LABOR LAWS- BELGIUM
The labor incentives consist of a range of measures. The most important ones are those for employment maintenance by reducing the social security contributions. Incentives for training and retraining as well as for job creation are offered on the federal and the regional level.
The Employment contract
- Labor contracts are contracts not essentially in writing between the employer and employee generally concluded for either for fixed or indefinite period of time or for predefined assignment. However, fixed-term contracts, contracts for a specific assignment and part-time contracts must be in writing.
- An employment contract may state a trial period, the purpose of which is to enable the parties to determine whether the appointment is mutually satisfactory. The trial period must in all cases be laid down in writing no later than the time at which the appointment commences.The trial period is a minimum of seven days and a maximum of fourteen days in the case of manual workers.
- For non-manual workers a minimum period of one month applies; it cannot exceed 6 or 12 months.
- Indefinite employment contracts can be terminated by means of notice. Notice given by an employer can only be issued by recorded delivery or by writ. The period of notice for manual workers is 28 days if given by the employer and 14 days if given by the employee. The period of notice is double if the employee has 20 years continuous service with the same firm. The period of notice for non-manual workers depends on salary and seniority.
In the case of a contract concluded for an indefinite term the party who terminates the contract without compelling reasons or due regard for the period of notice is obliged to pay to the other party compensation equal to the salary earned during the period of notice (or remaining part of the period of notice).
- The general principle regulating the working hours is a maximum of either 7h36 min per day or 38 hours per week. But with shift work for example the maxima may be increased to eleven per day and fifty per week. In cases where work cannot be interrupted, the limit rises to 12 hours per day.
- Night work is defined as work performed between 20.00 and 06.00 hours. Night work is, in principle, prohibited but there are many exceptions to this: hotels, events firms, health care, etc. Except when the law makes provision to the contrary, working on Sundays or public holidays is prohibited.
- Flexible working hours permit to adapt working hours to the actual needs of a company (e.g. annualisation of working hours). Overtime is defined as time spent working over and above normal hours.
- Overtime must be compensated by time off allocated during the same quarter in which the overtime was performed. In addition, working time that exceeds nine hours per day or 40 hours per week entitles the employee to a payment on top of his normal wage of 50%, or 100% in case of overtime on Sundays or holidays.
- Shift work does not entitle employees to additional payments, unless the time worked is overtime as defined above. Full employment throughout the whole year confers entitlement to 20 days holiday the following year. If the employee has not worked the full year, the number of days leave is reduced proportionately.
Specific regulations governing holiday arrangements are laid down in collective labor agreements.
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM
- Belgian social security legislation covers the risks linked up with certain socio-economic factors. Social security payments are provided either to those who have or had a professional activity
- unemployment benefit,
- sickness and disability benefits,
- industrial accident,
- occupational diseases or
- are extended to all the members of the family (family allowance, sickness insurance).
- The Social Security System also regulates holiday entitlement. Eligibility for unemployment benefits, and sickness and disability benefits require contributions to be paid by both the employer and employee. Payment of social security contributions is compulsory. Blue and white collar workers pay 13.07% of their salary, while employers pay in general 38.44% for their blue-collar and 32.44% for their white-collar employees.
The employee's contributions are deducted from his wage by the employer. These are remitted every three months by the employer, together with the contributions owed by him in respect of all salaries paid to his employees, to the Government Social Security Agency, which allocates the money received for the various social security purposes.
BELGIUM'S SOCIAL CONSENSUS MODEL
- The National Labor Council (for social matters) and the Central Economic Council (for economic matters) are the umbrella organizations wherein an equal number of inter-professional trade union organizations and inter-professional employers' organizations are represented.
- Employees are organized in industry-wide trade unions covered by three general trade unions. Membership is not compulsory: the "closed-shop" system does not exist in Belgium.
- The bargaining process is conducted at three different levels : the company, branch or sector, and national. Most of these committees have an advisory task in order to avoid conflicts at company level. Essentially the communication channels enable the conclusion of inter-professional collective labor agreements within the National Labor Council.