1. Legal Framework
Unless stated otherwise by an international agreement, employees working in Belgium for an employer established in Belgium, or an operational office in Belgium, will in principle be subject to the Belgian social security scheme for salaried persons.
It is impossible to deviate from the Belgian social security scheme by special agreement, which would be null and void by law.
In the scheme for employees, both employees and employers have to pay contributions to the National Social Security Office (RSZ – ONSS). The employer’s contributions amount to approximately 33% for white-collar employees and around 40% for blue-collar employees.
The employee’s contributions are fixed at 13,07% and are deducted from his/her gross salary.
One of the major reforms announced by the new Belgian government is a structural drop in employer’s social security contributions to 25%. A bill in this respect has not yet been adopted.
The Belgian social security system for employees covers :
- old-age and survivor’s pensions;
- unemployment benefits;
- insurance for accidents at work;
- insurance for occupational diseases;
- family allowances;
- sickness and disability benefits; and
- annual vacation (only for blue-collar employees).
4. Required Maternity / Sickness / Disability
Employees have the right to be absent from work without salary loss on the occasion of:
- certain family events (marriage, funeral, childbirth, adoption, holy communion, non-confessional youth celebration, etc.)
- for meeting civil duties (jury service, participation in the electoral process, etc.)
- appearance before a court
In case of illness or private accident, the employee continues to receive his/her normal salary during a period of thirty calendar days. This is the so-called ‘guaranteed salary’.
To be entitled to the guaranteed salary, the employee needs to comply with some legal obligations, which includes, amongst other things, immediately informing his/her employer of his/her incapacity to work and presenting a medical certificate. Moreover, the employer may call upon an independent medical officer (the ‘controlling officer’) to verify an employee’s incapacity for work.
Women may take up to 15 weeks of maternity leave (with a possible extension of 2 weeks in case of multiple births). At least nine weeks must be taken after the birth and at least one week must be taken before the expected date of birth.
Following the birth of a child, the father has a right to ten days of paternity leave, seven of which will be paid for by the social security system at 82 percent of the employee’s ceiled salary. This leave must be taken up within four months after the birth.
5. Mandatory and Typically Provided Pensions
The statutory retirement age in Belgium is officially 65. Yet, the Federal government has decided at the beginning of June 2015, that this age will increase to 66 by 2025 and to 67 by 2030 (Act still to be published in the Belgian Official Gazette).
However, there are exceptions to this minimum retirement age (i) for labour-intensive professions and (ii) in case the employee can prove a minimum number of years worked (63 years of age and 42 years worked by 2019). The employee receives a pension from the Belgian social security system.
Apart from these social security benefits (the “first pillar”), many employees are entitled to an additional pension insurance (the “second pillar”) paid by the employer as part of their salary package. Occasionally, the second pillar pension is organized on sectoral level. Some people also add to these two pillars a private pension insurance scheme (the “third pillar”).