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What changes in Belgium from 1 January? New measures concern sick leave, pension and cigarette prices

12:33 29/12/2023

The new year traditionally heralds a raft of changes in Belgium. Here’s some of the new measures that will affect the lives of many of the country’s citizens from 1 January 2024, report RTBF and Belga.

Recuperation of holiday leave if sick

Employees and civil servants can postpone vacation days if they fall sick on holiday. They will be able to recuperate the lost days of leave at a later date.

Some rules need to be respected. This new measure concerns legal days off, it does not apply to public holidays or extra-legal days. You must immediately notify your employer that you are sick, provide an address if not at home and deliver a medical certificate by a doctor.

On your return to work, you must explicitly ask your employer to postpone your leave. You have until the end of the year to take the lost days or up to two years in the case of a long-term illness.

Meal vouchers for federal civil servants

Affecting 65,000 federal civil servants, personal electronic meal vouchers worth €6 per will be issued for each day worked. Per civil servant, this represents a net gain of around €1,000 per year.

It is accompanied by cost-saving measures that include the repeal of the fixed daily allowance for living expenses and the rationalisation of work canteens.

Extra check-ups for long-term incapacitated workers

Employees on long-term sick leave will be obliged to have three physical meetings per year with their mutual insurance fund, after four, seven and 11 months of incapacity.

These appointments remain obligatory, beyond the initial 12 month period, even when the person is officially considered to be suffering long-term illness.

Minimum pension increase

The minimum pension rises by 2.08%, along with the income replacement allowance. A single worker who has completed a full career (minimum 45 years) will see their pension increase by €327. Compared to the €1,292 allocated since September 2020, it now rises to €1,619 net per month.

The monthly amount of a pension at the household rate will increase from €1,614 to €2,172 net. Pensions above the minimum level that began in 2019, will rise by 2%.

The income replacement allowance also rises to €1,295 per month for a single person (up almost €335 compared to October 2020), €863 for a cohabitant (compared to €639) or €1,750 for a family with dependents (compared to €1,296 in October 2020). This benefit is granted to people with physical or mental disabilities who earn a third less income compared to an able-bodied person.

In addition, pensioners' holiday pay also increases by 2.55%, but only from May 2024.

Price hike on tobacco

Belgium’s plan for a smoke-free generation by 2040 steps up a gear with a 25% price increase on a pack of cigarettes. Smokers will have to pay almost €10 for their usual brand.

The price of electronic cigarette liquid also rises with a new tax of €0.15 per ml. This extra cost is set to explode prices in the vaping sector.

Launched in 2022, the six-year interfederal anti-smoking strategy aims to reduce the daily consumption of tobacco to 10% by 2028 and 5% by 2040 among the population aged 15 and over.

Bpost price rise

Bpost is increasing the price of postage stamps and parcels to partly compensate for the rise in inflation and falling mail volumes, it has announced.

Non priority postage stamps purchased individually will increase from €1.39 to €1.46. Priority postage stamps rise from €2.17 to €2.27. The cost of sending packages also increasing.

Bpost is imposing a surcharge of €1 per parcel sent during the end-of-year peak period between Black Friday (24 November) and Christmas Day (25 December).

It warned that prices could increase by a further 3% during 2024 if inflation rises higher than expected.

Flexi-job expansion

The flexi-job system is being enlarged with the number of economic sectors using it increasing from 10 to 22. The popular system enables employees and retirees to earn additional income without having to pay taxes.

Organic waste 

To reduce the amount of waste needing to be incinerated, organic waste is to be treated separately from general waste. The orange bag system has been mandatory in Brussels since May, while several Flemish municipalities have voluntarily already implemented it. Most municipalities in Wallonia have also introduced the system.

Written by The Bulletin