Belgium: Flexible Parental Leave

Belgium: Flexible Parental Leave

Belgium takes a more flexible approach to parental leave, but how do employees benefit and what do employers need to know?

The Belgian government introduced changes to its parental leave law in late 2018, publishing the legislation in the Belgian State Gazette. Broadly, the law allows for employees to take parental leave at 1/10th of their full-time working hours.

The adjustments to the law add flexibility for parents wishing to take leave in Belgium, and contribute to a wider effort to improve employees’ work-life balance. The changes had, and continue to have, obvious implications for employers who must adjust their payrolls to accommodate the work-hours of their employees. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the details of the parental leave laws.

How Has Parental Leave in Belgium Changed?

Parental leave rules in Belgium give parents the option of taking leave to care for children under 12 years old, or under 21 years old in the case of handicapped children. Previously, that leave could be taken at 20% of normal work hours for a period of 20 months, half-time for a period of 8 months, or full-time for 4 months.

The introduction of the new parental leave laws adds flexibility to those options:

  • Parents working full time may now take a leave option at 10% (1/10th) of their normal work hours.
  • The 10% leave option can be taken as either a half day off every week or a full day off every 2 weeks.
  • 10% leave is applicable for a total period of 40 months - and can be split across periods of 10, 20, 30 or 40 months.

The 10% leave option differs from other types of parental leave in that employer’s consent must be obtained in order for it to be granted. It is possible to combine leave options (full time, half time, 20%, 10%), and to switch between options.

Existing parental leave options have also been made more flexible by the new laws:

Full-Time Leave: The 4 month full-time parental leave option could previously only be split into periods of at least one month. Under the new rules, with employer consent, employees may split their full-time leave into periods of one week (taking leave for up to a total of 16 weeks).

Half-Time Leave: The 8 month half-time leave option could previously be split into periods of 2 months. In the new system, half-time leave can be split into periods of one month - again with employer consent. 

If a situation transpires where an employee has less than one month (or 4 weeks) left on their balance of leave, that remainder can be taken without the consent of the employer.

Medical Assistance Leave

The changes to Belgium’s parental leave law are accompanied by changes to its medical assistance leave - intended for employees who need to take care of very sick relatives and family members. Medical assistance leave is organised in much the same way as parental leave and can be taken at 20%, half-time, or full-time.

  • Full-time medical assistance leave can be taken in periods of between 1 month and 3 months. Under the new rules, full-time leave can now also be taken in periods of 1, 2, or 3 weeks - with the consent of employers.
  • The new rules don’t apply to half time and 20% medical assistance leave options: these categories of leave must be taken in periods of at least a month.

Implementing Parental Leave

The 10% parental leave adjustments came into effect in Belgium on 1 June 2019. Employers need to make sure their payroll team understands the implications and is able to factor the periods during which employees will be absent from work into the pay-cycle. During their leave from work, employees can claim indemnity from the Belgian unemployment authorities which will be paid in amounts reflecting the category of leave they are taking.

From an employer’s perspective, if consent is not given for a 10% parental leave request, employees must be informed of the decision in writing, and within legal deadlines.

To learn more about leave and payroll in Belgium, explore our dedicated Global Insight Guide to Belgium.

Please note, this article was originally posted in June 2019, but has since then been updated.