Belgium has a free-enterprise economy and the majority of the GDP is generated by the service sector. Trade is also crucial to Belgian economy, and total value of exports and imports equals 167% of GDP.
According to the KOF Index of Globalization, which measures three dimensions of globalization: social, economic, and political, Belgium is the 3rd most globalized country in the world.
Belgium’s open economy offers a business friendly environment and now, setting up a business in Belgium takes less than 5 days. The overall regulatory environment is transparent and efficient. As a rule, the Belgian authorities are anti-protectionist and try maintaining a conducive climate for trade and investment.
Principal Languages: Dutch, French, German
Government: Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
Capital City: Brussels
Major Cities: Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi
It is not mandatory to have written employment contracts in Belgium. Though when applied, a written employment contract, be it for part-time or full-time employees, must unequivocally specify the employment terms. Contracts can be open-ended or fixed term. Fixed-term contracts of at least 3 months can be renewed successively for not more than 4 times over a period of 2 years. These contracts can also be renewed for at least 6 months over a period of 3 years. Probationary periods are not common in Belgium. Employment contracts and employment-related documents addressed to employees (also called social documents) are drafted depending on the work site location:
Employment contracts must be drafted in French or Dutch, depending on an employee’s mother tongue. Documents drafted in other languages can be replaced with a translation in the required language.
Employment contracts must be drafted in Dutch regardless of the employee’s mother tongue. Documents prepared in other languages are deemed void.
Employment contracts must be drafted in French. Documents prepared in other languages are deemed void but can be replaced with a translation in French.
The maximum permissible work hours in a day is 8 hours and 38 hours in a week. Night work or work done between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. is generally prohibited. But, all these limitations are subject to exceptions.
Employees are entitled to a rest period of a minimum 15 minutes after 6 hours of work each day. Sunday is a compulsory day of rest, but if employees work on a Sunday, they are entitled to compensatory time off, which is usually taken in no more than 6 days after the Sunday worked. Employees are also entitled to take at least 11 hours of rest each day, which is aggregated with the Sunday to provide a break of at least 35 hours every week.
Employees are entitled to the following 10 national holidays in a year:
- Jan. 1: New Year's Day
- Easter Monday
- May 1: Labor Day
- Ascension Day: 6th Thursday after Easter
- Whit Monday: 7th Monday after Easter
- July 21: National Holiday
- Aug. 15: Assumption Day
- Nov. 1: All Saints' Day
- Nov. 11: Armistice Day
- Dec. 25: Christmas Day
Employees who work on a holiday are entitled to both overtime pay and compensatory time off.
A female employee can take 6 weeks of paid maternity leave immediately before the expected date of childbirth or 8 weeks in case the employee is expecting more than 1 child. The maternity leave must be taken at least within 7 days from the due date. If the employee doesn’t take the available maternity leave before childbirth, post-childbirth leave can be extended by the remainder of the leave.
Overall maternity leaves are for 15 weeks:
- 6 weeks Prior Birth
- 9 weeks Post Birth
If more than 1 child is expected or complications occur during childbirth, maternity leave may be extended to 24 weeks.
A father can take 10 days’ paid paternity leave within 4 months of the childbirth. The initial 3 days of leave are paid by the employer and the rest by social security. A father can also take the mother’s remaining postnatal leave to care for the child in case the mother is hospitalized or dies during maternity leave.
The extent of sick leave is based on whether the employee is a white-collar worker or blue-collar worker.
Blue-collar workers who have worked with an employer for a minimum of 30 days prior to an injury or illness are entitled to 30 days of sick leave with partial pay.
White-collar workers are entitled to take a maximum of 30 days of sick leave at 100 percent pay. Extra sick leave benefits are available to employees if workers suffer a new injury or illness within 14 days of returning to work from a previous injury or illness.
Employees are entitled to sick leave and there is no maximum number of days; however each incidence must be accompanied by a doctor’s note (180 days in some of the Area- CBA Applied)
Belgium’s mandatory social security system is administered by the National Social Security Office (NSSO), and both employees and employers contribute to the system. Social Security benefits include workers’ compensation, health and disability insurance, family allowances, old-age and survivors’ benefits, and unemployment insurance.
Health insurance covers hospitalization, medicine, maternity care, general and specialist care, nursing, rehabilitation, medicine, dental care, allowances and transportation for the insured and the dependents of the insured.
Employees who suffer a disability that results in a loss of a minimum of two-thirds of their earning capacity are entitled to a disability pension after 1 year of disability. The minimum and maximum of the daily pension depends on the date the disability began, if the insured has dependents, lives alone or cohabits.
Employees are entitled to a family allowance for their children, partners’ children, dependent siblings, or other children in their household. The family allowance for a child ceases on the last day of August in the year the child turns 18. This allowance is extended to age 21 for a disabled child and to 25 for a child who is an apprentice, a student, or a jobseeker who has been registered with the NSSO for less than 270 days.
Employees who have made contributions for at least 45 years are entitled to old-age benefits at the age of 65. The age will be raised to 66 in 2025 and 67 in 2030. Certain workers including seafarers, civil aviation flight crews, and miners can retire earlier subject to certain conditions. Early pension is available to employees aged 63 with at least 41 years of coverage. The age requirement is decreased for specific workers with longer careers.
How GPS can Help
With our Global PEO/Employer of Record services, companies can expand into Belgium and hire their employees without having to establish a branch office or subsidiary in Belgium .
- Your candidate is hired via our Belgium PEO. If needed, we can also help you find the right talent in any country with our comprehensive global staffing services.
- Your new employee begins work quickly as we take care of employment contracts, statutory and non-statutory benefits, and running their payroll - all in full compliance with Belgium laws.
- Global PEO Services experts manage all day-to-day operational issues, such as employee expenses, and severance/termination if required.
- With no contractor risks, pass on the compliance burden to Global PEO Services.
Spin Off/M&A Support
- Ensure continuity of payroll, benefits and HR support when acquiring or spinning off a business with employees overseas.
24/7 Support in 100+ Countries
- Empower your teams with 24/7 support and a single point-of-contact model in which experienced client services directors are in continuous communication with information and advice.
- We are backed by a mix of 300+ multidisciplinary experts from HR, Payroll, Finance, Tax, and Legal domains who are ready to respond to the expected and unexpected needs of your business on the shortest notice.
Easy Visibility into Your Employee Time & Attendance and Benefits Data
With our Global PEO, you get access to Mihi, our proprietary SaaS solution for time and attendance, vacation, leave management and benefits enrollment and management. Mihi enables clients to have easy access to employee data in real time. It is designed specifically for companies with a global workforce, especially when working in multiple countries with low headcount.
Ready for Growth When You Are
When ready, we can seamlessly transition you from the PEO/EOR model to your own legal entity and provide ongoing international HR, finance, legal, compliance and staffing support. Learn more about our end-to-end international expansion services.