Belgian Employee Benefits

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 What are the Employee Benefits in Belgium? 

Happy and satisfied employees make your business thrive and lead to even better profits. However, the specific benefits for employees in Belgium might not all be familiar to you yet. By using our PEO and EOR service we can provide compliant labor contracts for employees in Belgium, including local benefits.

When expanding your company’s presence in a new country, you need to ensure compliance both in your employment contracts and benefit guarantees. These involve social security contributions, sick leave, health insurance, and unemployment, to name a few. In Belgium, benefits are guaranteed by national legislation as well as collective agreements with trade unions or workers’ councils.

Our guide will explain what benefits and employee compensation are guaranteed, and what can be modified, for any employer who wishes to expand their business into Belgium.

What Compensation Laws exist in Belgium?

In Belgium, a comprehensive framework of employment laws and regulations guarantee employees enjoy protection throughout their working life. Legislation covers such as minimum wages, social insurance, redundancy, termination, and severance, working hours, vacation leave, maternity, and paternity issues and more.

Statutory and mandatory minimums cannot be undercut by collective or trade union agreements, although these can improve entitlements for employees.

Drawing up contracts is complex enough, but in Belgium it is vital to fulfil responsibilities to your employees over benefits, compensation, and minimum requirements. Do not take the risk of ignoring them. Compensation and benefits include:

  • Social Insurance: These are based on total remuneration including salary, bonuses, and benefits in kind. For white-collar workers the employer remits to the authorities the equivalent of 25% of the employee’s pay. Employees contribute 13.07%.

  • National Minimum Wage (NMW): Minimum wages operate either with limits set by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) or as a national minimum where no collective agreements exist. The Belgian Government reviews the NMW bi-annually and in 2021 it remained at €1,627 (US$1,925) per month or €19,508 (US$23,086) per year based on 12 payments each year.

  • Working Hours and Rest Periods: Daily working time should not exceed eight hours limited to 38 a week, or nine hours a day up to 40 hours a week in some sectors. CBAs may set fewer working hours per week.

    After six hours the worker receives a break as per a collective agreement, or at least 15 minutes if there is no agreement.

    Shift work hours can be up to 12 hours per day to a maximum of 50 hours per week, based on two daily shifts and two workers. Flexible arrangements permit more than 38 hours a week as long as the quarterly or annual average is brought down to 38 hours.

    Strictly applied rules govern night work, working on Sundays or public holidays.

  • Overtime: Authorized overtime entitles workers to 50% extra above their hourly wage Monday to Saturday and a 100% increase for overtime on Sundays or public holidays.

    Overtime hours must not exceed normal working hours, averaged over a set period, and employees receive compensatory time off or paid breaks during overtime.

    Rules on overtime do not generally apply to remote workers, sales representatives, or those in managerial or executive positions.

  • Holiday Leave: Paid vacations depend on length of service and the 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).

    Employees who have worked less than 12 months have their entitlement reduced pro rata, while CBAs regularly increase basic statutory requirements.

  • Maternity Leave and Benefits: Employed and unemployed receive 15 weeks’ maternity leave, comprising two periods split between pre- and post-natal.

    An employee’s maternity benefit is 82% of salary (no ceiling) for the first 30 days, and 75% of salary (subject to ceiling) from the 31st day onwards; up to a maximum €110.23 (US$130) per day. Maternity benefits are paid by the employee’s mutual insurance fund. Co-parents are entitled to four months parental leave.

  • Paternity Leave: In January 2021 paternity leave was increased from 10 days to 15 days, which can be taken consecutively, in single days or 30 half-days.

    In 2023, it will be increased by a further five days and applies to all workers, the self-employed and civil servants. Leave can be taken in the first four months after birth.

    The first three days, the employer pays full salary. The remainder is paid at 82% of salary by the social insurance fund, capped at €114.59 (US$135) per day.

  • Redundancy, Termination and Severance: Employees with more than six months’ service must be given the reason for termination; failure by the employer to do so can result in a ‘fine’ of two weeks salary.

    If the Labor Court rules dismissal was unjustified, the employee can be compensated between three- and 17-weeks’ salary.

    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.

    The employer and employee must choose between serving the notice period during which the employment contract is still running, or severance pay by stopping the contract immediately. In the latter case, severance pay is equivalent to the wage and benefits multiplied by the duration of the notice period that should have been notified.

Social Security in Belgium

Belgium has a comprehensive social security system, covering such as 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 center, CPAS/OCMW.

Foreigners are also entitled to some levels of support, depending on agreements between Belgium and their home country or directives from the European Union (EU). Entitlement may depend on nationality, personal or employment status and whether individuals are salaried staff, self-employed, on temporary transfer to Belgium or retired.

The Coming2belgium site details which entitlements are available from the various Belgian social security institutions.

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 to the authorities the equivalent of 25% of the employee’s pay. Employees contribute 13.07% from their remuneration. Allowances include:

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

Employer Statutory Costs in Belgium

Social Insurance: Employers contribute the equivalent of 25% of employees’ pay to the National Social Security Office (NSSO), based on total remuneration including salary, bonuses, and benefits in kind. Employees contribute 13.07%.

National Minimum Wage: The minimum rate is €1,627 (US$1,925) per month or €19,508 (US$23,086) per year based on 12 payments each year, which can be increased by Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Corporate Tax: Companies based in Belgium attract corporate tax on their global profits and income including capital gains. Companies are considered ‘resident’ if they have a legally registered office with management based in Belgium. The corporate tax rate was reduced to 25% in 2020 (from 29.58%) with a conditional rate of 20% for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Value Added Tax: Registration is mandatory for companies buying, selling, or importing goods in Belgium; selling goods and services to European Union (EU) nations and distance selling on the internet. VAT is administered by the Ministry of Finance and is closely monitored regarding invoicing, foreign currency transactions and credit notes.

What Benefits are Guaranteed in Belgium?

Guaranteed employee benefits in Belgium are laid down by a combination of federal and regional regulations supplemented by Collective Bargaining Agreements, which often improve entitlements across different sectors and industries. Benefits for white-color workers include:

  • Public Holidays: 10 paid public holidays per year; when one falls on a weekend employee are allowed to take the day anytime in that calendar year.
  • Paid Vacations: Employees are entitled to a minimum of either 24 vacation days if working a six-day week or 20 days if on a five-day week.
  • Maternity Leave: Employed and unemployed are entitled to 15 weeks’ 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 higher levels set by Collective Bargaining Agreements, the national minimum for 2021 is €1,627 (US$1,925) per month or €19,508 (US$23,086) per year based on 12 payments each year.
  • Sick Leave: Employers pay benefit to white-collar employees for the first 30 days of incapacity, after which payments are made by the Health Insurance Fund. Blue-collar workers are paid by the employer in full for the first seven days after which payments are shared between the employer and social security.

What Restrictions Apply to Benefits and Compensation in Belgium?

Unemployment Benefit - Employees covered by social insurance can claim unemployment benefit, on the following conditions:

  • Must have worked between 312 and 624 days in a specified period, from 21 to 42 months
  • Be deprived of work for reasons outside their control
  • Be available on the labor market
  • Be registered as a jobseeker with relevant employment services

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

Maternity Benefit: To be entitled to maternity benefit, the individual must meet these requirements:

  • Must have completed a work placement for a minimum six months, unless exempt
  • The employed or unemployed must have worked (or been unemployed) 120 days during the six months prior to the maternity period
  • Paid the minimum amount of social security contributions
  • There have been no more than 30 days between the start of maternity period and the last working day

Sickness Benefit: Employees unable to work through illness or incapacity must meet the following requirements to qualify for income support:

  • Be registered with a mutual insurance fund (mutualité)
  • Have accumulated 180 days of work
  • Have completed a 12-month qualifying period
  • Have made a minimum level of contributions
  • Have not had a gap of more than 30 days between the start of the incapacity and the last working (or unemployment) day
  • Be certified as unable to work by the medical officer of the health insurance fund

Health Insurance and other Benefits in Belgium

Health care insurance is provided by a combination of social security contributions and insurance funds. All employees must contribute to a Belgian health insurance fund as part of their social insurance contributions, but many boost this with cover 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 benefit in case of death before 65; a disability annuity.
  • Healthcare insurance in case of hospitalization or critical illness, covering spouse, partner, and children. Employee contributes €15 per year per adult and €7 per year per child, deducted in January.
  • Accident insurance with 100% paid by 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 same costs, as long as the card was issued in their home country before they arrive in Belgium.

Other benefits cover maternity leave, sickness, and unemployment subject to meeting certain requirements.

Benefit from our advice!

Health, retirement, maternity benefits, holidays, working hours and termination agreements are among the benefits guaranteed for Belgium’s workforce. 

Legally protected compensation and benefits are an essential factor in ensuring contracts comply with Belgium’s various labor regulations and Collective Bargaining Agreements, which can vary at federal and regional level. Bradford Jacobs ensures compliance with these crucial requirements to avoid delays in becoming operational.

To learn more about benefits and compensation in Belgium, contact us today!