Belgium Country Profile – Working Practices

     
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Working hours

By law, workers in Belgium can only work a maximum of eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. This is higher than many Western countries and probably accounts for the fact that Belgian workers are the most productive in the EU. Employees generally work from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday with an hour’s lunch break. Working conditions vary according to region, with the Dutch-speaking regions tending towards a more flexible approach than the French-speaking areas. Maternity pay for mothers is calculated as 82% of a person’s salary for the first 30 days after giving birth which goes down to 75% after that. Fathers are entitled to ten days paternity leave which must be taken within four months of the child’s birth.

Holidays

Workers in Belgium must have worked as a salaried employee for the year before a holiday can be taken. May expats are therefore unlikely to be entitled to a holiday in their first year of employment, unless an agreement can be reached with the employer. The number of days a worker can take off depends on the amount of time spent at work the previous year. This generally equates to four week’s holiday accrued over a full year of work.

Public holidays

There are ten public holidays in Belgium as well as several unofficial holidays, including the December Solstice and Christmas Eve, which many employers recognise.

Public holiday dates 2017

New Year’s Day: 1st January

Easter Monday: 17th April

Labour Day: 1st May

Ascension Day: 25th May

Pentecost Monday: 5th June

Belgian National Day: 21st July

Assumption of Mary: 15th August

All Saints’ Day: 1st November

Armistice Day: 11th November

Christmas Day: 25th December

Visas and eligibility

All citizens of the EU/EEA can travel freely to Belgium and do not need a work permit. Generally, all citizens from outside EU/EEA countries require a visa to enter Belgium and a permit to work. If this applies to you, then you will need to apply for one of three visas, depending on your reason to enter Belgium. The visa you will most likely require if you intend to work in the country is a long-term visa for which you will need a firm offer of employment. Applications for visas must be applied for in your home country before arriving in Belgium. For more information, visit the Belgian Foreign Affairs website.

Tax

Taxation in Belgium is among the highest in Europe, with a rate of 50% for the highest earners compared to around 45% in other Western countries. Income and company taxes are collected by the state while local authorities are responsible for collecting property tax and municipal tax. Expats can benefit from a special tax status which can include generous allowances. To find out if you are eligible for tax breaks, contact The Ministry of Finance (Service Public Federal Finances).

The Belgium tax system is complex for expats but generally you will have to pay income tax on your worldwide income if you are living in the country for at least six months. Expats who meet certain criteria, for example someone employed by a scientific research centre on a temporary basis, can register to pay tax on Belgian-only related income. The tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December each year. You can find out more about taxes at Belgium's Official Information and Services website.

Benefits

By law, all workers in Belgium contribute to unemployment insurance which is shared by both employees and employers. EU citizens who haved moved to Belgium may be entitled to three months’ unemployment benefit from their native country. To find out if you are eligible for benefits, you can enquire at the country’s many trade-union run unemployment agencies or the state-run Auxiliary Fund for Payment of Unemployment Benefits. Contributions to the welfare state are made by employers who deduct it automatically from your monthly wage which accounts for around 25% of your pay. Expats who make contributions will be entitled to benefits, medical care and loss of work. For more information, visit the FPS Social Security website.

Pensions

The state pension (rustpensioen), is allocated to people when they reach 65 but it can be claimed earlier if someone has been working for more than 38 years. Pension contributions account for around 16% of a person’s wages, the burden of which is shared between the employee and employer. The National Pensions Office (ONP or RVP) decides the amount each person receives. A general rule of thumb, a single person will receive 60% of their average wage.

Disability

In 2009, Belgium signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which built on the country’s 1963 commitment to improve the opportunities of disabled people. Disabled rights are protected by both regional and federal law. On a community level, there are also institutions promoting disabled rights covering the Flemish, French and German-speaking communities. On a local level, people can apply for Disabled Persons Status, entitling them to an allowance and a parking card, with their municipal office.

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