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Discover everything you need to know about Belgium

Hire in Belgium at a glance

Here ares some key facts regarding hiring in Belgium

GDP growth
GDP world share
Payroll frequency
Working hours
38 hours/week

Overview in Belgium

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Belgium, a Western European country bordered by the North Sea, France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands, features a varied terrain from coastal plains to rugged forested hills in the Ardennes. It has a temperate maritime climate with mild winters and cool summers. Historically, from Celtic tribes to Roman conquest by Julius Caesar in 50 BC, Belgium evolved through significant medieval trade, Habsburg rule, and suffered during both World Wars. It gained independence in 1830 and played a key role in forming the European Economic Community, now hosting the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Belgium operates as a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system and has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Its economy is highly developed and service-oriented, with significant industries in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and automotive. Belgium is known for its rich artistic heritage, including Surrealism and famous comics like 'The Adventures of Tintin', and its cuisine like chocolate and waffles.

The workforce is aging, with challenges in gender and immigrant labor integration, yet remains highly educated and multilingual, advantageous for international business. The service sector dominates employment, particularly in public administration, finance, and healthcare, while manufacturing also plays a crucial role, especially in chemicals and automotive. Emerging sectors include biotech and digital technology, with ongoing initiatives towards a greener economy. Belgium's strategic location and multilingual workforce make it central in European trade and politics, despite facing demographic and economic challenges.

Taxes in Belgium

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  • Professional Withholding Tax (PWT): In Belgium, employers must withhold income tax from employee salaries and remit it to the Federal Fiscal Administration. The frequency of remittance depends on the size of the company.

  • Social Security Contributions: Employers and employees contribute to the social security system, with employers handling the calculation, withholding, and remittance. Employers contribute approximately 27% of gross salary, while employees contribute 13.07%.

  • Corporate Income Tax: Companies are taxed on their profits at a standard rate of 25%, with potential reduced rates for smaller companies.

  • Other Taxes: Employers may face additional regional or local taxes, and Belgium's progressive income tax system divides taxable income into brackets taxed at increasing rates.

  • Professional Expenses Deductions: Employees can deduct actual work-related expenses or opt for a standard deduction based on a percentage of gross earnings.

  • Additional Deductions: These include deductions for charitable contributions, life insurance premiums, domestic personnel costs, and childcare expenses.

  • VAT System: Belgium has a standard VAT rate of 21%, with reduced rates for specific services and exemptions for certain medical and educational services. VAT obligations depend on the place of supply rules, with different stipulations for B2B and B2C services.

  • VAT Registration & Compliance: Mandatory electronic filing of quarterly VAT returns is required for businesses exceeding a €25,000 turnover, with specific activities possibly requiring registration even below this threshold.

  • Investment Incentives: Belgium offers various deductions for investments, including general investment deductions and specific deductions for energy-saving and ecological investments. The Notional Interest Deduction (NID) has been abolished as of December 31, 2023.

  • R&D Incentives: These include the Innovation Income Deduction, partial withholding tax exemption for researchers, and additional deductions or tax credits for R&D expenditures.

  • Regional Tax Incentives: Specific incentives are available in the Walloon Region, and the Deduction for Risk Capital has replaced the NID, offering deductions based on incremental capital.

Leave in Belgium

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Belgium offers generous vacation and leave entitlements for employees under various laws and decrees. Full-time employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave, calculated based on their previous year's work. Vacation pay includes the regular salary and an additional "double vacation pay," amounting to 92% of the gross monthly salary. Part-time workers have prorated leave based on their schedules.

Employees are eligible for paid vacation after 12 months of employment, and employers generally determine the timing of vacations, considering employee preferences. The vacation schedule should be communicated by January 1st each year.

Belgium also observes ten national public holidays, including New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Belgian National Day, Assumption of Mary, All Saints' Day, Armistice Day, and Christmas Day.

Other types of leave include sick leave, maternity leave (15 weeks), paternity leave (15 days, extendable to 20), and various forms of special leave like Petit chômage for personal reasons and Time Credit for reducing work hours temporarily. Employers often offer more generous leave than the legal minimum, and specific industry or company agreements may provide additional benefits.

Benefits in Belgium

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Belgium's social security system, funded by both employer and employee contributions, offers a robust safety net including healthcare, pensions, and unemployment benefits. Employers contribute between 25% and 30.43% of wages, while employees contribute 13.07%. Benefits include universal healthcare access, financial support during sickness or disability, and generous maternity/paternity leave. Additional perks from employers may include group insurance, profit sharing, and company cars. The system also mandates health insurance, with public and private options available, and provides a comprehensive retirement system combining state pensions with supplementary options like company or personal pension plans.

Workers Rights in Belgium

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In Belgium, employment termination requires valid reasons such as economic issues, inadequate professional conduct, or serious cause like severe misconduct. Employers and employees must adhere to notice requirements, typically starting the Monday after notice is given. Severance pay is generally due unless termination is for serious cause. Special protections are in place for certain groups like pregnant employees and employee representatives, with robust anti-discrimination laws covering a wide range of protected characteristics.

Employers have significant responsibilities including implementing non-discrimination policies, providing training, and establishing complaint procedures. Work regulations stipulate a maximum of 38 hours per week, with mandatory rest periods and ergonomic workplace requirements to ensure employee safety and health. Belgian law emphasizes preventive measures for workplace safety, requiring employers to conduct risk assessments and maintain emergency plans. Employees have rights to a safe workplace, necessary information and training, and can refuse unsafe work. Enforcement of these regulations is carried out by various Belgian agencies ensuring compliance and safety in the workplace.

Agreements in Belgium

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Belgian labor law outlines various types of employment agreements tailored to different work scenarios, categorized by duration and working hours.

Based on Duration:

  • Open-Ended Contract (CDI): Offers indefinite employment without a set end date; a written contract is recommended.
  • Fixed-Term Contract (CDD): Used for temporary, project-based, or seasonal work with a mandatory written contract and restrictions on renewals.
  • Temporary Work Agency Agreement: Employees are hired by an agency and placed in client companies for specific assignments.

Based on Working Hours:

  • Full-Time Contract: Typically involves 38-40 hours of work per week.
  • Part-Time Contract: Allows for a reduced schedule with a mandatory written contract.

Specialized Agreements:

  • Employment Agreement for a Well-Defined Job: A fixed-term contract for tasks with a clear end date.
  • Employment Agreement to Replace an Absent Employee: Used during the temporary absence of a regular employee.

Key Contract Elements:

  • Job Description: Should clearly outline the employee's duties and responsibilities.
  • Remuneration and Benefits: Must detail the gross salary, payment frequency, and additional benefits.
  • Working Hours and Schedule: Specifies the weekly working hours and regular working days.
  • Termination Clauses: Includes notice periods aligned with legal minimums and details on the probationary period, which cannot exceed six months.

Legal Provisions:

  • Probationary Period: Allows both employer and employee to assess suitability with a shorter notice period for termination.
  • Confidentiality Clauses: Employers can include clauses to protect sensitive information.
  • Non-Compete Clauses: Generally unenforceable except under specific conditions such as for senior executives or certain CBAs.

Understanding these agreements is crucial for both employers and employees in Belgium to ensure compliance and clarity in employment relationships.

Remote Work in Belgium

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Belgium has adapted to the rise of remote work by establishing a comprehensive legal and technological framework to support both employers and employees. Key legal regulations include the Royal Decree of July 14, 2020, which mandates telework rights for full-time employees, and the Act of November 20, 2022, which grants employees the right to disconnect outside work hours. Employers are required to provide a written telework agreement, respect the right to disconnect, and may choose to cover expenses for necessary equipment.

Technologically, successful remote work in Belgium depends on reliable internet, secure communication tools, cloud-based solutions, and robust cybersecurity measures. Employers must ensure data protection in compliance with the GDPR, which includes lawful data processing, data security, and employee training on data protection.

Additionally, Belgium offers flexible work arrangements like part-time work, flexitime, and job sharing, which cater to diverse employee needs and help maintain work-life balance. Employers are encouraged to clearly communicate and document these arrangements to prevent disputes and ensure mutual understanding.

Working Hours in Belgium

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  • Standard Workweek: In Belgium, the average workweek is capped at 38 hours, with a standard maximum of 8 hours per day. Exceptions allow for daily hours to be extended to 11 hours in specific industries or circumstances.

  • Overtime Regulations: Overtime is generally restricted and requires legitimate reasons such as urgent tasks or unforeseen issues. It is capped at 78 hours per quarter and 91 hours annually, with required prior authorization for excess. Overtime pay is at least 1.5 times the regular rate on weekdays and double on Sundays and public holidays. Voluntary overtime is capped at 120 hours annually, extendable to 360 hours, and does not require compensatory rest.

  • Rest Periods and Breaks: Employees are entitled to a 15-minute break during workdays exceeding 6 hours, with possible adjustments in specific sectors. Additional breaks like smoking or coffee breaks are at the employer's discretion and usually unpaid. Work on Sundays mandates compensatory rest within six days.

  • Night and Weekend Work: Night work, defined as work between 8 pm and 6 am, is generally prohibited with specific sector exceptions. Compensation for regular night work involves an additional €1.22 per hour. Sunday work is also restricted, with mandatory rest days, typically on Sunday unless otherwise designated.

For detailed guidance on labor laws, consulting the Belgian Labor Code or a legal professional specializing in Belgian labor law is recommended.

Salary in Belgium

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Understanding competitive salaries in Belgium is essential for both employers and employees. Employers need this knowledge to attract and retain talent, while employees benefit by ensuring fair compensation. Factors influencing competitive salaries include job title, industry, experience, education, location, and company size and performance. Resources like salary surveys, government data, and recruitment agencies can aid in researching these salaries.

Negotiating a competitive salary involves thorough research, highlighting personal value, and being prepared for negotiation. Belgium's minimum wage system includes the national minimum (RMMMG) and sector-specific wages set through collective bargaining. Young workers have scaled minimum wages based on age.

Additionally, Belgian employers offer bonuses and fringe benefits like performance-based bonuses, commission structures, meal vouchers, company cars, and mobile phone reimbursements to enhance compensation packages. Payroll practices in Belgium ensure timely and accurate compensation, primarily through monthly electronic payments, with detailed payslips provided to employees. Employers must also handle tax withholding and maintain payroll records for at least seven years.

Termination in Belgium

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Belgian labor law, as per the Employment Contracts Act of 1978, mandates specific notice periods for employment termination based on the employee's seniority and the initiating party. Notice periods for employer-initiated terminations range from 1 week for less than 3 months of seniority to 62 weeks for 20 years of service, with additional weeks for longer service. For employee-initiated terminations, the notice period is shorter, capped at 13 weeks for those with 8 years of seniority or more.

The notice must be in writing, specifying the start date and length, and for employer terminations, it should be served by registered mail or bailiff. Severance pay is due under certain conditions such as dismissal without just cause, with the amount based on the employee's remuneration and length of service. Specific formulas are used for calculating severance, which can be influenced by Collective Bargaining Agreements and is subject to taxation.

Termination can also occur by mutual consent, for serious cause, or under special protections for certain categories of employees. Disputes related to termination can be addressed in labor tribunals.

Freelancing in Belgium

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In Belgium, the distinction between employees and independent contractors hinges on the concept of subordination, with employees working under the control of their employers, and independent contractors operating with greater autonomy. The Employment Relations Act of 2006 provides a legal framework to distinguish between these roles, and parties can seek a social ruling for clarity. Employees enjoy benefits like holiday pay and social security contributions paid by employers, while independent contractors handle their own taxes and social security, with fewer termination protections.

Independent contractors can choose from various business structures, such as sole proprietorships or partnerships, each with specific liabilities and administrative requirements. Effective negotiation on rates, payment terms, and contract clauses is crucial for contractors, with industries like IT, creative sectors, and consulting offering many opportunities.

Freelancers in Belgium automatically hold copyright to their creations unless agreed otherwise, and can negotiate the transfer or licensing of these rights. They must manage tax obligations, including income tax and VAT, and are advised to maintain accurate financial records. Optional insurances like liability, health, and pension insurance provide additional security.

Health & Safety in Belgium

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Belgian health and safety laws, primarily governed by the Act of 4 August 1996 (Well-Being Act) and the Codex on Well-Being at Work, outline extensive employer obligations and employee rights. Employers must identify hazards, implement preventive measures using a hierarchy of controls, and provide safety training and information. They are also required to develop emergency plans and facilitate worker involvement in safety decisions through committees.

Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work without repercussions and must be informed about workplace risks. They are also expected to follow safety procedures and report hazards.

The laws cover specific sectors with additional regulations, such as construction and chemical industries, and include provisions for young workers and the management of hazardous substances.

Enforcement is handled by the Directorate-General for Humanisation of Labour, which can issue fines and stop-work orders. The inspection process may involve on-site examinations, documentation reviews, and interviews, with enforcement actions varying based on the severity of violations.

Workplace accidents require immediate reporting and investigation to determine causes and prevent future incidents. Workers injured in accidents are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, managed through a mandatory insurance scheme.

Dispute Resolution in Belgium

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Belgian labor courts, part of a specialized judiciary branch, handle employment-related disputes and follow a hierarchical structure with Labor Tribunals, Labor Courts of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation. These courts deal with individual and collective labor disputes, as well as social security matters.

Arbitration in Belgium

Arbitration serves as an alternative dispute resolution method, involving neutral arbitrators to resolve conflicts, particularly suited for cases requiring technical expertise or confidentiality.

Types of Audits and Inspections

Belgium enforces compliance through internal and external audits, including social inspections, tax audits, and environmental inspections, conducted by various government agencies.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Non-compliance can lead to severe consequences such as fines, operational restrictions, forced closures, criminal liability, and reputational damage.

Importance of Compliance

Compliance audits and inspections ensure protection of rights, fair competition, public health and safety, corporate responsibility, and financial risk mitigation.

Whistleblower Protections

Belgium has robust whistleblower protections, including confidentiality and protection against retaliation, under the Belgian Whistleblower Protection Law of February 28, 2023, and the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive.

Influence on Domestic Labor Laws

Belgium's labor laws are influenced by ILO conventions and EU directives, covering areas like freedom of association, non-discrimination, minimum wage, and working hours.

Monitoring and Enforcement

The Federal Public Service Employment, Labour, and Social Dialogue, along with other institutions, oversees the enforcement of labor laws in Belgium.

Continuous Improvement

Belgium continues to address issues such as gender pay gaps, discrimination, and adapting regulations to evolving work settings, demonstrating a commitment to improving labor rights compliance.

Cultural Considerations in Belgium

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  • Communication Styles in Belgian Workplaces: Belgians prefer direct yet subtle communication, valuing clear, concise, and diplomatic exchanges. Modesty and a low-key demeanor are important, with bluntness being discouraged.

  • Formality and Friendliness: Initial interactions in Belgian workplaces are formal, using titles and the formal "vous" in French. However, as relationships develop, interactions become more informal, reflecting a collaborative and friendly work culture.

  • Non-Verbal Communication: Belgians are reserved in their body language, preferring to keep emotions in check. Good eye contact and a smile are important, but grand gestures are uncommon.

  • Negotiation Practices: Belgians prioritize relationship building and prefer collaborative negotiation styles aimed at finding win-win solutions. Logic, reason, and patience are key in negotiations, with a focus on polite and diplomatic communication.

  • Business Structures and Leadership: There are regional variations in business hierarchies, with Wallonia tending towards a more rigid structure and Flanders favoring a more egalitarian approach. A shift towards flatter, collaborative structures is evident across Belgium, influencing team dynamics and leadership styles.

  • Navigating Belgian Business Structures: Success in Belgian business environments requires understanding specific company cultures and adapting communication styles to match the level of hierarchy and collaboration.

  • Impact of Holidays on Business Operations: Belgium observes ten national holidays that significantly affect business operations, with complete closures common. Regional observances also impact business schedules, and it's important to consider these when planning business interactions to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and avoid scheduling conflicts.

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