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Employment contract in Belgium

To start your recruitment efforts in Belgium, companies must ensure compliance with employment practices and regulations. This includes understanding standard employment contract policies and best practices. 

In this guide, we will provide the necessary information you need to draft compliant employment contracts, including terms on contract extensions, standard working hours, remote work, laws on employment contracts, contract termination and more.

Employment contracts and policies in Belgium

To hire in Belgium compliantly, you must understand the employment laws and regulations governing workers’ contracts. Here are a few things you need to know:  

Employment contracts in Belgium

In Belgium, verbal contracts are legally possible, but you must be aware of the specific requirements for written employment contracts. These requirements include clauses such as non-compete, notice, and trial period, as well as specific contracts like part-time, fixed-term, and work from home arrangements. The employment law in Belgium also regulates various aspects of employment contracts, including provisions related to working time, holiday entitlement, termination notice, and grounds for termination. 

Employers in Belgium must also understand the recognised types of employment contracts, such as open-ended contracts, fixed-term contracts, part-time contracts, and temporary agency work contracts, to establish clear terms and conditions of employment.

Probationary periods in Belgium

It is no longer permissible to insert a trial period into an employment contract, except in an employment contract for students, temporary work, or interim agency work. 

This restriction applies broadly to standard employment agreements, prohibiting the inclusion of a probationary phase. However, exceptions are made for contracts that are specifically for student employment, temporary positions, or those facilitated by staffing agencies, where a trial period is still allowed. 

Employment policies in Belgium 

Belgium’s employment law mandates work regulations that cover various aspects, such as disciplinary measures, work schedules, grievance procedures, and policies on alcohol and drug abuse. Moreover, it is also mandatory to have a written health and safety policy in place, which may include a global prevention plan, a yearly action plan, a dynamic risk prevention system, and risk analysis. 

Third-party approval in Belgium

In Belgium, there is no requirement to lodge employment contracts with or seek approval from any third party. It is necessary to transmit copies of the work regulations and their annexes, along with any modifications, to the labour authorities.

Contract terms and conditions in Belgium

When hiring workers in Belgium, the primary type of contract, or default option, is an open-ended (or indefinite) employment contract. While fixed-term contracts are permissible, it is important to establish a written agreement prior to the commencement of employment. Failure to meet this requirement can result in the fixed-term contract being automatically considered indefinite. Additionally, if an employee continues to work without a valid extension after the completion of a fixed-term contract, it will be considered a continuation of the existing contract.  

In general, if the parties immediately sign another fixed-term contract without a break at the conclusion of a fixed-term contract, it is considered an indefinite-term contract. However, there are exceptions to this restriction on consecutive fixed-term contracts: 

  • Employers and employees can enter into a series of up to four contracts, each lasting at least three months, without breaks. The total duration of the contracts must not exceed three years. 
  • Consecutive fixed-term contracts can be signed without a break if the employer can justify this practice based on the nature and type of work being completed or other legitimate business reasons, such as seasonal work. 
  • Employers and employees can sign a series of contracts, each lasting at least six months, without breaks, with authorisation from the Labour Inspectorate. The combined duration of the contracts must not exceed a period of three years. 

Both employers and employees have the right to terminate a fixed-term contract early for a “serious reason.” If there is no reason, the guidelines for early termination are as follows: 

  • Within the first half of its term, up to a maximum period of six months, either party can terminate the contract with notice. The notice period is the same as for an indefinite-term contract, depending on the length of service. 
  • If one party terminates the contract during the remaining term, compensation equal to the employee’s remuneration through the original end date of the contract must be paid to the other party

Contract renewal in Belgium

The new Book 5 of the Civil Code, which came into effect on January 1, 2023, applies to contracts entered into as of that date. This includes agreements with independent contractors. It introduces several changes, including a “hardship” principle, a prohibition on unfair clauses, and the recognition of unilateral rights in cases of breach of contract. However, the specific rules regarding contract extension, renewal, and tenure might depend on the terms of the individual contract and the nature of the work.  

Renewing a contract in Belgium

Employment contracts can include contract renewal clauses to handle the extension or termination of the current agreement. The process of renewing an employment contract in Belgium can vary depending on the specific terms and conditions outlined in the initial contract. While the law does not have specific regulations regarding the renewal of employment contracts, there are general practices that employers and employees typically follow. 

In most cases, when an employment contract nears its expiration date, both the employer and the employee may engage in discussions to determine whether they want to renew the contract or make any changes to the terms of the agreement. If both parties agree to renew the contract, they will need to negotiate and agree upon the terms of the renewal, including the duration, responsibilities, and any modifications to the existing contract. 

During the renewal process, it is important to review the original contract and ensure compliance with labour laws. It is also advisable to seek legal advice or consult with relevant authorities to ensure that the renewal process adheres to any specific requirements or legal obligations. 

Is there an automatic contract renewal clause in Belgium?

In Belgium, there is no specific provision for an automatic renewal clause for employees with standard employment contracts. Employment contracts in Belgium are typically either for an indefinite period (open-ended contracts) or for a fixed-term (contracts with a specified end date or linked to a specific task or project). 

To ensure compliance, employers must carefully review and understand the terms and conditions of the existing employment contract, including any clauses related to renewal, termination, or notice.

Fixed-term contracts in Belgium

Starting May 8, 2023, a new article of the 1978 Act on Employment Contracts has come into force. This article introduces rules specifically addressing the combination of consecutive fixed-term contracts and replacement contracts. These rules generally limit the combined duration of consecutive fixed-term contracts and a replacement contract to a maximum of two years. 

However, an exception applies if the parties first agree to consecutive fixed-term contracts, followed by a replacement contract. In this case, the total duration of all contracts cannot exceed three years. For example, if an employer has planned four consecutive fixed-term contracts totalling a maximum of two years but intends to replace the employee at the end of the fourth contract, they can sign a replacement contract as long as the total duration of all contracts does not exceed three years.  

To ensure compliance and clarity, it is important to have both fixed-term contracts and replacement contracts agreed upon in writing before they come into effect.  

Notice periods for fixed-term contracts in Belgium

The notice period for a fixed-term contract may vary depending on the circumstances and the duration of the contract. Generally, fixed-term contracts do not require a notice period for termination unless it is explicitly mentioned in the contract itself. However, if a fixed-term contract is terminated prior to its agreed-upon end date without a valid reason, the party terminating the contract may be required to pay a compensation fee to the other party. 

Termination of fixed-term contracts in Belgium

To terminate a fixed-term contract in Belgium, the contract typically expires automatically on the agreed-upon end date, and no formal notice of termination is required. In cases where either party wishes to terminate the contract before its agreed term without a valid reason, a compensatory fee may need to be paid to the other party. 

Is there severance pay for fixed-term contracts in Belgium?

There is typically no severance pay for fixed-term contracts. However, in case of termination before the agreed end date without a valid reason, the terminating party may be required to pay a compensation fee to the other party. This compensation fee serves as a form of compensation for terminating the contract prematurely.

According to the labour laws in Belgium, the maximum legal work hours per day in Belgium is eight hours. Work should generally be performed between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. due to the ban on night work. The standard working week in Belgium is 38 hours. However, some sectors may have lower maximum working time limits per week based on collective bargaining agreements. Workers, unless they hold a managerial or senior execution position, are eligible for overtime pay for any hours worked beyond this limit.   

For shift work, you can work up to 11 hours per day, with a maximum of 50 hours per week; for continuous work, you can work up to 12 hours per day. Employers can also establish flexible working time schedules, provided that the average weekly working hours over a quarter or year remain at 38 hours. Keep in mind that the minimum daily working time is three hours, although a statutory exception exists.  

Overtime in Belgium

Employees on full-time contracts, which allow up to nine hours per day and 38 hours per week, are subject to regulated working hours. These limits can only be exceeded under certain conditions, such as a significant increase in workload or urgent tasks arising from unforeseen events. 

Overtime work must be compensated in two ways: 

  1. Paying an overtime premium of 50% additional salary for weekdays and Saturdays, and 100% additional salary for Sundays and public holidays.
  2. Granting compensatory rest equivalent to the overtime hours worked, to be used within the same year. For instance, an employee who works four hours of overtime is entitled to four hours of compensatory rest. Employees in managerial or trust positions may be exempt from these overtime regulations.

Working week in Belgium 

Monday – Friday 

How many hours can a student work in Belgium?

Students in Belgium can work up to 600 hours annually with reduced social security contributions. There was a recent change that increased the limit from 475 hours to 600 hours, allowing students to work more hours while still benefiting from reduced contributions and other student work advantages.

Remote work Belgium

Work from home in Belgium 

According to the law, employers must provide a monthly, tax-free work from home allowance to both full-time and part-time employees who work remotely on a regular basis (at least one day per week or five days per month). The maximum tax-free allowance stands at €148.73 per month. This allowance can encompass various office-related expenses, including insurance, office space usage, snacks, maintenance, property tax, office supplies, printer and computer equipment, utilities, and additional reimbursements or provision of equipment.  

Additionally, employers in Belgium with 20 or more employees must adhere to legislation mandating the inclusion of the right for employees to disconnect after working hours in either company Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) or in company-level policies and regulations. These guidelines are designed to ensure the respectful use of digital tools, safeguarding employees’ resting times, holidays, and private or family lives. We encourage companies to implement training and awareness plans to educate employees and managers on the responsible use of digital tools and the associated risks of over connection. 

Remote work visa in Belgium

There is no remote work visa specifically designed for digital nomads in Belgium. Non-EU foreign nationals who wish to work remotely in Europe for an extended period can opt to stay in Belgium with a short-term visa. EU citizens planning to enter Belgium for remote work purposes generally do not require a visa if their intended stay is less than 90 days. 

Work authorisations, on the other hand, are not required for nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland when it comes to remote work in Belgium. However, for individuals outside of the EEA and Switzerland, it is advisable to check with the Belgian immigration authorities or seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the specific requirements and regulations.

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At CXC, we understand the importance of adhering to employment laws and regulations to protect your business from legal risks. Our comprehensive EOR solutions allow you to hire the best talent, wherever they are. We handle the complex HR and administrative tasks associated with global hiring, freeing up your time to focus on other important aspects of your business operations. By partnering with us, you have peace of mind knowing that your employment practices comply with all relevant laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

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