Types of Employment Contracts

Information on fixed-term, temporary and part-time contracts for workers employed in Belgium...

There are several types of employment contract (Contrat de travail/Arbeidsovereenkomst) commonly used in Belgium. There are different contracts for manual workers and white-collar workers. In addition, separate contracts exist for domestic workers, student workers, professional sports people and homeworkers.

Contracts vary in length and complexity. Most commonly (all links in French):

  • Permanent contracts/Open-ended contracts (Contrat de travail à durée indéterminée/De arbeidsovereenkomst voor onbepaalde tijd) - contracts which are for an indefinite length of time
  • Fixed-term contracts (Contrat de travail à durée déterminée/De arbeidsovereenkomst voor bepaalde tijd) – contracts that specify a start and an end date for the employment
  • Specific-assignment contracts (Contrat de travail pour un travail nettement défini/De arbeidsovereenkomst voor een duidelijk omschreven werk) – contracts which come to an end when the relevant work has been completed
  • Replacement contracts (Contrat de remplacement/De vervangingsovereenkomst) – contracts which are for an employee to replace an existing employee who is absent for a reason, such as maternity leave, etc. The contract must detail the identity and the duties of the person replaced and the reason for and length of the contract. These may not exceed two years
  • Temporary Contracts (Contrat de travail temporaire-contrat de travail intérimaire/De arbeidsovereenkomst voor uitvoering van tijdelijke arbeid en uitzendarbeid) – contracts between an individual and a temping agency where the individual is then placed with a client for a period of time. These are usually for a maximum of six months. For more information
  • Part-time contracts (Contrat de travail à temps partiel/Arbeidsovereenkomst voor deeltijdse arbeid) – contracts for less than the normal 38-hour week (sometimes unemployment benefit can continue while the employment lasts)

Employment contracts must be in French, Dutch or German. The employer may be able to provide an informal copy of the contract in English.

Be aware that some employers will try to offer contracts with a self-employed status. These are not contracts at all and should be approached with caution since the individual is responsible for paying social security contributions and advance tax. No protection is offered under such a "contract" for sickness or invalidity, nor is the individual entitled to any notice or compensation if the contract is terminated.

What the contract should contain

Although it is not compulsory for permanent contracts, it is best to obtain a contract in writing. Employees have a right to ask for such a document to be provided and should receive it within two months of starting employment. Subsequent changes to the employment terms must be communicated in writing within one month of the change.

The contract will normally contain the following:

  • name and address of the employer and employee
  • date that employment commences
  • place of work
  • a description of duties
  • pay and how this will be calculated and paid
  • the length of any trial period
  • the hours and days to be worked

Most Belgians are paid directly by bank transfer.

Most other contracts have to be in writing, for example student contracts, fixed-term contracts or work-specific contracts, also part-time and replacement contracts, contracts with temping agencies or for any temporary work and working from home.

Trial periods or probation arrangements are common in Belgium, but are only valid if they have been put in writing. The maximum allowed for manual workers is two weeks, whereas for white-collar workers it can be anything up to six (sometimes twelve) months.

Young people aged 16-18 may be offered an Apprenticeship Contract whereby they receive training from a company but continue to attend an educational establishment for one or two days a week. There is normally a probation period of three months and a written contract should be signed before starting.