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OGLETREE DEAKINS EUROPEAN EMPLOYMENT LAW HANDBOOK
Welcome to the Ogletree Deakins European Employment Law Handbook—a handy guide to the employment
laws of 17 European countries.
Employment laws vary considerably throughout Europe, even among the member nations of the European
Union (EU), which can each have quite different versions of EU directives. The implementation of these laws
also can be very different, with the collective negotiation environment of works councils and unions being
widespread in some countries and almost nonexistent in others.
We recognize that it can be time-consuming and confusing to manage employees across different European
countries, so we hope this handbook is a helpful starting point for your employment law queries. Our
attorney-authors have extensive experience dealing with human resources issues throughout Europe. Our
team is supplemented by close relationships with handpicked local counsel from highly rated law firms. We
appreciate their help in creating this handbook.
Please note that the information contained in this handbook is current as of January 1, 2019. The laws
referred to herein are subject to change, and the information is not legal advice.
If you have any questions, or would like to know how the Ogletree Cross Border Practice Group can help
with your employment law issues in Europe, please contact us. We look forward to speaking to you.
Diana J. Nehro, Chair, Cross-Border Practice Group
[email protected] 599 Lexington Avenue
Suite 1700 New York, NY 10022
[email protected] St Pauls House
8-12 Warwick Lane London EC4M 7BP
+44 (0)20 7822 7627
Roger James, Partner, European Contact,
Cross-Border Practice Group
CORPORATE REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS
EMPLOYMENT STATUS AND HIRING OPTIONS
A foreign entity can engage people directly in Belgium and does not need to set up a local subsidiary. Whether or not
there is a local subsidiary, payroll registration is required, and employers are required to withhold income taxes and
social security taxes from payments to employees—in contrast to independent contractors, who are paid gross and are
responsible for their own taxes.
The two main methods of engagement are as an employee or a self-employed independent contractor (sometimes also
called a consultant). While an employee works under the authority of his or her employer, a self-employed worker has
freedom and autonomy in organizing his or her work.
Whether a person is working as an employee or on a self-employed basis depends on the facts rather than the type of
contract used. Key factors to determine this are (a) the will of the parties, (b) the freedom to organize one’s work and
working time, and (c) the possibility of (hierarchical) control.
Employees are protected by Belgian employment law and adhere to the social security scheme for employees. A self-
employed individual does not benefit from employment law protection. However, there are tax advantages to being self-
EMPLOYMENT STATUS AND HIRING OPTIONS
Different types of employment rights can apply to blue- and white-collar workers, students, sales representatives, remote
workers, and agency workers.
Probationary periods are not allowed, except for student employment agreements and temporary agency work
agreements, where they are limited to the first three working days.
The following steps are required on recruitment of an employee:
• Register with the National Office for Social Security (RSZ - ONSS) and the office for direct taxes (known as a Dimona
• Subscribe to industrial accidents insurance with a recognized insurance company. This covers medical costs and an
employee’s income if he or she becomes unfit for work as a result of an industrial accident.
• Set up an internal health and safety service. An employer must appoint a minimum of one health and safety advisor (for
companies with fewer than 20 employees, this can be the employer) and sign up to a recognized external health and
safety service for medical health checks and other advise on health and safety in case the employer does not have the
• Appoint an authorized agent to keep the compulsory employment documents and act as a post box to which all official
correspondence is sent by the RSZ - ONSS.
• Where applicable, notify posted (seconded) workers and self-employed persons temporarily or partially employed or
established in Belgium from another country (known as a LIMOSA notification):
Written employment contracts are not mandatory but
frequently used. However, certain contracts (fixed-term
employment, part-time employment, remote working
arrangements, student work) and clauses (noncompete)
must be in writing.
Legally Required Policies
1. Work regulations: All employers must draw up work
regulations that contain all the salary and work conditions
applicable within the company.
2. Human resources data protection notice
Common Additional Policies
1. Car policy
2. Use and monitoring of electronic devices/
3. communications policy
4. CCTV policy
5. Reimbursement of cost policy
6. Remote work policy
Language Requirements for Documents
There are strict laws requiring all documents that contain
terms of employment or other key information (including
bonus plans) to be in the local language. The language in
question depends on the location in Belgium:
• Brussels region: French for French-speaking members of
staff and Dutch for Dutch-speaking members of staff
• Flemish region: Dutch
• Walloon region: French
• German-language region: German
Other Sources of Terms of Employment
Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are widespread
and provide employees with certain rights. There are
national, industry-level, and company-level CBAs.
1. 1. National-level agreements concluded in the National
Labour Council, which apply to all employers in the
private sector: cover general employment rules (e.g.,
CBA 5 on trade union delegation, CBA 109 on unfair
2. Industry-level agreements concluded in a Joint
Labour Committee (JLC), which apply to all
employers in a particular industry (e.g., health
care, construction, retail, insurance, banking):
cover minimum salaries, job descriptions, working
time arrangements, and training requirements.
A company belongs in principle to just one JLC, and
this is determined by the company’s main activity.
3. Company-level agreement concluded between a
particular employer and trade unions: cover specific
employment and salary conditions for that company
REGULATION OF THE EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP
Employees are entitled to 20 working days’ annual holidays
when working a five-day week. Those working shorter
weeks have a proportionate entitlement. CBAs at industry
level or company level can grant additional holidays.
Employees are entitled to 10 public holidays on top of their
• New Year’s Day – January 1
• Easter Monday
• Labour Day – May 1
• Ascension Day
• Whit Monday
• Independence Day – July 21
• Assumption Day – August 15
• All Saints’ Day – November 1
• Armistice Day – November 11
• Christmas Day – December 25
If an employee is required to work a public holiday, he or
she is entitled to a day off in lieu.
Employees are not allowed to work more than 38 hours
a week on an average basis and hour hours a day (see
below for circumstances in which overtime is allowed).
Sunday work, night work, or work on public holidays
is not allowed for most employees (although there are
exceptions). Working time rules do not apply for sales
representatives and employees with a (leading) function
or in a trust position.
Opt-outs from the working time limits are not generally