Belgian employment law

For anyone who may be moving, or considering a move, to Belgium, this article provides the important information you need to know about Belgian employment law and regulation relating to contracts, working hours, holiday entitlement and termination of employment.

For anyone who may be moving, or considering a move, to Belgium, this article provides the important information you need to know about Belgian employment law and regulation relating to contracts, working hours, holiday entitlement and termination of employment. Employment contractsEmployment contracts for a specified period or a clearly specified piece of work should be in writing. If there is no written document, the contract is subject to the same conditions as a contract for an unspecified period.Contracts may include a trial clause, which must be stated in writing. The trial period for manual workers may not be less than seven or more than 14 days. For office workers, it may not be less than one month or more than three or six months, depending on their salary.Working hoursMaximum working time is limited to 38 hours per week. However, with shift work the maximum may be increased to fifty per week. In cases where work cannot be interrupted, the limit rises to 12 hours per day.In principle, night work is prohibited but there are many exceptions to this: hotels, events firms, health care, etc. Apart from exceptional circumstances, working on Sundays or public holidays is prohibited.Holiday entitlementIf you work 5 days a week, you are entitled to at least 20 days' holiday per calendar year, but only after you have worked in Belgium for an entire calendar year. Until you have worked for an entire year, you will not be entitled to holiday. If you work part-time, the number of days' holiday will be reduced proportionately.Your employer will pay holiday pay. The amount depends on your employment contract.
  • If you are an office worker, you will be entitled to salary during your holidays. In addition, you will receive holiday pay from your employer.
  • If you are a manual worker, you will be entitled to 8% of 108% of your gross wages for the preceding year during your holidays.
Termination of employmentIn Belgium, an employer has the right to dismiss a worker without giving a reason, as long as he or she gives notice or pays compensation as prescribed by law.During the trial period, notice for the dismissal of manual workers may be given any time after the eighth day up to the end of the trial period. As for office workers, termination is possible either by notice given seven days in advance or by the payment of compensation in lieu of notice corresponding to seven days’ wages.In the event of a contested termination of employment, the employer is required to prove that the termination is not unfair and a judge will then render a decision. In the event of a dispute, employees can appeal to the Labour Court.Two categories of workers are protected against dismissal: those covered by the general prohibition and those protected for particular reasons. Certain other workers are protected from dismissal because of their positions or circumstances; for example, a pregnant woman may not be dismissed as from the date on which the employer is informed of the pregnancy and an industrial doctor may not be dismissed on any grounds other than those relating to his/her competence. Sources: Helplinelaw.com, InternationalLabourOrganization.org

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