Working in Belgium

EU citizens

Citizens of Switzerland and the European Economic Area (EEA), which comprises the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, are not subject to  any bureaucratic restrictions when working in Belgium. They may enter Belgium without a visa and are entitled to take up any employment without a working permit. After three months' residence in Belgium, a formal residence permit has to be applied for, which is usually granted without any problems pursuant to EU legislation. However, these regulations do not apply to the new accession countries Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic that are subject to a transitional period of initially two years (that might be renewed) during which the free movement of labour is restricted in Belgium. The regulations for Non-EU Citizens mentioned below at "Work Permit" apply for persons coming from these countries until expiry of the transitional period.

Non-EU citizens

Persons, who are not citizens of an EEA member state or Switzerland need  a valid visa and a work permit in order to take up employment in Belgium. After three months they also need a residence permit.

Residence permit

Any foreigner living in Belgium has to have a valid work permit after three months of residence in Belgium. They are issued by the consulate responsible for the district of residence. If you have a work permit, you will be granted a residence permit without problem. Should the applicant not have a work permit, this procedure becomes much more complicated.

Work permit

Persons who are not citizens of an EEA member state (exceptions see above) or Switzerland need a work permit to be entitled to work in Belgium. Such work permit has to be requested by the Belgian employer. The employer also has to prove that he was not able to fill the vacancy with a job seeker from Belgium or the EU. If a work permit is granted you will first receive a "B" work permit which entitles you to work for the employer who applied for the work permit. After a certain time and if particular conditions are fulfilled you are provided with an "A" work permit.

Labour law in Belgium

Working hours

The standard working time in Belgium is 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. This may be expanded to a maximum of 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week if the average weekly working time within a period of 13 weeks is reduced to 40 hours by compensating overtime with free time. However, the average working time in Belgium is between 37 and 38 hours per week and higher remunerations are paid for overtime. On Sundays, only certain business sectors are entitled to work and the working time must not exceed 6 hours.

Holiday entitlement

Employees who have worked for at least one entire year are entitled to a statutory annual holiday of 24 days. Furthermore, there are 10 public holidays per year.

Probation period and redundancy

Blue-collar employees: If the probation period is 7 days, blue-collar employees can only be made redundant for important reason. If the period is longer than 7 days, both parties can terminate the probation contract without a notice period; no compensation can be claimed.

White-collar employees: During the first month the work contract can only be terminated for important reason. After the first month, both parties can terminate the contract by giving seven days prior notice (on the part of the employer by certified letter or by official messenger) or by paying an appropriate compensation.

The notice period for blue-collar employees is 28 days if the employer terminates the work contract and 14 days if the employee terminates. For white-collar employees, the notice period depends on how many years he or she has worked for the company and the salary.

In case of good cause each work contract may be terminated without notice. This right is granted to both parties, employers and employees. A good cause can be an incident that makes the relation between employer and employee unbearable and prevents any continuation of the employment. If a termination is appealed the Court has to decide whether such appeal is based on good cause.

Social insurance

The Belgian social insurance system differs between two groups of persons. The first group comprises all employees and the second all freelancers. The employee's insurance covers health services, maternity, pension schemes, unemployment, accidents at work, occupational disease, funeral benefits and family benefits. The freelancers' insurance covers the following compulsory insurances: health and disability, pensions, survivorship annuity and family benefits.