Rivermate | Belgium flag


Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in Belgium

Standard working hours

In Belgium, the regulations for standard working hours are outlined in the Belgian Labor Code.

The standard workweek in Belgium is typically capped at 38 hours on average. This means that an employee is expected to work for 38 hours spread across the week.

The maximum daily working time is set at 8 hours. However, there are exceptions for specific circumstances. For instance, if the average working time over a quarter or year remains at 38 hours per week, daily working hours can be extended. Additionally, in certain industries with specific arrangements, daily working hours can be extended to 11 hours.

There's also a minimum daily working time of 3 hours, with a few exceptions outlined in the Labor Code.

For a comprehensive understanding of working hours in Belgium and whether any exceptions might apply to your specific situation, it's recommended to consult the latest version of the Belgian Labor Code or seek guidance from a legal professional specializing in Belgian labor law.


In Belgium, while a standard workweek is prioritized, there may be situations that necessitate additional working hours. Here's a breakdown of the rules and compensation for overtime work as mandated by the Belgian Labor Code.

Overtime work is generally prohibited in Belgium. However, there are exceptions permitted under specific circumstances:

  • Completing urgent tasks that cannot be postponed due to exceptional circumstances.
  • Dealing with unforeseen production issues or technical emergencies.
  • Carrying out preventative maintenance or repairs that cannot be reasonably done within standard working hours.

Employers must demonstrate a legitimate reason for requiring overtime work.

There are limitations on overtime work:

  • The maximum allowed overtime work is capped at 78 hours in a three-month period and 91 hours in a year.
  • Employers must obtain prior authorization from the Ministry of Labor for exceeding these limitations.

While employers can request overtime work, they cannot force employees to accept it. Employees have the right to refuse overtime work unless exceptional circumstances prevail.

Overtime work must be compensated at a premium rate:

  • Weekdays: Overtime hours are paid at a minimum of 1.5 times the employee's regular wage rate.
  • Sundays and Public Holidays: Overtime hours worked on Sundays and public holidays are compensated at a minimum of double the employee's regular wage rate.

Belgium allows for a system of voluntary overtime, where employees can agree to work additional hours beyond the standard workweek. The maximum limit for voluntary overtime is 120 hours per year, with the possibility of increasing it to 360 hours through sectoral collective bargaining agreements. Voluntary overtime is compensated with a premium pay rate, but not with compensatory rest periods.

For a thorough understanding of overtime work regulations and your rights as an employee in Belgium, it's recommended to consult the latest version of the Belgian Labor Code, relevant Royal Decrees, or seek guidance from a legal professional specializing in Belgian labor law.

Rest periods and breaks

In Belgium, labor law mandates designated rest periods and breaks throughout the workday to prioritize worker well-being.

All employees are entitled to a minimum of 15 minutes of uninterrupted rest during a workday exceeding 6 hours. The specific timing of the break can be determined by the employer's internal regulations, ensuring it doesn't disrupt the workflow.

In specific sectors outlined by Royal Decree, the rest break duration can be reduced to 10 minutes if the total working day is less than 7.5 hours.

The Labor Code doesn't mandate additional breaks within the workday beyond the daily rest break. However, some employers might offer short smoking breaks or coffee breaks as a matter of company policy. These breaks are typically unpaid and subject to the employer's specific guidelines.

In situations where work is performed on a Sunday, employees are entitled to compensatory rest equal to the time worked. This rest period must be granted within six days following the Sunday worked.

For a comprehensive understanding of rest periods and breaks in Belgium, it's advisable to consult the latest version of the Belgian Labor Code, relevant Royal Decrees, or seek guidance from a legal professional specializing in Belgian labor law.

Night shift and weekend regulations

Belgian labor law prioritizes a healthy work-life balance and restricts night and weekend work. Here's a breakdown of the key regulations:

Night work is generally prohibited by law in Belgium. "Night work" is defined as any work performed between 8 pm and 6 am. Derogations (exceptions) from the night work ban exist for specific sectors, activities, or workers. These exceptions are typically outlined in collective bargaining agreements negotiated between industry sectors and trade unions.

There's no automatic legal right to additional pay for night work. However, two exceptions exist:

  • In specific sectors, collective agreements might stipulate additional remuneration for night work.
  • If a work schedule regularly involves working between midnight and 5 am, Belgian law mandates specific compensation, currently set at €1.22 per hour (€1.46 for workers aged 50+).

Working on Sundays is generally prohibited. Exceptions exist for essential services or pre-authorized activities. Every employee has the right to at least one full day of rest per week, typically on Sunday. In some cases, another weekday can be designated as the rest day.

Rivermate | A 3d rendering of earth

Hire your employees globally with confidence

We're here to help you on your global hiring journey.