Belgium is home to an open market with strong connections to the world’s major economies. It is also the location of many European Union institutions, making it an attractive market for business owners.
Belgium has a talented workforce that is experienced in different fields, meaning it is a good place to expand your company. The country has a strong economy and appeals to investors in many industry sectors, such as:
Chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites
Food processing and packaging
Information and communication
Textiles, apparel and sporting goods
Major Belgian exports include chemicals (65.6%), machinery and equipment (9.7%), and transport equipment (4.5%).
Dutch, French and German
Payroll and taxes in Belgium
Organisations in Belgium are not required to set up an in-country bank account to make global payments to tax authorities and employees.
Belgium’s taxation is one of the highest in Europe, with rates amounting to an effective rate of over 50% for the highest earners. Tax and company tax are collected at the state level in Belgium. However, there is a special tax status for some expats that allows foreign residents to be treated as non-residents for tax purposes. This enables them to receive generous tax allowances.
Belgium has double taxation treaties to help relieve tax residents from having to pay additional income tax to another country. The government also provides a variety of tax deductions to help reduce the tax burden.
The tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December.
The social security system in Belgium is based on employees’ payment of social contributions on their work income. These contributions serve to finance the social security system to provide coverage for programs such as pensions, unemployment benefits, sick pay and more.
Social security tax is deductible from total taxable income. An example is a foreign employee assigned temporarily in Belgium but still benefiting from social security schemes in their home country. In this situation, they may be exempt from Belgian social security contributions based on an agreement between their native country and Belgian social security.
Employer contributions to social security taxes for white-collar workers typically amount to 25% of the gross salary while blue-collar workers have a contribution rate of 50% of the gross salary, accounting for annual holiday pay.
Employees pay 13.07% of the total gross compensation towards social security, with no cap.
Working hours in Belgium
In Belgium, full-time employees are expected to work for 38 hours per week. However, as of February 2022, the Labour Deal states that workers can spread their weekly working hours over four days, creating a 9.5-hour work day.
If an employee works more hours than agreed in the collective agreement, overtime pay is mandatory. Employees are entitled to work a maximum of 10 overtime hours per week and no more than three hours.
For additional hours, employees must be paid:
150% of normal salary if the overtime work takes place on a working day
200% of normal salary if the overtime work takes place on Sundays or holidays
The standard working week is from Monday to Friday.
For shift workers, the number of fixed or flexible work hours can be increased for work performed in consecutive shifts with a minimum of two consecutive shifts and each shift consisting of at least two persons. In this case, the work limit can be increased to 11 hours per day and 50 hours per week under certain conditions.
Rest breaks in Belgium
Rest breaks during the work day are typically determined at a sectoral level in Belgium however the general rule of thumb is to provide employees with a minimum of 15 minutes of break time for every six consecutive hours worked.
Employees are also entitled to at least 11 consecutive hours in between each 24-hour period that they start and end their work day. For employees performing night-time or shift work, they are entitled to 11 hours of rest between completing a shift and starting the following one.
Minimum wage in Belgium
Most wages in Belgium's private sector are determined by collective bargaining agreements (CBA), also known as Collective labor agreements. These mechanisms are used to determine and uphold employment standards in the country and can occur across various levels.
Minimum wage in Belgium is usually set based on CBA between the employer and the employee and varies depending on the sector, seniority and job role. As a general rule, the minimum wage is as follows:
1758.48 EUR for employees over 18 years of age
1805.15 EUR for employees over 18 years of age with at least 6 months of seniority
1825.88 EUR for employees over 18 years of age with at least 12 months of seniority
Source: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio
Employee benefits in Belgium
Bonuses Employers must pay two additional salaries per year, as well as a voucher according to Belgian employment law. Details of these bonuses are as follows:
13th month bonus - a holiday allowance payment delivered in May. This payment is calculated based on the previous calendar year.
14th month bonus - an end-of-year payment delivered in December. This is representative of the monthly salary.
Eco voucher - a one-time voucher paid in June and to the value of 250 EUR
Retirement benefits All monthly pensions are linked to the cost-of-living index, with a full pension representing 75% of the base salary for a married employee with a dependent spouse and 60% for single employees.
In Belgium, the 'single' pension is paid to each spouse in the majority of cases since both spouses generally have a professional income. Base earnings are the average lifetime base earnings adjusted in line with the cost of living index. Benefits are adjusted similarly. However, salaries used for pension calculations of monthly paid employees and hourly paid employees are limited to a ceiling.
That said, a minimum pension is guaranteed for employees with a full career (or a partial career representing at least 2/3 of a full career).
Employees are entitled to disability benefits equal to 30 days’ income. Hourly paid employees are eligible for full income for one week, with a lower rate paid for the subsequent three weeks. The latter payment is shared between the employer and the state.
If the employee’s loss of earnings due to disability is at least two-thirds, they will receive a statutory benefit for the next 11 months, equal to 60% of their yearly gross salary (up to a maximum of 45,858.79 EUR if the employee is the breadwinner, single or living with a person receiving income).
Medical benefits Belgium has a strong healthcare system and employers can provide medical and hospital care reimbursements. These are determined in agreement with the government's health authorities, hospitals, clinics and physicians.
Workplace perks When considering supplementary benefits for your employees, think about what would be most helpful to their needs and how you can help them create the best possible sense of work-life balance. This will help to create a more productive and engaged workforce, thus having a positive impact on your business output.
Additional benefits could include:
Flexible and remote working options
Additional holiday allowance
Types of leave available in Belgium
Employees in Belgium must work continuously for a full year before receiving any holiday entitlement. Full-time employees are entitled to 20 paid holidays per year if they are working a 38-hour week. Those who work a 40-hour work week are entitled to 21 days of paid leave per year.
Part-time employees receive paid annual leave entitlement on a prorated basis.
If an employee needs time off for sickness, they are entitled to a guaranteed salary during the first 30 days of incapacity. After the first month, the social security system takes over the payment, limited to 60% of the employee’s salary. In order to receive this, employees must:
Notify the employer immediately if they are unable to work
Provide a medical certificate stating their inability to work and the estimated period needed to recover
Agree to an additional check-up by a doctor, chosen by the employer
Maternity and paternity leave
In Belgium, maternity leave is split into two periods:
The prenatal rest period - maximum period of six weeks of maternity leave (eight weeks in the event of a multiple pregnancy) before the presumed date of birth. Only one week is considered as a mandatory period of time off while the remaining five are optional.
The postnatal rest period: minimum of nine weeks (11 weeks in the event of a multiple birth) after giving birth
Pregnant employees do not receive a salary during maternity leave, but they should receive statutory maternity allowance from the health insurance fund.
After the birth of a child, fathers or co-parents are entitled to 20 paid days of paternity leave. Belgium employers pay the first three days at 100% of the employee’s wage, and the following days are paid by the health insurance fund at 82% (limited to the wage limit of the illness benefits).
Employees can choose to plan the days within a four-month period, starting from the day of birth. Multiple births have no impact on the number of paternity leave days.
Public holidays in Belgium
Belgium observes 10 public holidays, many of which are religious holidays as well as regional holidays:
Belgium has stringent employment regulations, meaning that compliance with mandatory benefits are of paramount importance during the recruitment process. Supplementary benefits are also very common across the nation from employers looking to hire the best talent in Belgium.
Some of the most common ways to attract talent in Belgium include:
Belgian employees are often open to travel, and its location as a gateway to Europe means that national employees are prepared to consider international job positions if the salary offered is attractive.
Regardless of how many additional benefits a company offers, it is difficult to attract top talent if the position doesn’t have an internationally competitive salary. Therefore, it’s important to ensure the salary you propose competes with the global industry average.
Private health insurance
Private healthcare benefits are a tax-free perk that enables employees to save on insurance expenses. You could consider dental coverage, optical insurance, or food and drink allowances to help in attracting high-quality candidates.
There is also the option of more specific wellness benefits, such as health club or gym memberships, mental health leave or therapy allowances.
Additional paid leave
As well as giving your employees more time to recharge, generous time off signals that your company genuinely cares about the well-being of its employees.
Offering a few additional days off in addition to the mandatory annual leave and public holiday allowance means a lot to potential employees, particularly in Belgium where people tend to have a passion for travelling.
Termination of employment in Belgium
The minimum notice period for employees in Belgium is two weeks for less than three months of employment. This is then increased based on the length of continuous employment. The termination of an employment relationship can be initiated by either the employer or employee or through mutual agreement.
Belgian employers can terminate an employment contract by either providing proper legal notice or by paying an indemnity in lieu of notice. In the latter case, the employment agreement will be terminated immediately. The employee can appeal to the court if they feel the dismissal is unjustified, and additional compensation may be due if the court deems the dismissal to be unfair.
Individual dismissals In the event of an individual dismissal, the employer and the worker must decide between proceeding with serving a notice period or ending the contract immediately with severance pay. For the latter case, the severance pay will typically equal the wage and benefits of the employee, multiplied by the intended duration of the notice period.
Collective dismissals Belgian labor laws also dictate that full-time workers who are affected by collective dismissal be eligible for severance pay in addition to certain unemployment benefits.
Protection against dismissal
Employees who have been unfairly dismissed by a company are entitled to compensation worth three to 17 weeks of their annual salary. An unfair dismissal is one that is carried out without relation to an employee's performance or to the business needs of the organisation.
Probation periods are not permitted in Belgium, the only exception being the first three days of a temporary agency work agreement.
Severance payment is generally only applicable if the employer has not provided proper notice of termination.
Are background checks compulsory in Belgium?
In Belgium, criminal background checks are only required in specific industries. A company can view a candidate’s information on social media as long as the record is public. Employers can conduct medical tests in particular sectors, but this must not involve genetic testing.
What are my options for hiring in Belgium?
Airswift offers a range of employment solutions for businesses looking to hire in Belgium. These services make it easy for you to hire employees efficiently and within full compliance with Belgian laws.
Our expertise and knowledge allow us to minimise risk while taking on the administrative responsibilities of hiring and onboarding candidates, allowing you to focus on growing your business.
Our contract hire services allow you to fill temporary vacancies and give your organisation the agility to respond to the market's shifting demands.
For long-term hiring requirements, our professional search service can help you find talented employees for permanent positions within your company.
Employer of record
For foreign companies wanting to hire remote employees without setting up a physical entity in Belgium, an Employer of Record (EOR) simplifies the hiring process with little compromise on expense and time.
An experienced EOR allows you to bypass the complications of physical entity setup. As they already have an established legal entity in the host country, an EOR can help you by managing locally compliant payroll, overseeing statutory benefits, paying international employees and more.
*Although the information provided has been produced from sources believed to be reliable, no warranty, express or implied, is made regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality or reliability of any information. For the latest information and specific queries regarding particular cases, please contact our team.
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