Leave

In Belgium, full-time workers are generally entitled to 4 weeks’ annual leave. They are also entitled to take leave in case of sickness or other circumstances.

Full-time workers in Belgium are usually entitled to 4 weeks of annual leave (in French). However, the calculation of the number of days’ leave and holiday pay is different for blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, apprentices, workers in the arts and civil servants.

Ordinary leave for white-collar employees and apprentice white-collar employees

Modalities

As part of the ordinary leave for white-collar employees, you are entitled to a maximum of 4 weeks of leave per year.
To learn more about the calculation of the leave to which you are entitled, the entitled pay during this leave period (holiday pay) or to find out how you can actually take your leave, consult the page about Ordinary leave for white-collar employees and apprentice white-collar employees on the Social Security website (in French).

Supplementary leave for white-collar employees and apprentice white-collar employees

If you are working this year but you did not work last year, you are not entitled to ordinary leave. You are not entitled either to the full period of ordinary leave (4 weeks) if you increase your working time arrangement during the course of the year. This is offset by the supplementary leave system, which allows you to take ‘supplementary’ leave days. This is a right, not an obligation.
To learn more about this, consult the page about Supplementary leave for white-collar employees and apprentice white-collar employees on the Social Security website (in French).

Ordinary leave for blue-collar workers and apprentice blue-collar workers

Modalities

Blue-collar workers and apprentice blue-collar workers enjoy specific modalities concerning the calculation of their ordinary leave, the calculation and the method of payment of their holiday pay, etc. to learn more about this, you can consult the page Ordinary leave on the Social Security website (in French).

Supplementary leave for blue-collar workers and apprentice blue-collar workers

If you are working this year but you did not work last year, you are not entitled to ordinary leave. You are not entitled either to the full period of ordinary leave (4 weeks) if you increase your working time arrangement during the course of the year. This is offset by the supplementary leave system, which allows you to take ‘supplementary’ leave days. This is a right, not an obligation.

To learn more about this, consult the page about Supplementary leave for blue-collar workers and apprentice blue-collar workers on the Social Security website (in French).

Ordinary leave for non-independent workers in the arts

Modalities

Non-independent workers in the arts enjoy specific conditions when it comes to calculating and paying their holiday pay and calculating the duration of their ordinary leave. To learn more, plese consult the page Ordinary leave for non-independent workers in the arts on the Social Security website (in French).

Supplementary leave for non-independent workers in the arts

If you are working this year but you did not work last year, you are not entitled to ordinary leave. You are not entitled either to the full period of ordinary leave (4 weeks) if you increased your working hours during the course of the year. The system of supplementary leave (in French) makes it possible to remedy such situations and offers you the opportunity of using ‘supplementary’ leave. This is a right, not an obligation.
To learn more about this, please consult the page Supplementary leave for non-independent workers in the arts on the Social Security website (in French).

Young person’s leave

If you are under the age of 25 and you have been in paid employment for at least one month in the year in which you finish your studies, apprenticeship or training course, you are entitled to young person’s leave in the subsequent year.

To learn more, please consult the page Young person’s leave on the Social Security website (in French). or the form T11 - young person's leave on the ONEM website (in French)

Senior citizen’s leave

If you are over the age of 50 and resume paid employment in the private sector after a period of full unemployment or incapacity, you will in most cases not be entitled to four weeks of paid leave. To supplement your incomplete entitlement to paid leave, you will receive a payment equaling 65 % of your ceiled salary for each senior citizen’s leave day from the ONEM.

To learn more, please consult the T106 form on the ONEM website (in French).

Find all information on yearly leave in Belgium in the section Yearly leave of the Social Security portal (in French).

As an employee, if you are unable to work due to illness or an accident, your employment contract will be suspended. During an initial period, the salary continues to be paid by the employer: this is the guaranteed salary. If you are self-employed you can call upon a substitute entrepreneur.

You are a salaried employee

If you are unable to work due to illness or an accident, your employment contract will be suspended. During an initial period, the salary continues to be paid by the employer: this is the guaranteed salary. If the incapacity for work continues for a relatively long time, you will receive a replacement income which is covered by the compulsory sickness insurance.

What steps do you need to take in case you cannot work due to health reasons

In case you are unable to work due to health reasons you need to:

  • inform your employer immediately
  • provide your employer with a medical certificate within the set deadline
  • submit to being examined by a supervising physician when required

Guaranteed salary during the first days of incapacity for work

The first days of incapacity for work are paid for by the employer.

  • The salary of white-collar employees is guaranteed for the first 30 days of incapacity for work.
  • The salary of blue-collar workers is guaranteed for the first 7 days of incapacity for work. After this, they will receive 85.88 % of their normal gross salary for 7 days. From the 15th to the 30th day of incapacity for work, blue-collar workers are entitled to a percentage of their salary, which is paid by the employer on top of the sickness insurance benefit. The scheme for blue-collar workers is designed in such a way that they continue to receive their normal net salary for the first 30 days of incapacity for work.

If the incapacity for work is going to last for a long time, you must inform the sickness insurance fund of this by providing them with a certificate of incapacity for work completed by the doctor who is treating you. White-collar workers must notify the sickness insurance fund within 28 days and blue-collar workers within 14 days of the start of the incapacity for work.

You are self-employed

Self-employed people who want to or have to interrupt their professional activity due to illness can call upon the services of a substitute entrepreneur, who will take over the business on a temporary basis. This substitution is possible for a maximum period of 30 days per year, unless the absent self-employed person is temporarily incapacitated or disabled, is on maternity leave or is caring for a seriously ill child or terminally ill family member. In those cases, this period is adjusted based on the progress of the illness.

For more information on the substitute entrepreneur, consult the page Register substitute entrepreneurs on the SPF Economiy website (in French).

In Belgium, there is the system of thematic leave, which allows workers to be absent for short periods or even to choose to reduce their working hours for various reasons. There are different possibilities depending on their situation.

The different types of thematic leave include:

  • parental leave,
  • palliative care leave,
  • leave to support or care for a family member who is seriously ill,
  • leave for informal care.

Parental leave

In Belgium, every worker in both the private and public sector has the opportunity to take parental leave.

Parental leave is a type of thematic leave. It is a specific form of full or partial career break that allows workers to temporarily suspend or reduce their working hours in order to raise young children.

Workers can choose one of several ways to take their parental leave.

  • Full-time parental leave: all workers (whether full-time or part-time) can fully suspend the performance of their employment contract for a period of 4 months (‘full-time parental leave’); the workers may choose to split the period of 4 months into separate months.
  • Half-time parental leave: all full-time workers can continue to work half-time for a period of 8 months; the workers may choose to split up the period of 8 months. However, each application must cover a period of 2 months or several periods of 2 months.
  • 1/5th parental leave: all full-time workers can reduce their working hours by one fifth for a period of 20 months (‘1/5th parental leave’); the workers may choose to split up this reduction in working hours. However, each application must cover a period of 5 months.
  • 1/10th parental leave: all full-time workers can reduce their working hours by one tenth for a period of 40 months, subject to the agreement of the employer (‘1/10th parental leave’); this reduction in working hours may be split up. However, each application must cover a period of 10 months or several periods of 10 months.

It is possible to switch from one scheme to another. In this case, 1 month’s suspension of the performance of the employment contract is equivalent to 2 months’ half-time continuation of work, 5 months’ reduction in working hours by one fifth and 10 months’ reduction in working hours by one tenth.

The right to parental leave applies in respect of each child who meets the age requirement, for the two parents separately, provided, of course, that both partners are entitled to it.

Any worker can take parental leave within a period starting from the birth of his or her child until the age of 12. However, the age limit is set at 21 in cases where the child suffers from a physical or mental disability or condition.

Workers are only entitled to parental leave if, during the period of 15 months prior to written notification to the employer, they have been bound for 12 months by an employment contract to the employer for whom they work.

Workers are also entitled to parental leave in the case of adoption.

Career break benefit

In principle, workers are entitled to a career break benefit from the National Employment Office (Office National de l'Emploi, ONEM) during parental leave.

You can find more information on parental leave benefits on the ONEM website (in French).

Palliative care leave

All workers have the right to fully suspend or reduce the performance of their work in order to dedicate themselves to the palliative care of a person suffering from an incurable disease. This person does not need to be a family member.

Palliative care is any form of support – whether medical, social, administrative or psychological – and care for individuals who are in the terminal stage of an incurable disease.

Palliative care leave can be taken in one of several ways.

  • Any worker (full-time or part-time) can fully suspend his or her work for a maximum period of 1 month per patient. This period can be extended twice by 1 month in each case.
  • Any full-time worker can reduce their working hours by 1/5th or by half for a maximum period of 1 month per patient. This period can be extended twice by 1 month in each case.
  • Any part-time worker whose normal average number of working hours per week is at least three quarters of the average full-time number of working hours of a worker who is employed full-time can reduce their working hours by half of a full-time position for a maximum period of 1 month per patient. This period can be extended twice by 1 month in each case.

The leave begins on the first day of the week following the week in which the worker submits a certificate from the attending physician to the employer or at an earlier day, subject to the agreement of the employer.

Career break benefit

You can find more information on the entitlement to career break benefits during palliative care leave on the website of the National Employment Office (ONEM, in French).

Leave to support or care for a family member who is seriously ill

Any worker is entitled to fully suspend the performance of their employment contract or reduce their working hours for the purpose of supporting or caring for a family member who is seriously ill.

In order to support a family member who is seriously ill, the worker can take leave in one of several ways.

  • Any worker (full-time or part-time) can fully suspend his or her work for a maximum period of 12 months per patient. Each of these career breaks must be taken for a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 3 months.
  • Any full-time worker can reduce their working hours by 1/5th or by half for a maximum period of 24 months per patient. Each of these periods of reduced working hours must also be taken for a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 3 months.
  • Any part-time worker whose normal average number of working hours per week is at least three quarters of the average full-time number of working hours of a worker who is employed full-time can reduce their working hours by half of a full-time position for a maximum period of 24 months per patient. Each of these periods of reduced working hours must also be taken for a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 3 months.

Career break benefit

You can find more information on the entitlement to career break benefits during palliative care leave on the website of the National Employment Office (ONEM) (in French).

Leave for informal care

On 1 September 2020, a new form of thematic career break was introduced for workers who are recognised as carers of a person in need of care.

Workers who wish to make use of this new thematic leave must meet a number of legal requirements and must, in particular, be recognised as a carer. In order to obtain this recognition, the carer must, inter alia:

  • have built up a relationship of trust or a close, affective or geographical relationship with the person they are helping;
  • have a permanent and actual place of residence in Belgium;
  • appear on the population or foreign nationals register.

The support and help must not be provided on a professional basis and must be provided free of charge and in cooperation with at least one professional care provider.

It has been possible to apply for this recognition since 1 September 2020. Workers who have the recognition in question can request this new thematic leave from their employer and receive a benefit from the ONEM (in French).

A request form and and information leaflet are available about the Leave for informal care are available on the ONEM website (in French).

You can find more information about parental and thematic leave on the website of FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (in French) and the website of the National Employment Office (ONEM, in French).

Contact:

FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue – Contact Centre of the Labour Inspectorate:

National Employment Office (ONEM):