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Leaves and time off in Belgium

When attracting top talent in Belgium, you need to understand their rights as workers, treat them fairly and provide attractive benefits for them. This includes having knowledge about Belgium’s leave policy, sick leave, maternal leave, etc. 

In this guide, we will provide everything you need to know about leave and time off in Belgium, including public holidays, parental leave, and other leave benefits.

Leaves in Belgium

Annual leave entitlement in Belgium 

Depending on their work schedule, employees are eligible for 20 to 24 days of annual leave. For a five-day workweek, the entitlement is 20 days, while for a six-day workweek, it is 24 days. Leave is accrued based on the number of months worked in the previous calendar year, and it must be used within 12 months without carryover. For part-time employees, the entitlement is calculated proportionally to their working hours. 

Taking annual leave entitlement in Belgium

Employees in Belgium are encouraged to take their annual leave within the reference or calendar year. However, some flexibility exists for carrying over leave to the next year, particularly in cases where the employee was unable to take leave due to exceptional circumstances. In these cases, a specific carryover period is defined. Additionally, employees are typically not permitted to receive payment in lieu of taking their annual leave, except in cases of termination of employment. 

Sick days in Belgium

If an employee falls ill or experiences a personal accident, they will continue to receive their regular salary for the first 30 days, covered by the employer. After 30 days, the Health Insurance Fund will cover further leave at 60% of the employee’s salary. A medical professional must certify the sick leave with a sickness certificate. 

Public holidays in Belgium

Employees in Belgium are entitled to remuneration for ten official public holidays. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday or on a day when the employee does not typically work, the employer must grant a replacement rest day. Meanwhile if a public holiday falls within an employee’s annual leave period, it is typically not deducted from their annual leave entitlement. Instead, the public holiday is treated as a separate day off, and the employee is entitled to an additional day of annual leave to replace it.

Parental leave in Belgium

Maternity leaves in Belgium 

The maternity leave policy in Belgium lasts for 15 weeks, with the potential to increase to 19 weeks in cases of complicated or multiple births. This leave consists of prenatal and postnatal periods.

  • Prenatal. A mother must take a minimum of one week’s leave before the expected due date, and she can take up to six weeks before the due date.
  • Postnatal. Following the birth, the mother must also take an additional nine weeks of leave.

The paid maternity leave benefits in Belgium are provided by the social security system and amount to 82% of the employee’s salary for the first 30 days, then reducing to 75% (capped). 

Paternity leave in Belgium

Fathers are entitled to 20 days of paid paternity leave, which can be utilised flexibly—either taken separately, consecutively, or split into 40 half-days. This leave must be taken within the first four months following the child’s birth. The employer provides the father with full salary during the initial 3 days of absence, while public health insurance provides benefits for the remaining 17 days at 82% of the capped salary. 

Parental leave in Belgium

Parental leave rights in Belgium can be initiated after post-natal maternity leave and require mutual agreement between the employee and employer. 

When taking parental leave, rules or several options are available. These include taking a single continuous four-month period, splitting it into multiple periods of at least one month each, reducing working hours to 80% for a maximum of 20 months (divisible into two-month increments), reducing working hours to 50% for up to eight months (also divisible into two-month periods), or opting for half a day off per week or a full day off every two weeks for a maximum of 40 months (or in segments of 10 months each). Employers in Belgium retains the right to approve or refuse this arrangement. 

How to apply for a parental leave in Belgium

Both parents in Belgium are entitled to parental leave. When applying for parental leave, employees must inform their employer in advance, preferably at least two months before the desired start date. Most employers will ask employees to submit necessary documents, such as a parental leave application form and other supporting documents, such as proof of birth or adoption. Employees must familiarise themselves with their employer’s policies regarding parental leave.

Adoption leave in Belgium

Employees in Belgium are entitled to adoption leave when they adopt a child under the age of 18. The duration of adoption leave in Belgium is six weeks in total. It is mandatory for employees to take at least one week of adoption leave. This credit is not transferrable between the adoptive parents. 

During adoption leave in Belgium, the initial three days are fully paid by the employer at the employee’s regular wage. The fourth day is then covered by the health insurance fund. On top of that, each parent is entitled to six weeks of pay based on their usual earnings, with the possibility of an extension. In some cases, this six-week period may even be doubled.

Other leaves in Belgium

In accordance with Joint Labour Committees, additional leave types may be available to employees as long as they are approved by the employer and employee. Some other leaves in Belgium are: 

Family care situations in Belgium

When helping an ill family member, employees can completely suspend their services for up to 12 months per patient. These interruptions must be taken for a minimum of one month and a maximum of three months each time. Alternatively, employees can opt to reduce their benefits by one-fifth or one-half during a period of up to 24 months per patient, with the reduction periods again needing to be taken for a minimum of one month and a maximum of three months each time. 

For part-time employees, whose weekly working hours equal at least three-fourths of a full-time worker’s hours, benefit reduction periods of up to half their full-time employment can be taken for up to 24 months per patient. These periods must also be taken for a minimum of one month and a maximum of three months. 

Compassionate or bereavement leave in Belgium

When employees experience the loss or death of a family member, they can take time off to grieve and attend to the necessary arrangements and family responsibilities. The duration of bereavement or compassionate leave may vary based on the individual’s employment contract or company policies. 

Jury duty leave in Belgium

Jury duty leave in Belgium refers to the time off granted to employees to fulfil their obligations as jurors in the legal system. Employees receive their regular pay during this leave, just like they would if they were working. This ensures that they are not financially disadvantaged while serving on a jury. 

Breastfeeding leave in Belgium

There is no specific paid breastfeeding leave policy in Belgium. However, employees have the right to take “breastfeeding breaks” to express milk until their baby is nine months old. If an employee returns to work after maternity leave and is still breastfeeding, they have the right to take breastfeeding breaks, subject to fulfilling certain requirements. Employees can also take unpaid breastfeeding leave, subject to their employer’s approval. 

Burnout leave in Belgium

While there may not be a specific “burnout leave” policy in Belgium, employers are required to take measures to prevent burnout or nervous breakdown among employees. If employees are experiencing burnout or related mental health issue, they are encouraged to take sick leave or annual leave. 

Educational leave in Belgium

Employees have the right to take paid educational leave to pursue further education or training while employed. This is also known as “time credit for training,” which allows employees to enhance their skills and knowledge without sacrificing their income. Time credit training in Belgium refers to a labour regulation that allows employees to temporarily reduce their working hours in order to pursue education or training while maintaining their employment. This arrangement enables individuals to dedicate time to furthering their skills and knowledge through accredited educational programs or training courses.

Public holidays in Belgium

There are several public holidays in Belgium for employees to enjoy throughout the year. These holidays may vary by region and can include national and regional holidays. Some of the commonly observed public holidays in Belgium are:

1 January
New Year’s Day
31 March
Easter Sunday
1 April
Easter Monday
1 May
Labour Day
9 May
Ascension Day
19 May
Whit Sunday
20 May
Whit Monday
21 July
Belgian National Day
15 August
Assumption Day
1 November
Armistice Day
25 December
Christmas Day

If an employee is required to work on a public holiday in Belgium due to the nature of their work, they must be compensated with an additional day off within six months. Please keep in mind that these holidays may be subject to change, so it is advisable to regularly check for updates from official sources or consult regional regulations for more detailed information.

Grow globally with CXC

Managing a large number of workers while maintaining compliance can be overwhelming. At CXC, we understand the challenges you face in growing your business. 

When you partner with CXC to engage workers in Belgium, we will become your HR function for those workers. That means we will not only keep track of the leaves and paid time off they are entitled to but also handle all other HR tasks, from seamless onboarding to engagement. By leveraging our extensive expertise, we’ll take care of the administrative burden, freeing up your internal team’s time so they can focus on other important aspects of the business. 

Speak to our team today, and we will provide you with the guidance you need to enter into new markets quickly and compliantly.

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