Engage In Belgium

Table of Contents

About Belgium

Capital City

Brussels

Population

As of March 2024, the estimated population of Belgium is 11.6 million.

Currency

The currency in Belgium is the Euro (EUR). The currency symbol is €.

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Overview

Belgium, located in northwestern Europe, is a small but vibrant country that boasts a rich history, diverse culture, and stunning architecture. Since gaining independence in 1830, Belgium has embraced a representative democracy under the rule of a hereditary constitutional monarch. Over the years, the country has undergone significant changes in its form of government, transitioning from a unitary system to a federal state. Today, powers are shared among the regions of Flanders, Wallonia, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Culturally, Belgium is a melting pot straddling the border between Romance and Germanic language families. The French-speaking Walloons inhabit the southern provinces, while the Dutch-speaking Flemings dominate the northern and northeastern regions. The capital, Brussels, is a bilingual city that serves as the political center of the country. With its medieval cities, Gothic cathedrals, and picturesque towns, Belgium offers a captivating blend of historical charm and modern sophistication. Additionally, the country is renowned for its culinary delights, including a vast selection of beers and delectable chocolates. From its scenic landscapes to its vibrant cultural scene, Belgium truly encapsulates the essence of Europe in a nutshell.

Employment Relationship

Permanent Employment

In Belgium, an employment contract is presumed to be for an indefinite period except for: Employment contract formed for a fixed period Work contract for a clearly defined job Replacement contract (contract for the replacement of a permanent worker) An employment contract of indefinite duration exists by the sole expression of the agreement of the parties; no formalism is required. Thus, an employment contract can be concluded orally.  *As of March 31, 2022, teleworking is no longer required unless dictated by collective labor agreements or existing agreements, and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure employee safety including social distancing. 

Fixed-Term or Specific-Purpose Contracts

Employment contracts in Belgium providing fixed terms must be in writing, clearly stating the dates of the fixed term or an event that must occur to conclude the contract. It can be formed for a clearly defined work to estimate the effort and time required to complete the same. In the absence of written proof, they are considered to be for an indefinite period. Successive use of fixed-term contracts is deemed to be the contract for an indefinite period except in case the employer proves that it is justified by the nature of work or by other legitimate grounds. Contracts can be renewed for a maximum of 4 times, provided their total duration does not exceed 2 years or 6 times with maximum duration of 3 years with approval from DG Social Laws Inspectorate.  *As of March 31, 2022, teleworking is no longer required unless dictated by collective labor agreements or existing agreements, and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure employee safety including social distancing. 

Temporary Employment Contratcs

The labor law of Belgium outlines 2 types of temporary employment agreements: replacement contracts and temporary work contracts. Both types must be concluded in writing.  Replacement Contract Replacement contract: an employment contract for up to 2 years that is concluded for the replacement of a permanent worker whose employment contract is suspended for reasons other than partial unemployment for economic reasons or bad weather, strike, or lockout Temporary work contract: an interim work situation where a temporary worker is employed by an authorized temporary work agency (employer) for the purpose of being loaned to a user company (a client of the temporary work agency) to perform a temporary job *As of March 31, 2022, teleworking is no longer required unless dictated by collective labor agreements or existing agreements, and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure employee safety including social distancing.

Probationary Period

Belgian employment law has prohibited the use of probationary periods since 2014, with the exception of student occupation contracts, temporary contracts, and interim work (temporary work provided by a third-party agency) contracts .

Working Hours

In Belgium, all regulation of working time and rest time is based on a default working time arrangement that is considered "normal" or at least common practice. These general rules are subject to derogations, sectoral or sometimes individual, making it possible to adapt to the specific needs of companies, activities, and workers. The working hours' regime considered to be "normal" (which can also be defined as the regime not requiring the application of any derogatory provision) is a regime in which: Working hours are limited to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week (38 hours per week on an annual basis). The workweek runs from Monday to Saturday (at the latest). Work is not completed at night (that is, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.). Employees do not work on public holidays. As of February 2022, Belgium's government passed legislation allowing employees to work a 4 day work week. Employees are still required to work 38 hours minimum per week, thus creating extended workdays.   As of March 31, 2022, teleworking is no longer required unless dictated by collective labor agreements or existing agreements, and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure employee safety including social distancing.  Effective May 1, 2022, those employers who permit employees to continue teleworking must conclude an agreement meeting specific requirements. The agreement is valid until either party wishes to end the arrangement. As of January 1, 2023, Companies that employ more than 20 employees cannot require employees to be online or work after their regular working hours.

Holidays / PTO

Statutory Holidays

  • New Year's Day - January 1
  • Easter Monday - date subject to change every year
  • Labor Day - May 1
  • Ascension - date subject to change every year
  • Whit Monday - date subject to change every year
  • National Day - July 21
  • The Assumption - August 15
  • All Saints' Day - November 1
  • The Armistice - November 11
  • Christmas - December 25

Paid Annual Leave

In Belgium, employees are entitled to a holiday period of at least 20 days (24 days for a 6-day workweek) or a maximum of 4 weeks for 12 months of work, including the non-working days declared by Royal Decree. *Days of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 in 2022 must be treated as days of actual work for the calculation of annual vacation days and the statutory vacation pay for 2022. 

Sick Leave

In Belgium, employees are permitted to take sick leave as soon as they begin working. During the initial period of sick leave, sickness benefits are paid by the employer. White-collar workers receive 100% of their earnings for a month. Manual workers receive 100% of their earnings for the first 7 days of incapacity, and 85.88% from the 8th to the 14th day of incapacity. From the 15th to the 30th day, manual workers receive 25.88% of compensation not exceeding the ceiling set by disability health insurance and 85.88% of the amount exceeding the ceiling. Employees do not need to submit certificates of incapacity to work to their employers if the employer has more than 50 employees. This rule is only applicable for the first 3 times of absence due to illness in a year. After the employer's sickness benefits end, an employee qualifies for sickness insurance benefits if they satisfy the following conditions: The employee must have worked 180 days (paid vacation days and sick leave days count toward this total) during a period of 12 months prior to obtaining the benefits. The employee must prove that they have paid sufficient social contributions to the sickness benefits sector. The contributions must reach a particular minimum amount or be completed with personal contributions. Sickness insurance benefits last 1 year. During this period, the employee receives 60% of their salary from the sickness insurance fund, limited to a maximum daily salary of EUR 164.07 (Euros). If an employee is still unable to work after a year, they become entitled to invalidity benefits.

Maternity Leave

The labor law of Belgium states that pregnant women are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave: six weeks of prenatal and nine weeks of postnatal leave. In case of multiple births, the leave is for 17 weeks, can be extended to 19. The employee must submit a medical certificate stating the expected delivery date to the employer 7 weeks before the delivery date. During maternity leave, employees receive a maternity allowance from their health insurance fund: During the first 30 days, it is 82% of the uncapped salary From the 31st day and in the event of an extension, it is 75% of the capped salary.  

Paternity Leave

The labor law of Belgium states that paternity leave regulations are applicable to the entire private sector and contract staff of the public sector.  Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to 15 days of paternity leave within 4 months from the delivery date. An employee can choose to use his leave all at once or spread it over a 4-month period. In the case of twins or multiple births, the paternity leave is the same as in the case of the delivery of one child. The amount of paternity leave will increase to 20 days from January 1, 2023. A co-parent who does not have parentage on the newborn child is also entitled to 10 days of birth holiday in some instances. This rule covers same-sex partners of the biological mother.  The employer is liable to pay the employee's regular compensation to the employee for the first 3 days of paternity leave. To be entitled to remuneration, the worker must first have informed the employer of the delivery. If this proves impossible, the worker must in any case notify the employer as soon as possible. For the remaining 12 days, the employee is entitled to receive an allowance of 82% of gross salary from the state insurance companies, with an upper limit of EUR 144.34 (Euros) per day. The worker's mutual insurance company retains a professional withholding tax (11.11%) on this amount

Termination of Employment

Notice Period

For employment contracts concluded after January 1, 2014, there is no distinction between employees and workers regarding notice of dismissal. The notice period depends on the duration of service and ranges from 1 week to 65 weeks in case of dismissal and from 1 week to 13 weeks in case of resignation of the employee. In the case of employment contracts concluded before 2014, there were different notice periods for workers and employees. The notice period for workers ranges from 4 weeks to 16 weeks. The notice periods for lower-level employees (with a gross annual salary of under EUR 32,254) is 3 months per 5 years of service. The notice period for superior level employees (with a gross annual salary above EUR 32,254) is 1 month per 5 years of service. For service beyond January 1, 2014, the notice period is calculated with the new general scheme and added to the prior notice period. 

Severance Benefits

The severance indemnity is equal to the remuneration corresponding to either the notice period or part of the period remaining to be paid. The severance payment includes salary as well as benefits.

Social Security

Pension

Belgium has a mandatory contribution-based retirement scheme for all employees. The retirement age is 65 years until 2025, gradually increasing to 67 years by 2030. The retirement pension is calculated as a percentage of the average monthly salary of the employee over his or her service years. The pension is 60% of the average monthly salary. If the pensioner is married and his or her spouse has ceased all professional activity and does not receive any retirement, survivor's pension or allowance, the amount of pension is increased to 75%. Employers pay ONSS (The National Social Security Office; Office national de Sécurité sociale) contributions quarterly. An employer must deduct the amount of personal contributions owed by an employee (7.50% of salary for pension) with the employer's contribution at 8.86%.

Dependents/Survivors Benefit

In Belgium, in the event of an employee's death, the dependents and surviving spouse of the employee may be entitled to receive certain benefits payable by the employer. The following persons are considered survivors: Spouse Ex-spouse Children (only civil servants) The claim amount depends on the worker's status as a pensioner: Pensioner – 80% of the pension calculated at the household rate Non-pensioner – 80% of the projected retirement pension that would have been given to the spouse The maximum survivors pension is EUR 5,564.72 (euros) per month. The guaranteed minimum survivors pension is EUR 1,610.92 per month. 

Invalidity Benefit

Belgium provides a disability benefit for individuals who are unable to perform any job duties. People over the age of 21 years who have lost 66% of their ability to work are eligible for this benefit. Employees are compensated at the rate of 60% of their gross salary per day on a 6-day-per-week basis during the first year of incapacity. After the first year, the benefits are paid as 65% of their gross salary if they are married and have a dependent spouse, 55% if they are single and 40% if they are cohabiting. For unemployed individuals, the benefits are 60% of the gross daily wage, on which their unemployment benefits are calculated, is paid for the first 6 months. After 6 months, the benefits are paid as 65% of their gross salary if they are married and have a dependent spouse, 55% if they are single and 40% if they are cohabiting. 

Taxation of Compensation and Benefits

Personal Income Tax

In Belgium, the income tax year runs from January 1 through December 31. According to the income tax code, residents and non-resident individuals are taxed on their income. Residents are persons who: Have domicile in Belgium Are Belgian diplomatic agents and career consular agents accredited to foreigners and their family members living at home The current income tax rates range from 25 – 50% of annual taxable income. Income tax must be paid by all individuals who are settled in Belgium regardless of nationality and the source of income. Non-residents, defined as persons not domiciled in Belgium, are taxed on income only from sources in the country.

Immigration

Types of Visas

Belgium is part of the Schengen Agreement and the following types of visas are available for travel and stay in Belgium: Short stay visa – for stay up to 90 days, requested for tourist visit, family or friend visit, cultural or sports event, business trip, short internship and transit through the Schengen territory Long-stay visa – for more than 90 days' stay in Belgium

Work Permit

To employ a non-European national in Belgium, it is generally necessary to apply for a work permit.The remuneration of the employee must comply with Belgian regulations and cannot be less than EUR 1,954.99 (euros) and vary based on the qualifications of employees and the region in which they are located. In Brussels-Capital Region, highly qualified staff and executive staff are entitled to a minimum salary of EUR 47,174 and EUR 78,704, respectively for 2023, and EUR 50,310 and EUR 83,936, respectively for 2024. Work permits are issued by regional offices. To work for more than 90 days, employees must apply for single permit (work permit + residence permit) via their employers, submitting employment contract, a certificate showing no criminal record, a medical certificate proving the employee has no communicable diseases. If the work permit and the residence permit are granted, respectively by the Region and by the Foreigners Office, the third-country national will receive a single document certifying that he is authorized to stay for more than 90 days in Belgium to work there (single permit). Single Permits can also be issued for indefinite duration after a third-country national has lived and worked in Belgium for at least 4 years. Employees who work for less than 90 days require to apply for License B. It is valid for working with a particular employer.   

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