Before hiring employees in Belgium, there are a few important things you’ll need to know. Firstly, there is no probationary period in Belgium. Instead, there are shorter notice periods in the first year of an employee’s contract.
It’s also important to know that Belgium takes non-compete clauses very seriously. Non-competes must be in writing, cannot exceed 12 months, and require compensation to the employee during the restrictive period.
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Get an overview of what you need to know when hiring in Belgium below.
13th month salary and vacation bonus (Pécule de vacances)
Employees in Belgium typically work eight hours daily, Monday to Friday, totalling 38-40 hours per week. It is illegal to work for more than 11 hours a day and 48 hours a week.
Overtime must be paid for employees working more than 38 hours a week. Overtime on weekdays is generally paid at 50% above the normal rate. On Sundays and holidays, overtime is paid at double time. Pregnant employees are forbidden from working overtime.
Probationary periods do not exist in Belgium and haven’t since 2014. They were replaced by shorter notice periods in the first year of the employee's contract.
Indefinite employment agreements are generally terminated through serving a notice period or the payment of an indemnity in lieu of notice.
Belgium notice periods vary based on seniority. Because there’s no probationary period, notice periods in Belgium were made to be shorter for employees in the first 6 months. Notice periods by seniority are as follows:
In Belgium, notice must be given in writing and specify the start date and the length of the notice period. If the contract is terminated by the employer, notice must be served by registered mail. It’s also important that notice is given in the correct language.
If the employment contract is terminated with the payment of an indemnity in lieu of notice, no specific formalities need to be complied with.
Non-compete clauses in Belgium are strictly regulated, must be in writing, and cannot exceed 12 months in length. They cannot be imposed on employees making less than €35,761 per year at the time of termination of the contract.
For employees earning between €35,761 and €71,523 per year, the clause is only valid if a collective agreement has been concluded that indicates the positions for which a non-compete clause can be applied.
For employees earning more than €71,523, the clause is always valid except for the functions excluded by collective agreement.
Non-compete agreements also provide for a compensatory payment by the employer if, within 15 days after the end of the employment contract, the employer does not waive the effective application of the non-competition clause. The minimum amount of this payment is equal to half the employee's gross pay corresponding to the period of application of the clause.
The legal minimum amount of holiday entitlement in Belgium for people working full-time (for over 12 months) is 20 days.
White-collar workers can take up to 30 days of paid sick leave, paid for by their employer.
Employees in Belgium are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave split into a maximum prenatal period of six weeks and postnatal period of nine weeks. The employee gets about 82% of their full pay (with no ceiling) for the first month, then 75% of full pay (subject to ceiling) for the remainder of the leave. This is paid by the National Health Service.
Employees are also entitled to take parental leave of up to four months per child before that child turns 12. Employees also receive a monthly allowance.
Employees are entitled to 10 days of absence within four months of birth. The employer pays the employee’s full salary during the first three days of leave, and for the remaining seven, the health insurance fund pays an allowance amounting to 82% of their gross salary.
In the event of the death or hospitalization of the mother, maternity leave can be converted into paternity leave.
An employer in Belgium can expect to contribute 27% of an employee’s gross salary for white collar workers and 50% of an employee’s gross salary (including annual holiday pay contributions) for blue collar workers.
Employees in Belgium are taxed between 25% and 50% depending on their income bracket. Employees also pay 13.07% into social security.
An employer may give notice to or dismiss an employee provided they have a valid reason (i.e. anything related to the capabilities or the behaviour of the worker, or is based on the operational necessities of the company and which would have been decided upon by a normal and reasonable employer.)
If the employer fails to provide this proof, the dismissal will be considered a “clearly unreasonable dismissal” and the employee will then be entitled to a gross indemnity equal to between three and 17 weeks’ remuneration (at the determination of the labour courts).
Setting up a business entity everywhere you want to hire a new employee isn’t scalable—it takes too long and the legal fees are high. At the same time, understanding and adhering to the local labor laws and employee expectations can be complex and time consuming. And it’s hard to find reliable information on up-to-date employment information for all the countries where you’re considering hiring. Not to mention tracking down invoices and managing employee contracts over email and spreadsheets—that gets messy fast.
We can’t afford to take risks when it comes to compliance—we need to make sure we follow the local guidelines, especially when it comes to taxes and legalities.
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