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Headline Labour & Employment: Supplementary holidays at the beginning or at the resumption of the professional career

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Employees who start their career (e.g. school-leavers) or who resume their career in the course of time (e.g. after a period of activity as a self-employed), currently are not entitled to holidays in the first year of employment. This will change due to the introduction of the system of supplementary holidays.

Belgium has, since a long time, a system – which is often experienced as intricate by foreign employers – whereby employees, by working in a certain year (service year), build up their entitlement to holidays and holiday pay in the following year (the holiday year). As a result thereof, those who start working in the course of 2012, will be entitled to holidays for the first time in 2013. The same goes for those who start to work as an employee in 2012 after a period in which they did not work as an employee.

The European Working Time Directive 2003/88 however obliges the member states to take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks. As the existing Belgian legislation does not provide for any entitlement to holidays in the first year of employment or at the resumption of the activity as an employee, the legislator must take action.

Therefore, the draft Program law (I) provides for a system of “supplementary holidays”. For each period of three months of activity during the calendar year of commencement of the activity as an employee or the resumption of the activity, the employee will build up one week of additional holidays. The employee will be entitled to an amount equal to his normal salary during this week of holidays. According to the draft Program law, this “holiday pay” will be financed by a deduction of the legal holiday pay which does not correspond to the normal salary for holidays. This would mean that the continuation of the payment of the salary will be compensated by the double holiday pay and/or (part of?) the holiday pay on departure.

It is however still unclear as to how this settlement will take place. The draft Program Law provides that the way in which the settlement will take place, its amount and its duration and more in general, also the conditions and the application modalities of the system of additional holidays will be regulated by Royal Decree. We will of course follow up on this.