Spring is in the country and the annual vacation plans within companies are being drawn up. What about vacation pay and when is it due? We would like to take you through the Belgian (complex) rules around legal vacation days and vacation pay one more time.
1. Legal vacation days
Unlike many other European countries, employees in Belgium, both blue-collar and white-collar workers, accrue legal vacation days in the previous year. In concrete terms, this means that only employees who worked a full year last year are entitled to 4 weeks' vacation this year.
An employee in Belgium accrues rights not only during actual performance but also during certain absences that are assimilated to performance. The main absences that are assimilated are the first 12 months of illness, maternity leave, economic unemployment, vacation days, minor leave, etc.
On the other hand, other absences such as time credit, authorised unpaid absences, illness longer than 12 months or temporary part-time work have a negative effect on the accumulation of vacation rights and pay.
2. Vacation pay
2.1 What is vacation pay
An employee who is entitled to vacation days in 2023 is also entitled to vacation pay as a result. Vacation pay consists of 2 elements namely:
2.2 Who pays the double vacation pay?
When paying vacation pay, there is an important distinction between blue-collar and white-collar workers.
Blue-collar workers receive their vacation pay from the vacation fund through the federal agency for National Annual Holiday (RJV). They receive their single and double vacation pay in one payment with a vacation paycheque. As a result, they do not receive any payment at the time they take vacation days and hence no salary is owed by the employer for these days.
This vacation paycheque is delivered to workers by the RJV in the month of May or June.
Did you hire new employees between 1 June 2022 and 31 December 2022 who worked as blue-collar workers last year and are now working for you as white-collar workers? Then you need to request the vacation certificate from these employees and deliver this document to your social secretariat or payroll service provider. This document is necessary for the correct calculation of the vacation pay you have to pay as an employer in 2023.
White-collar workers receive their vacation pay from the employer and are paid by their employer during the days they take vacation days.
For your white-collar workers, you as an employer therefore need to foresee in your own payment. Your social secretariat or payroll service provider will make the necessary calculations for you so you can pay the correct amount.
Note that also here, it is important that you as an employer always request all vacation certificates for the previous year from your employee. No vacation entitlements or vacation pay can be calculated for the periods that are not covered by a vacation certificate. These are equated with periods of no performance in which no accrual is foreseen.
3. When do you need to pay the double vacation pay?
The law on vacation pay provides that payment must be made at the time of taking the main vacation. This is obviously an abstract wording and could imply different payments for each employee.
In practice, the RJV provides for a payment between 2 May and 30 June for blue collar workers.
For white-collar workers, we see in practice that employers also provide for a payment in May or June. However, there are also employers who provide this in April or July. This is because most staff take at least 2 weeks' vacation (main vacation) between May - September. This is stipulated when the vacation pay is first paid and is then repeated annually in the same period. Don't remember which month you paid this last year? No worries, you can find this on the individual accounts or in your accounting documents from last year.
If you still have questions with respect to vacation pay, if you cannot work out how it works, or if you would like additional advice on the possibilities of granting extra’s to employees who have insufficient entitlements, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] .
Author: Cynthia Smeyers