• Insights

What should employers consider before the year-end in Belgium?

Written by
Claeys & Engels offers reassurance in the full range of human resources matters and fast, efficient and pragmatic legal advice.
What should employers in Belgium bear in mind as they approach the year-end? This article sets out some key points.

Thirteenth month salary

Employees are entitled to a thirteenth-month salary if this has been agreed and applies at the company or individual level.

Christmas gifts

Gifts are not, under certain conditions, considered as remuneration and are therefore not subject to social security contributions.

From a tax point of view, employee benefits are in principle not deductible unless all employees benefit from the advantage. The following additional conditions apply:

  • The benefit must be awarded on the occasion of one or more annual holidays or events such as Saint Nicholas, Christmas, New Year’s Day, patron saint’s days (e.g. Saint Eloi, Saint Barbara), or an anniversary.
  • The amount may not exceed EUR 40 per employee (to be increased by EUR 40 per dependent child) when the benefit is granted on the occasion of Saint-Nicolas or another social holiday.
  • Gift vouchers can only be used at companies that have previously concluded an agreement with the issuers of these vouchers. Their validity is limited (one year) and they are not paid in cash to the beneficiary, either wholly or partially.


Annual leave

Annual leave must be taken by 31 December.

This is an obligation for the employer (risk of administrative or criminal sanctions).

Employers must organise the procedures for planning annual leave and any extra-legal days, for example by providing for:

  • the exhaustion of annual leave entitlement before the year-end;
  • the possibility of postponing extra-legal days (employers should consider how many, over what period of time, etc.)


Employers should formally remind workers who have not exhausted their holiday quota that they must take their holidays before the end of the year, making it clear that, if they refuse to take them, these holidays will be permanently lost and that, if they work, they cannot claim the related holiday pay.

Collective closure by 2020

Collective holidays or collective compensatory rest days may be fixed by a company’s Joint Committee. If no decision has been communicated to the Federal Public Service Social Security by 31 December 2019, the collective closure dates can be set at company level. In this case, there is no deadline. However, it is advisable to do this in good time, so that workers can take closure into account when planning their own holidays.

The B-word

31 January 2020 has become the new deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This new postponement gives the UK more time to reach an agreement in their parliament. Elections were held on 12 December 2019.

Brexit can have major consequences for organisations in Belgium. It can also affect your organisation. Review all situations and continue to monitor news and developments regarding Brexit while negotiations are in progress.

Flemish employer reductions for older workers

Note: The source for this section is draft decrees on accompanying measures for the 2020 budget, 152 (2019-2020) – No. 1 submitted on 15 November 2019 to the Flemish Parliament. Changes are therefore still possible. What is explained below is valid subject to publication in the Moniteur Belge.

From 1 January 2020, employers established in the Flemish Region will only benefit from a target group reduction for the recruitment and employment of older workers for workers aged 58 or over, instead of 55 previously.

Workers who reach the age of 55 by 31 December 2019 at the latest will continue to be eligible for the ‘older worker in service’ benefit as it applies today. This applies until the last day of the quarter preceding the quarter in which they reach the age of 58.

Employers in the Flemish Region who are planning short-term hiring and are also looking for older workers (55-57 years old) have a strong interest in taking action quickly.

If they hire a worker aged at least 55 before the end of 2019, they will still benefit from the increased hiring reduction.

Flemish SMEs: Flanders reduces aid

The SME portfolio offers support to Flemish SMEs that wish to purchase certain services. These are training and services aimed at improving quality within the company.

At present, a medium-sized company is entitled to aid from the Flemish Government up to 30% of the expenditure incurred. For a small company, the intervention amounts to 40% of the total costs.

As of 1 December 2019, the intervention amounts to only 20% for a medium-sized company and 30% for a small company.

‘Manageable work’ measures extended until 31 December 2019 in Flanders

The deadline for submitting an application to obtain financial support via ‘manageable work’ vouchers’ and increase the SME portfolio has been extended to 31 December 2019. The aim of these measures is to improve working conditions in a sustainable way and they allow allow the employer to review working conditions within the company.

Manageable work voucher grants can be up to EUR 10,000 EUR.

Social elections 2020

In May 2020, social elections will once again be organised in thousands of companies. Through these elections, employees can choose their representatives on the Committee for Prevention and Protection at work if the company employs at least 50 employees, and also on the Works Council when the company employs 100 or more employees on average.

The organisation of social elections is a process that requires numerous administrative steps by the employer, as well as decisions by it related to different core concepts (such as delimiting the technical business unit, determining the leading functions and the management functions, etc.).

For a period of more than 150 days, the employer must follow a very strict procedure that starts in December 2019.  Moreover, during the ‘hidden protection period’ which starts in January 2020, employers are recommended not to dismiss any employee as candidates are already protected against dismissal (the protection indemnity is up to eight years of salary depending on seniority) and the employer will only know in the second half of March who is on the list of candidates. Changes are also still possible until the end of April or beginning of May depending on the date of the social elections.

Most activities should have been planned already but their execution is very important in view of the various deadlines and strict procedure. After the elections the first meetings must be held.

No withholding tax on earned income for young people who have just left school for Q4

No withholding tax is due on remuneration paid or allocated in October, November and December to young people who have just left school and who are hired during these months for the first time under an employment contract, provided that the amount of their taxable income does not exceed EUR 3,350 gross per month.

Sophie Maes
Partner - Belgium
Claeys & Engels

Related Insights

Recent developments in ESG and pensions
European Union
Tax incentives for ESG