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Vacation and Leave Policies

Understand the regulations on vacation and other types of leave in Belgium

Holiday leave

In Belgium, employees are entitled to generous vacation leave as per the labor laws.

Annual Vacation Leave

The Annual Vacations Act of 1971, along with subsequent amendments and various Royal Decrees, form the foundation of Belgian vacation entitlements. Full-time employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave. The number of days is calculated based on the employee's work regime in the previous calendar year.

For blue-collar workers, vacation days are calculated based on the number of days worked the previous year. For white-collar workers, vacation entitlement is based on the number of months worked the previous year. Employees become entitled to paid vacation after working for an employer for a period of 12 months.

Employers have the primary right to determine vacation timing, but they should consider employee preferences where possible. Employers must communicate the vacation schedule by January 1st or earlier, based on company policy.

Calculation of Vacation Pay

Employees are entitled to receive their regular salary during vacation leave. In addition, employees receive an additional sum, known as "double vacation pay", which is usually equivalent to 92% of their gross monthly salary. The specific calculation formula for this is complex and outlined in Belgian legislation.

Important Considerations

Vacation entitlement for part-time workers is prorated based on their work schedule. In principle, annual leave must be taken in the calendar year it's earned. There are limited cases where an employer may permit carryover into the next year.

Public holidays

Belgium celebrates ten national public holidays each year. These holidays are a mix of religious, national, and international observances that reflect the country's diverse cultural heritage.

New Year's Day (January 1)

This holiday celebrates the start of the new calendar year.

Easter Monday

The day after Easter Sunday, this is a Christian holiday.

Labor Day (May 1)

Also known as May Day, Labor Day recognizes and celebrates workers' contributions and labor rights.

Ascension Day

This holiday occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday, commemorating the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven.

Whit Monday (Pentecost Monday)

Celebrated the seventh Monday after Easter Sunday, this Christian holiday marks Pentecost.

Belgian National Day (July 21)

This day commemorates the swearing-in of Leopold I as the first King of Belgium in 1831, marking the beginning of Belgium's independence.

Assumption of Mary (August 15)

A Catholic holiday, the Assumption of Mary marks the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven.

All Saints' Day (November 1)

This Catholic holiday honors all saints, known and unknown.

Armistice Day (November 11)

Armistice Day commemorates the 1918 armistice that ended World War I. It is a day of remembrance and honor for veterans.

Christmas Day (December 25)

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Types of leave

In Belgium, labor laws ensure employees are entitled to various types of leave.

Annual Vacation Leave

Under the Annual Vacations Act of 1971 and subsequent amendments, full-time employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave. This is calculated based on working days or months in the previous year. Employees become eligible for paid vacation leave after 12 months of work with an employer. During vacation time, employees receive additional compensation known as "double vacation pay" in addition to their normal salary.

Sick Leave

The Continuity Act of July 3, 1978, and related Royal Decrees provide for sick leave. Employees receive their full salary for the first 30 days of illness-related absence. After the 30-day guaranteed salary period, employees receive benefits from their health insurance fund for longer-term illness. A medical certificate is required for absences due to illness.

Maternity Leave

The Law of August 3, 1992, on the protection of the pregnant female employee and the Law of April 10, 1971, on employment contracts provide for maternity leave. Female employees are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, usually divided into prenatal and postnatal periods. Eligibility is for female employees who have worked for their employer for at least 180 days prior to the expected birth date.

Paternity Leave

The Law of December 27, 2018, on paternity leave or co-parent leave provides for paternity leave. Fathers (or co-parents) are entitled to 15 days of paid paternity leave following the birth of a child. This period can be further extended up to 20 days by utilizing other forms of leave.

Other Types of Leave

Other types of leave include "Petit chômage/Klein verlet" (Circumstantial Leave) which are short periods of paid leave for compelling personal reasons or for fulfilling civic responsibilities. "Time Credit/Tijdskrediet" allows employees to reduce their working hours temporarily for personal or family reasons. Leave for Palliative Care is for employees providing care for terminally ill individuals. Leave for Medical Assistance is for those accompanying someone in need of medical assistance.

Important Considerations

Many employers offer more generous leave entitlements than the legal minimums. Consult your employment contract and company policy handbook. Industry-specific or company-wide collective agreements can provide for additional leave benefits.

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