Mandatory employee benefits in Belgium cover a wide area. They include the national minimum wage, Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), restrictions on working hours, holiday entitlement, compensatory and termination rules, maternity and paternity regulations. Further benefits cover health and accident insurance and annual and vacation bonuses.
There is a high level of workers’ protection in Belgium, based on complex labor laws which can prove problematic for companies considering setting up a subsidiary in the country. Belgian authorities apply strict penalties for non-compliance.
Managing benefits and compensation comprises a key element of Human Resources management. Bradford Jacobs’ thorough understanding of these sectors of Belgian employment law ensures all requirements will be met in a trouble-free process.
What Belgian Compensation Laws Exist?
- National Minimum Wage (NMW) – operates either with wages set by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) or as a NMW where no collective agreements are in place. The Belgian Government reviews the NMW bi-annually
- Notice periods – these vary according to years employed. For example in the case of white-collar workers, the dismissed employee receives three months’ notice for less than five years’ service (salary not exceeding €25,277) and an extra three months for every additional five-year period of service
- Redundancy, termination and severance – employees with more than six months’ service must be given the reason for termination. An employer can terminate a contract with a severance / redundancy payment in lieu of notice, either for the full period or part of it with the remainder served as notice
- Working hours and rest periods – daily working time should not exceed eight hours with a weekly limit of 38 hours averaged over a specified period. After working six hours the worker receives a break as per a collective agreement, or for 15 minutes if there is no agreement
- Overtime entitles workers to 50% extra above their wage Monday to Saturday and a 100% increase for Sunday or public holidays. Overtime hours must not exceed normal working hours, on average, and employees receive compensatory time off
- Sick leave - in case of sickness or accident, the employer pays the employee statutory sick pay during the first 30 days of absence, after which payment comes from the Health Insurance Fund
- Holiday leave – 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 / paternity leave: The employed or unemployed are entitled to 15 weeks’ maternity leave, comprising two periods split between pre- and postnatal. An employee’s maternity benefit is calculated as: 82% of salary (no ceiling) for the first 30 days; 75% of salary (subject to ceiling) from the 31st day onwards; maximum €110.23 per day from March 1 2020. Maternity benefits are paid by the employee’s mutual insurance fund. Co-parents are entitled to 10 days paternity leave, which must be taken within four months following the birth.
Social Insurance in Belgium
Belgian nationals and foreigners living there can claim on social services and allowances, although benefits for non-nationals depend on various conditions. Belgian and European Union (EU) regulations, as well as any agreements with the employees’ home country, will govern what entitlements apply to such as pensions, medical costs and family allowance for example.
Employers and employees each make monthly contributions into the social security fund, based on percentages of the employee’s salary. The social security fund supports employees in the event of:
- Their inability to work through illness, injury or work-related disease
- Family allowance for spouses and children
Social security contributions also fund state pensions.
Coming2belgium is an online tool developed detailing entitlements under the social security system.
What Benefits are guaranteed in Belgium?
Most benefits apply from first day of employment. Benefits for 2021 include:
- Public holidays: 10 each year
- Vacations: 20 days annually if the employee worked full-time the previous year, with an extra day for each five years of employment to a maximum three extra days
- Sabbaticals: Employees can buy up to 10 extra days, deducted from their salary
- Unemployment: Benefits can apply for unlimited time, but compensation decreases
- Insurance: 100% paid by the employer to cover retirement and death benefits
What Restrictions exist on Compensation and Benefits in Belgium?
In order to claim benefit, the unemployed person must be registered as a job seeker with employment and job-finder authorities and make themselves available to offers. They have to have been fully employed for between 312 and 624 days over a period between 21 and 42 months and not have left their job for their own reasons.
The amount of benefit depends on:
- The amount of last salary, subject to a monthly upper limit of €2,754 for the six months then decreasing amounts
- Length of professional activity before unemployment
- Length of time since registering as unemployed
Health Insurance and other Benefits in Belgium
Employees intending to claim support while incapacitated must first be certified as unable to work by the medical officer of the mutual health insurance fund (mutualité). Initially benefits are paid by the employer with white collar employers receiving 100% of their pay for the first month and 60% thereafter.
Other conditions include:
- Making the minimum amount of contributions over a 12-month qualifying period
- Building up 180 working days, with a gap of no more than 30 days between being unable to work and the last working day
Maternity and paternity leave is another benefit due to employees (and the unemployed) in Belgium. The following conditions apply:
Maternity leave lasts for 15 weeks, comprising two periods:
- Before birth a maximum of six weeks; five can be taken after birth but the final week before planned delivery must be taken.
- Following birth, nine weeks leave start that day (or the following day if the mother was at work the day of birth). Postnatal leave is mandatory
The amount of benefit while on maternity leave varies according to the employee’s status and income and is paid out of the mutual fund. Payments are set at 82% of salary (no ceiling) for the first 30 days, 75% of salary (subject to ceiling) from 31st day to a maximum of €110.23 per day.
Paternity or birth leave: Fathers or co-parents must use their 10 days’ leave within four months after the birth, in one go or spread over a period with their employer paying full salary for the first three days. Thereafter the mutual fund pays 82% of gross daily pay capped at €120.52.
Bonus Payments in Belgium
Many employees’ contracts will include provision for a ‘13th month’ salary payment as a bonus, with some adding half of a 14th month’s pay. They are usually added to the salary in December.
A vacation bonus, equal to 85% of the monthly salary and paid to coincide with the employer’s main holiday, is included in the contract ad as part of the year’s salary. The vacation bonus for incomplete years at the start or end of employment are adjusted pro rata.
Work with Bradford Jacobs
Companies planning expansion into Belgium, either through establishing a subsidiary or by migrating staff, face a mass of complex laws, regulations and strict compliance issues. In addition, Belgium poses unique challenges for foreign companies due to having three distinct regions with their own official languages – Dutch, French and German. Compensation and benefits, statutory costs, social insurance payments, health insurance and bonuses are issues that cannot be overlooked for the smooth transition of your operation into the Belgian market. Be on top of these issues by working with Bradford Jacobs to utilize our Employer of Record payroll services – with 100% solutions to all these questions. Contact us below.