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Belgium 2 min

Employee benefits in Belgium: All you need to know

Written by
Bruce Gilbert

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International talent has never been more accessible and forward-thinking companies across the world have pivoted towards building flexible workforces that enable global hiring. Belgium is a strong example of a country filled with highly skilled professionals, many with experience working in multinationals, and a significant portion who are also accustomed to remote work in the aftermath of the pandemic.

But whether you’re a Belgian company or a business considering a Belgian candidate, you’ll need to understand what’s required to develop a competitive and compliant benefits package to attract and retain Belgian talent.

This small European nation contains a mobile labor market, backed by one of Europe’s strongest economies.

Accordingly, Belgium has a variety of government regulations designed to protect their workforce, and this legislation will factor into your employment contracts.

In this article, we’ll explore the critical considerations of developing employee benefits in Belgium so you and your team will understand:

  • How to classify workers and determine whether they qualify for benefits
  • The mandatory benefits Belgian employees are entitled to
  • Additional benefits you can use to attract the best employees, and
  • How to set up and manage benefits for an international workforce

Who is entitled to benefits in Belgium?

All Belgian employees are covered by the strictest interpretation of Belgium’s employment laws which generally don’t apply to independent contractors.

Employees are required to work under the direction of an employer or an employer’s agent while independent contractors are highly autonomous and carry out their work on their schedule.

It’s important to understand this delineation. With the exception of social security contributions, the majority of benefits stated in Belgian legislation only apply to full-time employees.

Regardless of whether you view a worker as an employee or a contractor, legislators will make the only determination that matters. If you’re found to have an employment relationship and you’ve neglected to provide statutory benefits, you’ll open your company up to the serious risks of misclassification and subsequent fines or penalties.

For more detailed information about understanding this concept, be sure to read our dedicated guide to misclassification.

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Statutory and common employee benefits in Belgium

Belgian law provides for a wide range of benefits and entitlements, including generous annual leave allowances, strong workplace injury insurance, and solid unemployment benefits.

Leave entitlements

Belgian employees are entitled to a paid annual vacation that is calculated based on how long their working week lasts.

Employees who work five days a week are entitled to 20 days off, while employees who work six days per week are entitled to 24 days off with — with full wages paid in both cases.

Maternity and paternity leave

Female employees are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, extendable up to 17 weeks off in the event of multiple births. Maternity leave must commence at least a week before delivery and last for 9 weeks after delivery at least.

An employee on maternity leave is entitled to benefits equal to 82% of her normal wages for her first 30 days off, and 75% for the remainder of her time off work.

Fathers are entitled to ten days of paid paternity leave following the delivery of their child. Paternity benefits equal to 82% of the employee’s daily wages are paid for seven days of the time spent on leave.

Pension plans and retirement contributions

All Belgian employees are covered under the mandatory social security system funded by payroll contributions by both employers and employees.

Employers are obligated to pay social security taxes ranging from 25 - 30.43% on their employees’ wages, while employees have 13.07% of their paychecks withheld and paid to the government.

These contributions fund pensions, unemployment benefits, workplace injury insurance, and sickness benefits for Belgium’s entire workforce.

Minimum wage

The Belgian minimum wage is currently fixed at €1,625.72 ($1848.09) per month or €19,508.64 ($22,177) per year.

Overtime

Overtime work is closely regulated in Belgium and until recently, there was a strict cap on how much overtime work employees could do.

Under Belgian law, overtime work is classified into:

  1. Regular overtime — where an employer requires an employee to put in extra hours, and
  2. Voluntary overtime

Regular overtime is limited to 78 overtime hours in three months and is further capped at 81 overtime hours per year.

Overtime pay equals 150% of the normal wages for every hour worked. Any overtime work done on Sundays or public holidays is settled with both compensatory time off and double the normal pay for the hours worked.

In contrast, employees are free to put in voluntary overtime hours, up to the maximum of 11 hours per day and 50 hours per week. Further, employees can voluntarily work 100 overtime hours per year and worker collectives can have their industry’s voluntary overtime limit raised up to 360 hours annually.

Voluntary overtime is paid but has no obligation for compensatory time off.

Insurances

In addition to the mandatory social security that guarantees employees subsidized healthcare coverage and benefits, savvy employers can offer their Belgian employees supplementary health and workplace accident insurance.

This benefit could serve as the type of incentive that might nudge a superstar candidate to favor your offer over a competitor’s. 

Despite Belgium’s universal healthcare coverage, citizens are afforded subsidized but not free healthcare. Many Belgians supplement their government coverage with private insurance at their own expense.

This means Belgian employees place significant value in the benefit of private health insurance. Those employers offering insurance to dependents as a premium benefit could build an even greater relationship of connection with Belgian employees as a result.

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Additional benefits to consider for Belgian employees

As per OECD data, 64% of the Belgian population is currently employed and the Benelux nation consistently enjoys a high ranking from research into the world’s happiest workforces.

Belgium enforces employment regulations stringently. This makes compliance with mandatory obligations paramount, and supplemental benefits are also commonplace across the nation for employers attempting to hire the best Belgian talent.

With the expert insight of our Belgian HR specialists, we’ve collected some additional benefits you can consider to build the most compelling compensation package in Belgium’s tight labor market.

Competitive salary

Belgians are open to travel and the proximity of the country to the UK and other European hubs means that nationals are prepared to consider international offers if the salary package is compelling.

Remember that no matter how many additional perks you offer, you’ll struggle to attract top-quality global talent if your offer doesn’t include an internationally competitive salary.

The takeaway is clear:

Develop a salary that competes with the global industry average wherever you’re hiring. 

Remote’s guide to calculating global compensation details a number of mechanisms you could consider to create fair and competitive offers.

Additional paid time off (PTO)

Generous time off does more than give your employees time to refresh and recharge away from work. This benefit signals to potential hires that your organization genuinely cares for the mental and physical wellbeing of their team members.

A few additional days of paid leave in addition to the mandatory annual vacation allowance can mean a lot to prospective employees. This is especially true in Belgium as locals love to travel. 

Private and supplemental health insurance

Private healthcare or dental coverage offers a tax-free perk that helps employees save on out-of-pocket insurance expenses. Whether it’s a home office stipend, food and drink allowances, or optical insurance, a few well-researched perks may help you attract and retain top quality candidates.

You might even consider more specific wellness benefits like gym or health club memberships, therapy allowances, or mental health leave provisions.

All of that ties into your strategy for offering competitive international benefits to attract top talent.

Even small businesses can build stronger propositions for a globally distributed team without significant expense. Our small business benefits guide will help with suggestions about cost-effective benefits that can still help you build connection and loyalty with sought after skilled professionals right around the world.

How to set up and manage benefits for international employees

A global employment partner can help you automate all the time-consuming manual work involved with international hiring. An employer of record (EOR) can minimize the complexity of hiring, onboarding, and managing payroll for a globally distributed team.

By partnering with Remote as your global EOR, you can focus on growing your business without worrying about any of the associated administrative or legal headaches. 

Our team of HR specialists are on the ground in every continent. We become your local experts, building culturally aware employment packages that go beyond the minimum mandatory benefits in each country of operation. We enable you to find, attract, and retain the best global talent and we help you build trust with your global team.

When should you use an employer of record?

Another big question that comes up while building a global team is exactly when you need to switch and start using an employer of record?

And ideally, that should be from day one. Not after hiring your first ten employees, or when you’re looking to let an employee go and you can’t make sense of their local employment regulation.

Like we explain in our guide to when should you use an employer of record, an employer of record comes in handy when:

  • Offering benefits packages designed to stay compliant with local regulations
  • Terminating an employee in compliance with local regulations, and
  • Managing the nuances of IP & patents produced by your remote employees

An employer of record like Remote helps you organize all the tiny details of managing a distributed team. As a result, you can attract the best talent easily vs. stressing out over fines for letting a full-time employee go without severance pay.

How to set up and manage benefits for international employees

Whether you’re hiring an analyst from Belgium, software engineers from Germany, or UX designers from Costa Rica, you need to understand how compensation and benefits work together in each local context. The most effective total rewards package will keep your business compliant and help you attract the best talent.

And that’s why we built Remote. 

  • Our people are on the ground in every continent, building culturally aware employment packages that help you build trust with your global team
  • We have in-house legal and HR experts in every region to proactively protect you against ever-changing regulations
  • The expertise we provide gives you and your team the opportunity to truly belong in the global market and build strong and meaningful connections across borders

An employer of record like Remote manages the complicated parts of international employment so you don’t have to. Keeping you compliant with local labor legislation in Belgium is just the start of the world of opportunities we can help you explore. 

You can learn more about how Remote simplifies hiring in Belgium and beyond, and we can help you build a more connected, motivated, and powerful global team.

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