Every father or co-parent working in the Belgian system (as a full-time or part-time employee, Belgian civil servant, or self-employed) is entitled to paid time off within the four months following the birth of their child.
|Worth knowing: If you’re an employee in the Belgian system, you’re entitled to 4 months of parental leave per child, which must be used before your child turns 12. Subject to certain conditions, you may also be entitled to take a career break to look after your child.|
On this page, you can find out more about:
- the eligibility criteria and formalities around birth leave (‘congé de naissance’ / ‘geboorteverlof’, formely called paternity leave or co-parent leave); and
- situations where the mother’s maternity leave can be transferred to the father / co-parent if both are employees in the Belgian system.
Sadly, birth leave is not extended if you have twins (or any other multiple birth).
Birth leave for employees and self-employed
- Provided they meet certain administrative criteria, married fathers are automatically entitled to take birth leave.
- Unmarried fathers will have to have made a declaration of paternity in order to be entitled.
As the co-parent, you are entitled to birth leave if you:
- are married to the biological mother; OR
- are officially ‘co-habiting’ with the biological mother (i.e. having the status of ‘cohabitants légaux’ / ‘wettelijk samenwonenden’); OR
- have lived with the biological mother at the address where their baby has its principal residence for at least the three consecutive years before the birth.
Note that if the father (or your partner’s husband if she is married) has declared paternity, you as co-parent are not entitled to birth leave.
How much leave can I take and when can I take it?
As co-parent, you are entitled to 20 days of leave which need to be taken within the four months after the birth. This can be taken:
- employees: in one go, or as individual days when it suits you. You cannot take half days.
- self-employed: in one go, as individual days when it suits you, or as half days.
WORTH KNOWING: If you (self-employed father / partner) take maximum 9 days of leave (or 18 half days), you are entitled to receive 15 free ‘titres services’ / ‘dienstencheques’ which can be used to pay for domestic services such as cleaning, ironing, grocery shopping. This is worth EUR 135 in total. To benefit from this support, contact your social insurance fund – you need to buy the vouchers yourself, and your social insurance fund will reimburse the amount upon receipt of proof of purchase.
There is no obligation to take this leave, but remember too that any days of leave that you do not use within four months of the birth are lost.
Adoption at birth or later
If you adopt your wife’s / partner’s baby:
- at birth, you lose your entitlement to birth leave, but instead have the right to ‘adoption leave‘;
- at a later time, and have already taken birth leave, your adoption leave is reduced by:
- one week if you have taken up to 5 days of birth leave;
- two weeks if you have taken more than 5 days of birth leave.
How do I request birth leave?
- At your employer There is no formal procedure for applying to take birth leave. Simply inform your employer that your wife / partner is pregnant. Your employer may ask to see a copy of the birth certificate (‘attestation de naissance’ / ‘geboortebewijs’).
- At your ‘mutuelle’ / ‘ziekenfonds’ Ask your mutuelle for the official form to request paternity / co-parent leave. Complete and return this form to your mutuelle with a copy of the birth certificate. If you are the co-parent, you also need to send proof that you meet one of the criteria mentioned above i.e. marriage certificate; or paper from the commune saying that you are delared ‘cohabitants légaux’ / ‘wettelijk samenwonenden’; or an ‘extrait du registre de la population’ / ‘uittreksel uit het bevolkingsregister’ mentioning the date on which you started living at the main residence of the biological mother. Your mutuelle will then send you some paperwork to complete and return to them.
At the end of your paternity / co-parent leave, you do not need to do anything – simply go back to work!
Submit your request for birth leave to your social insurance fund (‘caisse d’assurances sociales’ / ‘sociaal verzekeringsfonds’) before the end of the quarter following the quarter of the birth. If your child was born during the last month of a quarter (i.e. March, June, September or December), you have an extra month to submit your application.
Your fund will most likely make the form available on their website. On the form, you indicate which days or half-days you have interrupted your professional activity or intend to do so.
Send the completed form via registered post or bring it to a physical office of your fund and ask for a proof of receipt.
How much will I get paid?
The first 3 days of birth leave are paid by your employer, at 100% of your usual salary.
Your mutuelle/ziekenfonds pays the remaining days, at 82% of your usual salary, with an upper limit.
Note that you will receive your payment from the mutuelle once you have taken all of your birth leave.
Birth leave is paid at around EUR 80 per day or EUR 40 per half day.
What happens if my wife / partner cannot look after our baby?
There are two situations in which the mother’s maternity leave can be ‘transferred’ to the father / co-parent if the mother cannot look after the baby:
- if the mother is hospitalised after the birth; or
in the tragic situation where the mother dies.
What happens if the mother has to stay in hospital?
If the mother is hospitalised during her maternity leave (applicable to employees), the remaining maternity leave can be converted to paternity / co-parent leave if the father / partner is also an employee.
This ‘converted’ leave can only begin:
- as of the seventh day after the baby’s birth; and
- if the baby has left hospital; and
- if the mother is hospitalised for more than seven days.
The father / partner needs to inform his/her employer in writing before the leave begins, indicating when he/she will begin this leave and how long he/she is likely to be absent. As soon as possible, he/she should provide his employer with a medical certificate confirming that the mother will be hospitalised for longer than seven days.
He/she also needs to inform his mutuelle of the situation, and provide them with a medical certificate from the hospital stating:
- the date on which the mother was hospitalised;
- that the mother’s hospitalisation is longer than 7 days; and
- that the baby has left hospital.
The mutuelle will then send the father / partner the paperwork that needs to be completed. The leave will be paid by the mutuelle and is fixed at 60% of the father’s / partner’s salary, with an upper limit of around €126 per day.
During this time, the mother continues to receive her maternity leave pay, and is still protected against being made redundant.
What happens if the mother dies?
If the mother dies during her maternity leave (applicable to employees), the remaining maternity leave can be converted to birth leave if the father / partner is also an employee.
The father / partner needs to inform his/her employer in writing within seven days of the mother’s death, indicating when he/she will begin the birth leave and how long they are likely to be absent.
They also needs to inform his mutuelle of the situation, and provide them with a death certificate and a statement from the hospital indicating that the baby has been discharged from hospital.
Read more about paternity / co-parent leave on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (French and Dutch).