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  1. Overview: Belgium
  2. Global PEO and payroll
  3. Global HR Compliance
  4. Work permit for hiring expats via PEO
  5. Expand without a company set up
  6. Contractor vs. employee: which is better?
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Global HR Compliance in Belgium

As a global business, hiring an international workforce can help you expand into new markets and access unique skills. However, navigating the nuances of labor legislation in foreign countries can be challenging. If you’re planning to hire employees in Belgium, here’s how Acumen International’s Global Employer of Record service can help:

Benefits of Hiring an International Workforce in Belgium

  • Access to new markets: Hiring sales representatives in Belgium can help you expand your business into the local market and reach new customers.
  • Access to unique skills: Hiring a global talent with unique skills can give your company a competitive edge and help you save costs.
  • Challenges of Paying Commission-Based Employees: Paying benefits and bonuses to independent sales representatives can be challenging for growing companies.

How Acumen International Can Help You Hire and Pay Your Foreign Workforce in Belgium

Compliance with Labor Laws Acumen International can ensure that you’re paying your foreign workforce in full compliance with labor laws and regulations in Belgium.
Global Employer of Record Service We act as the legal employer of your employees in Belgium, payroll them monthly and provide benefits through our global network. This saves you the hassle of setting up your own legal entities in Belgium.
Expertise in Global Workforce Employment Acumen International is an International EOR company that specializes in global employment. Our team of English-speaking professionals has a deep understanding of local nuances and can help you navigate the complexities of labor legislation in Belgium.
Single Provider Solution Instead of working with numerous local staffing agencies and legal advisors, Acumen International can solve your global business challenges and save you time, costs, and resources.
Tailored Labor Solutions We create tailored labor solutions that are legally managed and fully compliant with local employment laws. Our qualified local partners ensure that your global workforce satisfies all local tax, social security, and immigration requirements in Belgium.

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Compliant Employment Agreements

There are different types of employment contracts. The contract can be determined by, for example, the nature of the work (e.g., blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, and sales representatives) and the employment conditions (full-time or part-time). The duration of the employment contract may also differ. In this respect, there are four possibilities:

  • An open-ended employment contract.
  • A fixed-term employment contract.
  • An employment contract for a clearly defined project.
  • The contract for a worker substitution.

Permanent, or open-ended contracts in Belgium

Permanent, or open-ended contracts - contracts that are for an indefinite length of time.  Although permanent contracts are not compulsory, obtaining a contract in writing is best. Employees have a right to ask for such a document to be provided and should receive it within two months of starting employment. Subsequent changes to the employment terms must be communicated in writing within one month of the change. The contract will normally contain the following:

  • Name and address of the employer and employee.
  • Date that employment commences.
  • Place of work.
  • A description of duties.
  • Pay and how this will be calculated and paid.
  • The length of any trial period.
  • The hours and days to be worked.

Specific-assignment contracts in Belgium

Specific-assignment contracts – contracts that come to an end when the relevant work has been completed.

Replacement contracts in Belgium

Replacement contracts – contracts that are for an employee to replace an existing employee who is absent for a reason, such as maternity leave, etc. The contract must detail the identity and the duties of the person replaced and the reason for and length of the contract. These may not exceed two years.

Temporary Contracts in Belgium

Temporary Contracts – contracts between an individual and a temping agency where the individual is then placed with a client for a period of time. These are usually for a maximum of six months. For more information.

Part-time Contracts in Belgium

Part-time contracts - contracts for less than the normal 38-hour week (sometimes unemployment benefits can continue while the employment lasts). Part-time contracts must be concluded in writing at the latest at entry into service. The written document must detail the employee’s work schedule daily and weekly. In principle, a part-time employee’s work schedule must be at least three hours daily.

Fixed-term contracts in Belgium

Fixed-term contracts specify a start and an end date for employment. As an exception to the general rule, fixed-term contracts must be in writing and signed before entry into service. Non-compliance entails an automatic requalification of the employment relationship into a contract for an indefinite term.

There are three categories of collective agreements:

  • National collective agreements are concluded at the national level by all employee organizations and all employer federations. These collective agreements are very similar in status to the law as they automatically apply to all employees and all employers in Belgium.
  • Sector collective agreements concluded at the sector level. These collective agreements automatically apply to all employees and employers in the relevant sector (e.g., the metallic fabrications or the chemical sector).
  • Company collective agreements are concluded at the company level. These collective agreements are concluded at the company level by one employer and (at least) one trade union; they only apply to the employees employed by the company which concluded the agreement.

Employment Termination and Severance Pay (Dismissal) in Belgium

An employee can terminate a permanent/open-ended contract at any time by observing the notice period. All employees with more than six months of seniority have the right to be informed of the reason for their dismissal. If the employer fails to inform the employee of the reason for dismissal, the employee can require the employer to give an explanation. If no (timely) explanation is provided, the employer owes a lump-sum civil fine of two weeks of salary. The employee is entitled to dispute the reason for dismissal before the labor court.

Employees engaged under an open-ended employment contract may claim damages, ranging between 3 and 17 weeks of salary, in the labor court if their dismissal is ‘unjustified.’ An ‘unjustified dismissal’ would be considered a dismissal (for reasons unrelated to the employee’s capability or conduct or to the undertaking’s operational requirements) and which would never have been decided upon by a normal and reasonable employer.

If a party has committed a serious fault, the employment contract can be terminated for serious cause without serving a notice period or paying an indemnity. The employer can have various reasons for dismissing someone: there can be economical or structural reasons or poor performance. The dismissal must not be manifestly unreasonable.

Unlawful Dismissal in Belgium

Employees may also be protected based on a statutory provision, for example:

  • Employees who enter into a conflict with the employer to represent the interests of the employees within the company.
  • Employees need to take a critical attitude towards the employer within their function.
  • An employee who suspends the performance of his/her employment contract in whole or in part or because he/she files a complaint against the employer.

Notice Period in Belgium

For the notice period, one relevant criterion is the number of years of seniority (per started calendar year). The traditional criteria for age and salary are no longer relevant. If the employee resigns, notice periods apply that are half as long as those that apply in case of dismissal by the employer, with a maximum notice period of 13 weeks. The notice period will be extended by the suspension period based on legal grounds (for example, sickness, injury, or holiday). If the notice period is six months, and the employee takes two weeks’ holiday and is absent due to sickness for one week, the notice period will only end after six months and three weeks instead of the initial six months.

Severance Payments in Belgium

Severance payment (indemnity in lieu of notice): An employer can choose to either terminate an employment contract with the granting of a notice period or to terminate the employment contract immediately with the payment of an indemnity in lieu of notice. A combination of both, where the serving of a notice period is followed by the payment of an indemnity for the remainder of the notice period, is also possible. The indemnity in lieu of notice is calculated based on the employee’s annual salary at the time of termination, including statutory and contractual fringe benefits. If the employment contract is terminated with the payment of an indemnity in lieu of notice, no formalities need to be complied with; this is contrary to termination through serving a notice period.

Mandatory Employee Benefits and Contributions in Belgium

The employer must pay a monthly remuneration that aligns with the minimum wages. The employer must also pay the premiums that are laid down in CBAs concluded at the level of the joint committee or at the level of the company (insofar as the scope of application of such CBA indeed covers the employee).  The employer must pay a transportation allowance, which is an indemnity for the employee’s travel from home to the place of work.

The amount depends on the relevant joint committee, the distance, and the type of transportation the employee uses. The employer must also provide the employees with the equipment and tools required to complete the agreed work. In practice, the employer pays the monthly salary and an end-of-year premium according to the terms and conditions agreed upon at the level of the joint committee. Most joint committees stipulate the payment of such premiums.

Voluntary Benefits in Belgium

Employees and employers usually include the following benefits in the compensation package, but none are legally compulsory:

  • Collective bonus, warrants, profit sharing.
  • Meal vouchers, or other vouchers, such as eco-cheques, and sports cheques.
  • Group insurance benefits, which allow for additional retirement benefits when the employee retires, and/or survivor benefits in the event of the employee’s death before the retirement age, and/or disability coverage.
  • Medical insurance scheme.
  • Company car.
  • Portable PC, mobile phone, internet connection, etc. (generally for white-collar employees).
  • Stock options or other plans.

Probationary Period in Belgium

Once you have found a job, there can be a probationary period of up to two weeks for blue-collar workers and anywhere between one and six months for white-collar workers if the annual wage does not exceed around EUR 36–37,000. White-collar employees earning more than this may have a trial period of up to 12 months. During this period, either side can terminate the employment within seven days’ notice. Trial periods or probation arrangements are common in Belgium but are only valid if they have been put in writing. There is normally a probation period of three months, and a written contract should be signed before starting.

Overtime in Belgium

Overtime work is normally prohibited, although this rule has several exceptions. Where overtime is authorized, overtime pay is at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay, and twice his/her regular rate if the overtime is performed on a Sunday or a public holiday. Employees also benefit from paid rest periods in case of overtime. Rules relating to working hours and overtime pay do not apply to, amongst others, sales representatives, homeworkers and employees in a managerial role or a position of trust within the company.  Overtime is work beyond the daily (nine hours) and/or weekly working time limits. Overtime is only allowed in certain cases (for example, including shift work, work with perishable and unstable materials, an exceptional increase in workload) and under very specific conditions. Additionally, compensatory rest is required. Employees can work up to 120 overtime hours annually and must sign an agreement authorizing overtime hours.

Working  Hours in Belgium

Employees are not allowed to work more than 38/40 hours (depending on the industry) a week on average and nine hours a day. However, some categories of employees are excluded from the scope of the working time rules. Any hours worked over the limits set by an applicable collective labour agreement (or, if there is no such agreement, the number of hours worked over the weekly limit of 38) are considered overtime.

Annual Leave in Belgium

In Belgium, full-time employees are usually entitled to 4 weeks leave a year. This leave gives entitlement to holiday pay. However, the calculation of the number of days’ leaves and holiday pay is different for blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, apprentices, workers in the arts and civil servants.

Sick Leave in Belgium

White-collar employees are entitled to a guaranteed salary the employer pays during the first month of work incapacity. Thereafter, the health insurance organization will pay the incapacitated worker an illness and disability allowance. Guaranteed salary is not due, however, if the employee becomes newly incapacitated, an incapacity unrelated to work, within 14 days after a first incapacity that entailed the payment of guaranteed salary.

Parental Leave

Maternity Leave

After informing an employer of her pregnancy, an employee is entitled to a reasonable amount of paid leave to attend prenatal appointments, provided those appointments could not have been made outside normal working hours. Belgian employees are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave.  A pregnant employee is protected from dismissal from the time an employer is informed that she is pregnant until one month after the end of her maternity leave. If an employer terminates a pregnant employee’s contract without proving that the termination does not relate to reasons of pregnancy, the employer will be liable to pay the employee a sum equal to six months of salary.  During the pregnancy leave, the employee is not entitled to any guaranteed salary from her employer. Instead, she will receive a maternity allowance from her health insurance fund.

Paternity Leave

The employee can be absent from work for ten days within four months of birth. In the event of the death or hospitalization of the mother, maternity leave can be converted into leave for the employee who is the father. The employer pays the full salary during the first three days of leave.

Partnering with a Global Employer of Record in Belgium

Navigating employment laws, tax regulations, and cultural differences across multiple jurisdictions can be daunting for companies expanding globally. That’s where our Global Employer of Record service comes in. We offer a comprehensive solution to help companies manage their global employment needs, including payroll processing, employee benefits, HR consulting, legal advisory services, and more. Our team of experts has extensive experience and knowledge of local laws and regulations, ensuring compliance and mitigating risks. By partnering with us, companies can focus on their core business activities and leave the employment-related details to us. Let us be your trusted partner in achieving your global growth objectives.

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