Labour law in Belgium: Leave
Here is our guide to different types of leave you are entitled to while working in Belgium, including annual leave, leave of absence and parental leave.
In the private sector, the length of your holidays is proportional to the number of days you actually worked (and the days of inactivity regarded as equivalent to working days, for instance sick leave) during the year preceding the year in which you take your holidays. If you worked a full year, you are legally entitled to twenty days the following year in a regime consisting of a five-day week, and to 24 days in a regime consisting of a six-day week.
These holidays entitle you to a holiday bonus:
- If you are a worker or salaried artiste, your holiday bonus is paid by a holiday fund or by the National Annual Holiday Office (Office national des vacances annuelles – ONVA). The amount depends on the salary you earned during the year preceding the one in which you are taking the holidays. The amount corresponds to 15.38 percent of the salary you earned the previous year.
- If you are an employee, your employer pays you the holiday bonus directly. It includes the salary normally owed for the holiday period plus a supplement, per month worked (including sick leave) the previous year, equal to 1/12th of 92 percent of your gross salary for the month during which your holidays commence. As a general rule it is paid when you take your main holidays, and at the earliest on the first working day of May of the year of the holidays.
In the public sector, the number of days to which you are entitled depends on your age and the amount of work done in the current year. These holidays entitle you to a bonus you receive in the month of May, which consists of a fixed part and a variable part.
Leave of absence
You are entitled to leave of absence from your work, on your normal salary, for family events, to comply with civic obligations and civil missions and if you have to appear in court. To receive your salary, you must inform your employer in advance of your absence and, if you are unable to do so, you must inform him as soon as possible.
Leave for imperative reasons
You may also take leave of absence for imperious reasons, which means any unforeseeable event requiring your urgent and indispensable intervention, provided that the performance of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible (e.g. an accident suffered by someone living with you, fire damage to your home, etc.
Such leave cannot last longer than 10 working days during the calendar year. This leave is not paid, unless otherwise agreed between the employer and the worker.
Career break in the context of leave for palliative care or medical assistance: most workers can take a career break to provide palliative care or to provide assistance or care to a family member suffering from a serious illness.
Maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave and adoption leave
A pregnant worker is entitled to maternity leave. The parents can also take advantage of different arrangements to look after new arrivals.
Paid education leave
If you are working in the private sector and want to do a training course, you can benefit under the paid education leave system which allows you to take leave which is paid as usual while following a training course during or outside your working hours. The leave is paid by your employer at the usual dates. The employer may obtain reimbursement for these hours from the Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue under certain conditions. The training course may have a professional purpose without being directly linked to your current position, but it can also be of a general nature. There are also specific regulations for workers preparing for final secondary school examinations before the central examining board, for SME employees and for certain part-time workers.
If you want to take a temporary, partial or complete career break, there are several possibilities.
Time credit in the private sector: in the private sector, time credit enables you to take a temporary career break and to receive an ONEM allowance during this period. You can either suspend your employment contract completely, whether you work full-time or part-time, or you can reduce your working hours to part-time, or you can reduce your working hours by 1/5. This system replaces the old system of career breaks which is still applicable in the public sector.
Complete break and reduction of working hours to part-time
Can last for at least three months and at most one year. This maximum period may be extended to five years if a sectoral or company collective agreement provides for this. To obtain a complete break, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 12 months during the 15 months preceding the notice given. If you want to take a part-time break, you must have been employed at least 3/4 time during the year preceding the notice given.
Regardless of your age, you can also obtain a reduction of one day or two half-days per week if you are in a full-time job spread over five days. This reduction by 1/5th can last from six months to five years. To do this, you must have been employed by your employer for the five years preceding the notice given to your employer and you must have been employed full-time for the 12 months preceding this notice. A special system for reducing working hours has been introduced for workers aged at least 50.
Career break in the public sector: in the public sector, you can take a temporary career break and receive an ONEM allowance during this break. Under this system, you can stop working completely, whether you are working part-time or full-time, or you can reduce your working hours to part-time, or you can reduce your working hours by 1/5, by 1/4 or by 1/3. The career break can last from at least three months to at most six years. A special system for reducing working hours has been introduced for workers aged at least 50.
If the various possibilities of reducing working hours described above do not suit you, there is another solution: part-time work. When you work part-time you are subject to the general social security regime, with some exceptions, and to the labour regulation applicable to part-time workers. In the case of part-time work, normal working hours must be less than those of a full-time worker in a comparable situation (calculated on a weekly basis or based on an average over a reference period).
10 public holidays in Belgium
- 1 January (New Year’s Day)
- Easter Monday (date changes every year)
- 1 May (Labour Day)
- Ascension Thursday (6th Thursday after Easter)
- Whit Monday (7th Monday after Easter)
- 21 July (national holiday)
- 15 August (Assumption)
- 1 November (All Saints’ Day)
- 11 November (1918 Armistice)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
- The Federal Public Services are also closed on 2 November, 15 November (King’s birthday) and 26 December.
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