The Kingdom of Belgium is a leading economy in Northwestern Europe. Belgium comprises three regions based on four languages: The Flemish Region, Walloon Region, and the Brussels-Capital Region.
Belgium is the 37th freest economy among 177 countries and with a healthy economy score of 69.6 in the 2022 Index of economic freedom. The index ranks trade freedom, tax burden, judicial effectiveness, and more jurisdictions.
Belgium’s GDP is projected to reach 610.00 USD billion by the end of 2022. The real annual GDP growth is expected to hit 1.3% in 2023. The country has an abundance of talented and skilled candidates that are among the most productive in the European Union (EU).
Due to its lucrative economy, Belgium is a hotspot for companies to set up a business and hire employees. Employers must note that the labor code of Belgium has detailed protective labor laws. The Collective Bargain Agreements play a crucial role in shaping the labor rules.
Employers and companies looking to hire talented employees from Belgium must comply with Belgian labor law.
This page on employment law in Belgium guides you through the critical aspects of the labor regulations in Belgium to help employers align the hiring and management process with the country’s local rules.
Who is Covered by the Employment Act?
Each employee, irrespective of nationality, is protected under the labor act rules in Belgium.
The labor code of Belgium lays the legal framework for effective and fair employment. It upholds the employees’ rights throughout the workplace by setting down legally acceptable minimum working conditions. It also provides guidelines for hiring processes and team management compliance while protecting the employee’s fundamental rights.
Employers looking to hire talent from Belgium must abide by the labor act rules in Belgium to avoid legal liabilities and maintain a responsible, safe, and effective workplace.
An employment contract states the particulars of an employer and employee relationship. Typically, an employment contract includes remuneration, the number of working hours, employment benefits, and others. As per Belgian labor laws –
- An employment agreement may be written or verbal. However, the following details and employment contracts must be in writing:
- Training clause
- Non-competition clause
- Employment contracts entered for a fixed term or a specific project
- Part-time contracts
- Temporary work
- Work from home
- Employment contracts with a foreign worker
- Arbitral clauses for high management responsibilities and high pay
- An open-ended contract is the standard employment contract in Belgium. A written agreement is not required for an open-ended contract, except for the abovementioned clauses.
- For written employment contracts, the contract is drafted in French, Dutch, or German based on the region of the employer’s working unit.
- Walloon Region: French
- Flemish region: Dutch
- German-speaking region: German
- Brussels: French or Dutch
For cross-border employment contracts, the European Court of Justice passed a landmark judgment that can also draft the contracts in non-official languages of the state of the workplace to uphold the employees’ freedom of movement.
Key Provisions of the Act
The legal framework of the labor act in Belgium depends upon the following:
- The National Constitution
- Different acts. For eg, the Act of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts
- Decrees of the Regions and Communities
- Royal and Ministerial decrees
- Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are between trade unions and employer organizations at the national, sectorial, or company level.
Together, the labor code of Belgium enlists the parameters for a suitable working environment like working hours, leave schemes, and others, and forms the basis for Belgian employment rules.
Here are some of the critical provisions of the act:
- The average working hours in Belgian labor law is 38 hours a week, not more than 8 hours per day.
- Employees can work more than 38 hours a week only if the average working time on a quarterly or yearly basis equals 38 hours per week.
- However, the Belgian working hours law mandates a minimum of 3 hours of daily working time, with a few statutory exceptions.
- Working at night, Sundays, and on public holidays are legally regulated.
- Recently, the labor code of Belgium made new provisions for a four-day work week.
- Employees may work up to 10 hours daily if trade unions agree and work one day less per week for the same pay.
- The latest agreement introduces the right to disconnect after regular working hours for companies with over 20 employees.
- In Belgium, overtime is usually prohibited.
- Overtime is allowed where the pay is at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay.
- If the overtime occurs on a Sunday or a public holiday, it is allowed only if the payment is at least twice the standard pay rate.
As per the labor act in Belgium, the minimum wage is the least acceptable amount employers can legally pay their employees.
Usually, employers must pay their employees wages equal to or more than the government-mandated minimum wages.
- The minimum wage from 1 May 2022 is €1,842.28 per month.
- This minimum wage is valid for workers aged 18 and above.
- As per the labor code of Belgium, there are 10 official paid public holidays.
- If a public holiday happens on a Sunday or any other day the employee does not work, the employer must provide a replacement day.
- The 10 official public holidays in Belgium are as follows:
- New Year’s Day: 1 January
- Easter Monday: 18 April
- Labor Day: 1 May
- Ascension Day: 26 May
- Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday: seventh Monday after Easter
- Belgian Independence Day or Belgian National Day: 21 July
- Assumption Day: 15 August
- All Saint’s Day: 1 November
- Armistice Day: 11 November
- Christmas Day: 25 December
- Apart from these holidays, the following are the regional public holidays in Belgium:
- Day of the Flemish Community or the Celebration of the Golden Spurs: 11 July
- Day of the French-Speaking Community: 27 September
- Day of the German-Speaking Community: 15 November
The Belgian labor law describes the various leave schemes employees are entitled to in Belgium:
- Maternity Leave:
- A female employee can take a maternity leave of up to 15 weeks.
- Out of the 15 weeks, employees must take at least 1 week’s leave before the expected date and 9 weeks of rest after birth.
- Employees can take an additional 2 weeks’ leave in case of multiple births.
- During this period, the social security system provides a benefit equal to 82% of the employee’s pay for the first 30 days and then 75% for the remaining period.
- Employers are not obligated to pay the employees during maternity leave.
- Employees are required to take this leave within 4 months of childbirth.
- Paternity Leave:
- The Belgian labor laws state that male employees have the right to paternity leave for 10 days after the birth of their child.
- The social security system pays 82% of their salary for 7 days of paternity leave.
- The employees must take this leave within 4 months of the child’s birth.
- Annual Leave:
- An employee is entitled to a yearly leave proportional to the days worked.
- Usually, for an entire holiday reference year, that is, the preceding calendar year, employees get an annual leave of between 20-24 days.
- The number of days of annual leaves also depends on whether the employee’s working week has 5 or 6 days.
- Sickness Leave:
- The Belgium labor code ensures wages for up to 30 days for an employee who has met with an accident or is ill.
- Employees are obligated to submit a medical certificate when ill if required by the internal work rules or in a collective bargaining agreement.
- An employer can verify the employee’s incapacity to work by hiring an independent medical officer.
- Other leaves:
As per the labor code of Belgium, employees are entitled to paid leaves on the following occasions:
- Certain family events like marriage, childbirth, adoption, holy communion, non-confessional youth celebration, funeral, etc.
- To fulfill civil duties like jury service, participating in elections, etc.
- The Royal Decree of 1963 provides the reason and duration of the leaves for each absence. However, it might be more favorable to decide these things at the company level.
Payroll Taxes & Obligations
The financial year in Belgium runs from 1 January to 31 December. Here are various payroll tax obligations for employers as per the Belgian labor laws –
- A registered employer in Belgium is required to do the following:
- Deduct withholding taxes from the salaried employee
- Pay & file withholding taxes quarterly/monthly (form 274) to tax authorities
- Send yearly tax slips (called Form 281) individually to employees and tax authorities
- Additionally, employers can withhold 15% of the invoice amount if the contractor or the subcontractor has debts to public authorities, like FPS Finance or the ONSS/Belgian social security office.
- Employers can visit the official website to see whether they are required to withhold taxes.
- 65 years is the statutory retirement age in Belgium.
- The Federal Government will raise the statutory age limit to 66 by 2025 and 67 by 2030 as per the Act of 10 August 2015.
- Employees in Belgium receive a pension from the Belgian social security, referred to as the ‘first pillar.’
- The Belgian social security system for employees covers:
- Old-age and survivor’s pensions
- Unemployment benefits
- Insurance for accidents at work/occupational diseases
- Sickness and disability benefits
- Family allowances
- The labor regulations in Belgium mandate employees and employers to pay contributions to the National Social Security Office (RSZ – ONSS).
- The employer’s contributions amount to approximately 33% for white-collar employees and around 40% for blue-collar employees.
- The employee’s contributions are fixed at 13.07% and deducted from the gross salary.
- Many employees also receive additional pension insurance paid by the employer per the salary package, referred to as the ‘second pillar’.
A payslip in Belgium can contain the following details:
- Date of birth
- Date of starting the employment
- Date of paying the remuneration
- Information about the employer and employee like their social security number, company code, employee code, etc.
- Time worked by the employee
- The rate at which the employee is paid
- Employer’s social contributions
- Number of holidays
- Employer’s social security and other contributions
- Total amount to be paid
- Notice period:
- The labor regulations in Belgium state that the notice period an employer must give their employee depends on the employee’s seniority.
- An employer is required to give the reason for dismissals.
- If an employer cannot provide a cause for dismissal, the employer is liable to a lump-sum civil fine of two weeks of salary.
- The notice periods are decided as per the law.
New notice period: employer
Notice period: employee
0 to less than three months
3 to less than 4 months
4 to less than 5 months
5 to less than 6 months
6 to less than 9 months
9 to less than 12 months
12 to less than 15 months
15 to less than 18 months
18 to less than 21 months
21 to less than 24 months
2 years to less than 3 years
3 years to less than 4 years
4 years to less than 5 years
5 years to less than 6 years
6 years to less than 7 years
7 years to less than 8 years
8 years to less than 9 years
9 years to less than 10 years
10 years to less than 11 years
11 years to less than 12 years
12 years to less than 13 years
13 years to less than 14 years
14 years to less than 15 years
15 years to less than 16 years
16 years to less than 17 years
17 years to less than 18 years
18 years to less than 19 years
19 years to less than 20 years
20 years to less than 21 years
21 years to less than 22 years
22 years to less than 23 years
23 years to less than 24 years
24 years to less than 25 years
25 years and greater
1 week / started year
- Severance payment:
- An employer can pay severance or indemnity in place of notice or end the employment contract by granting the notice.
- An employer can also combine a notice period and a severance payment for the remaining period.
- The severance payment is calculated based on the employee’s annual salary and other benefits at the time of termination.
- If an employment contract is terminated with severance payment, then an employer does not have to comply with formalities instead of dismissing with a notice period.
Moreover, employers and employees can terminate the employment contract for a serious cause regardless of whether the contract was for a fixed period. A severe reason is a fault so serious that continuation of the working relationship is not possible anymore.
There is no need for compensation or a notice period. An employer can dismiss the employee after informing them within three days of becoming aware of the severe cause.
Apart from a serious reason, employees may claim damages between 3-17 weeks of salary in the labor court if their dismissal is unjustified.
Data protection and employee privacy
Employers are required to follow GDPR regulations. An employee’s right to protection of personal data has to be respected while processing their data. The Belgian Data Protection Authority is in place to ensure compliance with the GDPR. Any violations of the GDPR or other data privacy regulations can lead to heavy fines.
The Federal Department of Employment, Labor, and Social Dialogue of Belgium supervises labor conditions. The supervision of labor legislation includes auditing the organization of labor, payment, and other employment conditions. Supervising well-being at work audits the compliance with legislation for the safety at work, health, hygiene, and other aspects of work.
Suppose a Social Legislation Inspectorate notices a violation of the Belgian labor laws in the workplace. In that case, their first aim is to rectify the situation and later draw up a formal report for the public prosecution service.
Compliance Strategies for Employers
Employers hiring from Belgium must abide by the Belgian labor law. Employers and global companies can use the following adherence strategies to stay compliant with Belgium labor law.
- Following a standard template:
- The labor regulations in Belgium have stated the guidelines and minimum requirements for the working conditions of employees in Belgium.
- Companies can follow these regulations and guidelines to draft contracts and manage their employees in Belgium.
- Recruiting an HR manager:
- An HR manager can look after hiring and managing employees.
- Employers can hire a competent HR manager to look after the contracts, payroll management, distribution of benefits per local rules, and compliance with the Belgian labor law.
- The HR manager can also look after organizational changes, appraisals, etc.
- Outsourcing to an independent firm
- Apart from the above two solutions, third-party firms specialize in these operations.
- These third-party firms provide solutions to comply with the Belgian labor law and make hiring and managing employees easier.
- These firms look after drafting legal documents, payroll, benefits, labor documents, etc.
- Employers can outsource these tasks to avoid legal liabilities and hire and manage talent from Belgium.
How Can Multiplier Help?
Belgium has a vast talent pool of highly skilled and educated individuals. Employers and companies looking to hire talented employees can find the best candidates here.
To enable this, it’s crucial that any permanently established employer follow the labor act rules in Belgium while hiring and managing employees.
Non-adherence to Belgian employment rules based on labor act rules can result in employers facing legal obligations. That’s where Multiplier steps in and simplifies your task of hiring & managing employees!
Multiplier is an Employer Of Record (EOR) and PEO (Professional Employer Organization), making international hiring easy for companies and employers. Our team of experts at Multiplier can assist you by providing services like drafting legal documents, payroll management, taxes, and employee benefits. Moreover, with EOR solutions, you can simply hire and manage employees even without establishing a local entity in Belgium.
Multiplier provides solutions to stay compliant with local rules and regulations in more than 150 countries, making onboarding and employee management easy.