Employment in Belgium: A guide to social security, holidays and notice periods
Employment laws in Belgium are organised on several levels, with general regulations defined at federal and regional level. Ask your HR manager which Convention Collective de Travail (in French-speaking companies) or Collectieve Arbeidsovereenkomst (in Dutch-speaking companies) is applicable to your company. They can differ depending on the sector in which you work.
Payments are deducted from salaries and paid by employers into the social security fund. This money is used to finance different areas of social security (unemployment, pensions, child benefit, health insurance, accidents at work and work-related illnesses).
As an employee, your contribution will correspond to 13.07% of your gross salary, and will be paid directly by your employer to the Office National de Sécurité Sociale/Rijksdienst voor Sociale Zekerheid.
Employers must pay 100% of salary for up to 30 days of an absence due to illness. If the illness or incapacity to work goes beyond 30 days, the employee's health insurance (mutuality) takes over payment. At that point, workers receive 60% of their gross pay.
Most employers require an attest from a doctor for more than one day's absence due to illness, though this can vary from employer to employer.
The legally required minimum number of vacation days for full- or part-time workers is 20 per year. To be entitled to paid holiday, you must have worked as a salaried employee in Belgium for the calendar year preceding the year during which the holiday is being taken. The length of your paid holiday will depend on the number of months during which you were paid in the preceding year.
Make sure you consider all your rights when terminating your employment contract. For example, do you have rights to unemployment benefits, paid holidays or a year-end bonus? It is always better to break the contract by common consent when leaving a company. Sometimes the employer will agree to dismiss an employee and negotiate a severance package.
The notice period does not begin until the first day of the month following your resignation. The duration of this period depends on how long you have been with the company. The notice periods are fixed by law, but employers will sometimes be flexible about this. During your notice period, you have the right to take one day a week as ‘solicitation leave’, or a day off to search for other employment.
Should you get fired from your job, you are legally entitled to a severance package that includes holiday not yet taken and pay depending on how long you have worked for the company. There are sectoral difference but the average in Belgium is one month salaray for every year worked. So for instance if you worked for a company for five years, you will receive approximately five months of net salary upon dismissal.
Most people who lose their job involuntarily have the right to unemployment benefits, though there are limitations. Self-employed people, for example, cannot immediately benefit from the unemployment scheme, as they do not pay in any contributions. Self-employed people who become unemployed but who used to work in salaried positions can still be entitled to unemployment benefits, dependent on certain conditions.
Additionally, the fact that you are subject to the social security scheme for salaried persons is not sufficient to be able to use your right to unemployment benefits; you must be able to prove a sufficient number of working days during a particular period.
First, register for unemployment benefits. Onem/RVA determines your right to benefits, while Capac/HVW or one of the unions actually pays it out. If you belong to a union, check with them first as to how to register. If you do not, you can register with either Onem or Capac.
You must not be receiving any salary or doing any work, you must be unemployed independent of your will, you must be available for the labour market and in a fit state to work and must not have reached the legal pension age, and have registered at your regional employment agency (Actiris, VDAB or Forem).
The basic unemployment benefit is calculated based on your gross income; however, the daily amount is limited. Additional allowances may be added to the basic percentage, but this depends on the category and the duration of the unemployment. After one year, most allowances decrease.