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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.
Payments are deducted at source from salaries and contributions are paid by employers into the social security fund for their employees. This money is used to finance the 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.
All workers must register with, and pay membership fees to, a mutual health insurance company. These pay sickness benefits to employees after one month’s incapacity and reimburse a percentage of healthcare and medication costs. From the second day of absence, you must provide your employer with a medical certificate justifying your illness or accident.
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.
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. 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.
Most people who lose their job involuntarily have the right to unemployment benefits, though there are limitations. Selfemployed 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 at the unemployment benefit office, the Caisse Auxiliaire de Paiement des Allocations de Chômage (CAPAC)/Hulpkas voor Werkloosheidsuitkeringen. 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 local 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.