 13th-month salary is generally paid at the end of the year. It is additional to the vacation bonus, usually around 90% of the normal salary.

Guarantees and Restrictions on Employee Benefits in Belgium

Guaranteed Benefits:

Maternity Leave and Benefit: Employed and unemployed are entitled to 15 weeks of leave, with two periods split between pre-and post-natal, with benefits paid by the individual’s mutual insurance fund.

National Minimum Wage:  If not subject to Collective Bargaining Agreements setting higher minimums, the national monthly minimum as of June 2022 is EUR 1,842.28 (USD 1,833).

Paid Vacations: Employees on full entitlement receive a minimum of 24 vacation days if working a six-day week, 20 days if on a five-day week or 16 days on a four-day week.

Unemployment Benefit: Individuals covered by social insurance can claim benefits if they have worked between 312 and 624 days in a specified period between 21 and 42 months and be registered as a job-seeker. The benefit depends on the length of unbroken work before unemployment and the length of time since registering unemployed.
Maternity Leave and Benefit: Unless exempt, claimants must have worked at least 120 days in the previous six months and paid the minimum required amount of social insurance contributions.

Social Security in Belgium

Belgium’s comprehensive social security system covers family allowances, pensions, reimbursed medical costs and illness or injuries that prevent work. Everyone is entitled to social services support from the Public Social Welfare Centre, CPAS/OCMW.

Foreigners also are entitled to specific allowances and social services, strictly dependent on residency conditions and the nature of their employment. Benefits such as family allowance, pensions and medical costs depend on agreements between Belgium and the employee’s home country and European legislation. Foreigners cannot always claim social security support to the same extent as Belgians.

Employers and employees pay into the social security funds. Contributions are based on total remuneration, including salary, bonuses and benefits in kind. For white-collar workers, the employer remits the equivalent of around 27% of the employee’s pay to the authorities. Employees contribute 13.07% of their remuneration. Allowances include:

  • Sickness benefits
  • Unemployment support
  • Inability to work through illness or incapacity
  • Injury suffered at work
  • Industrial disease
  • Family allowances
  • Pensions

Insurance is provided by a combination of social security contributions and insurance funds. Employees must contribute to a Belgian health insurance fund (mutuelle) as part of their social insurance contributions, but many boost this with coverage from a private fund. Other benefits include:

Group insurance – Employees are automatically enrolled into two defined schemes with 100% of contributions paid by the employer. These cover retirement capital at age 65, life benefits in case of death before 65, and a disability annuity.

Healthcare insurance covers spouses, partners, and children in case of hospitalisation or critical illness. The employee contributes €15 per year per adult and €7 per year per child, deducted in January.

Accident insurance with 100% paid by the employer for accidents on business trips and varying percentages depending on circumstances.

Citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) can apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles them to the same treatments as a Belgian at the exact costs, as long as the card is issued in their home country before they arrive in Belgium.


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