Birth of a child

Female workers, unemployed people and self-employed people are entitled to maternity leave when pregnant. However, the conditions, duration of the leave and amounts of the benefits are different for each category.

Workers who become a father or co-parent are entitled to 10 days of paternity or childbirth leave. Self-employed people who become a father or co-parent are also entitled to paternity or childbirth leave.

Maternity leave (employee)

If you are an employee, maternity leave is 15 weeks (17 weeks in the case of multiple births). This is made up of two periods:

  • prenatal leave of a maximum of 6 weeks (maximum of 8 weeks in the case of multiple births),
  • postnatal leave of a minimum of 9 weeks.

During maternity leave, your employer does not have to pay you a salary. However, you can claim a maternity benefit.

More information is available on the page Maternity leave on the website of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social dialogue (in French).

Prenatal leave

This leave will begin no earlier than 6 weeks before the expected delivery date (no earlier than 8 weeks before this date in the case of multiple births).

The prenatal leave comprises:

  • an optional leave period lasting for the first 5 weeks (7 weeks in the case of multiple births): this leave can be taken in full before the obligatory prenatal rest period of 1 week, in full after the obligatory postnatal rest period of 9 weeks, or part before the obligatory prenatal rest period and part after the obligatory postnatal rest period;
  • an obligatory rest period amounting to 1 week before delivery.

If the child is born after the expected delivery date, the prenatal leave is extended to the actual date of the birth.

Postnatal leave

The postnatal leave comprises:

  • an obligatory leave period amounting to 9 weeks immediately after the delivery;
  • if necessary, following this obligatory postnatal leave, the optional prenatal leave that was not taken (maximum of 5 weeks or maximum of 7 weeks in the case of multiple births).

A female employee who gives birth to more than one child can extend her postnatal leave by a maximum of 2 weeks on request.

If the newborn child needs to stay in hospital for longer than the first 7 days following birth, the female worker can request the extension of the postnatal leave by a period equal to the amount of time her child remains hopsitalized after the first 7 days. The duration of this extension or these extensions may not amount to more than 24 weeks.

Pregnant employees and those who have just given birth are protected from dismissal. This means that they cannot be dismissed by their employers from the moment at which the employer becomes aware of the pregnancy up until 1 month after the end of the postnatal leave, except for reasons not relating to the physical condition resulting from the pregnancy or childbirth.

Maternity leave (self-employed)

If you are self-employed, the maternity leave period covers 12 weeks (13 in the case of multiple births). You must take at least 3 weeks of uninterrupted leave; 1 week before and 2 weeks after delivery. The remaining 9 weeks (10 weeks in the case of multiple births) are optional. During the optional period, self-employed people can carry out their work on a half-time basis. In that case, the maximum duration of the optional leave is 18 weeks (20 weeks in the case of multiple births). More information is available on the webpage Maternity Leave of the Social Security Self-employed Entrepreneurs of INASTI (in French).

Maternity benefit

The maternity benefit is fully covered by the sickness and invalidity insurance (maternity insurance). Maternity benefits are paid by the sickness insurance fund. In order to receive maternity benefits, you must submit an application to your health insurance fund, together with a medical certificate stating the expected delivery date and the date on which the period of maternity leave will begin.

If you are in employment, you must prove at the start of maternity leave that you have completed a waiting period of 6 months. During these 6 months, you must demonstrate a minimum working volume and that you have paid sufficient social contributions. This minimum working volume is 120 days if you are a full-time worker.

The maternity benefit amounts to:

  • 82 % of the non-ceiled salary for the first 30 days;
  • 75 % of the ceiled salary from the 31st day onwards.

If you are unemployed, from 1 March 2020 the benefit will in principle amount to:

  • a basic payment equivalent to the amount of your unemployment benefits + an allowance of 19.5 % of the gross salary ceiled for the first 30 days;
  • a basic payment equivalent to the amount of your unemployment benefits + an allowance of 15 % of the gross salary ceiled from the 31st day onwards.

If you are self-employed, the benefit is a flat-rate amount each week. Maternity benefits are linked to the index. More information about this is available on the webpage Maternity leave from the National Institute of Health Insurance INAMI (in French).

Free service vouchers for self-employed women after childbirth

After they have given birth, self-employed women are entitled to free service vouchers. You can use the service vouchers to pay for help around the house.

You do not need to apply for these yourself. After you give birth, your social insurance fund will ask you if you want to receive these service vouchers. More information is available on the webpage Free service vouchers for self-employed women of the Social Security Self-employed Entrepreneurs INASTI (in French).

Paternity or childbirth leave for employees

Regardless of the working regime in which he is employed (full-time or part-time), each male employee has the right to be absent from work for 10 days following the birth of a child whose parentage has been established on his part. Workers who are not the biological parent of the child in question also have this right provided that, at the time the child is born, they are married to the person in respect of whom the parentage has been established or are legally or permanently and affectively cohabiting with this person.

The employee is free to choose these 10 days within 4 months starting from the date of birth. They do not necessarily need to be taken all at once, but can be spread over the period of 4 months from the birth at the discretion of the worker. The date of the birth is considered to be the first day of this period of 4 months.

In the event of the birth of twins or multiple children, the 10 days of paternity leave are only granted once.

During the first 3 days of the paternity/childbirth leave, the employee retains his full salary at the expense of his employer.

For the following 7 days of the paternity/childbirth leave, the employee does not receive any salary but is granted a benefit via the payment institutions of the insurance provider for medical care and benefits (health insurance funds). The worker must request this benefit himself from his health insurance fund, on presentation of the birth certificate.

In order to be entitled to this benefit, you must demonstrate that you have completed a waiting period of 6 months.During these 6 months, you must demonstrate a minimum working volume and that you have paid sufficient social contributions. This minimum working volume is 120 days if you are a full-time employee.

The amount of the paternity/childbirth benefit is set at 82 % of the foregone (ceiled) gross salary.

Workers who take paternity or childbirth leave are protected from dismissal. This means that, except for a reason unrelated to this leave, the employer cannot unilaterally terminate the employment contract for a period starting at the moment at which the employer receives written notification of the intention to take paternity or childbirth leave up until 3 months after this notification.

More information is available on the webpage Paternity or childbirth leave of the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social dialogue (in French).

Paternity and childbirth leave for self-employed people

As a self-employed person, you can also temporarily interrupt your professional activity due to the birth of a child with whom you have a parental bond or a relationship of co-parenthood. You will receive a benefit during this period.

This leave is a maximum of 10 days or 20 half-days.

You can apply for paternity and childbirth leave from your social insurance fund before the end of the quarter following that in which the child is born.

More information is available on the webpage Paternity and chilbirth leave of the Social Security Self-employed Entrepreneurs INASTI (in French).

Paternity and childbirth benefit

During the paternity and childbirth leave, you are entitled to the paternity and childbirth benefit. This is a fixed-rate amount per day or per half-day.  More information is available on the webpage Paternity and childbirth benefits of the Social Security Self-Employed Entrepreneurs INASTI (in French).

Service vouchers for self-employed fathers or co-parents (support following the birth)

If your paternity and childbirth leave lasts for a maximum of 8 days or 16 half-days, you are entitled to one-off compensation after the birth (support following the birth) if you purchase 15 service vouchers. You can use the service vouchers to pay for help around the house. More information is available on the webpage Service vouchers for self-employed fathers or co-parents of the Social Security Self-employed Entrepreneurs INASTI (in French).

You can request the support following the birth from your social insurance fund for self-employed people. The contact details of the funds for self-employed people is available on the webpage Sociale security funds of the Social Security Self-employed Entrepreneurs INASTI (in French).