Parental leave in Belgium

Parents who are employees in the Belgian system are entitled to take a period of paid parental leave per child. This is not paid by the employer, but rather by the mutuelle in the form of an allowance for the days taken. While progress has been made in securing paternity/co-parent leave for self-employed parents, they are are unfortunately not (yet) entitled to take paid parental leave.

Here we answer the following questions:

DID YOU KNOW? You may also be entitled to take a paid career break (either full-time or to reduce your working hours to 50% or 80%).

While the pay is low, the career break system can be a way to extend your time off after the birth of your baby, or temporarily stop working or reduce your working hours during your child’s early years. Find full details, including conditions and procedures, on our page all about taking a career break to look after your children.

How much parental leave can I take and when can I take it?

The length of paid parental leave you are entitled to depends on whether your child was born before or after 8 March 2012. If your child was born:

  • after 8 March 2012, you can receive a government allowance for up to four months of leave;

  • before 8 March 2012, you can only receive a government allowance for up to three months of leave.

    In this case, you are still entitled to four months of parental leave, but the fourth month is unpaid.

For the mother, parental leave can start any time from the end of the mandatory period of postnatal maternity leave; for the other parent, parental leave can start any time after the child’s birth, though it also makes sense to take the 20 days of paternity/co-parent leave first.

Adoptive parents are entitled to take parental leave as of the moment the child is officially registered at the commune as part of their household.

The leave must start before the child’s 12th birthday (21st birthday in the case of a handicapped child).

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Who can take parental leave?

To be able to take parental leave, you must have a parental link with the child. This generally means you are:

  • the biological mother or father;
  • in the absence of the biological father, the man who is recognised as the father;
  • mother’s wife, who becomes the child’s co-mother;
  • an adoptive parent.

Each parent has the right to take four months of leave each, though the leave is not transferrable – if one parent does not use his/her entitlement to parental leave before the age cut-off of 12 years, it is simply lost.

Generally speaking, you need to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutively) in the 15 months prior to making the request to take parental leave.

Any employee can request to take full-time leave. However, you need to be working full-time to be able to request any kind of part-time parental leave.

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Do I have to take parental leave in one go?

You can use your parental leave:

  • in one go (i.e. a single period of 4 months);
  • in several periods of minimum one month;
  • to temporarily reduce your working hours to 80% (1/5 parental leave) or 50% (1/2 parental leave).

    If you reduce your working hours to:
    • 80%, you can do this for a maximum of 20 months, or several periods of five months (or multiples of five months); or
    • 50%, you can do this for a maximum of 8 months, or several periods of two months (or multiples of two months).
  • to take one half-day off per week, or one full day off every two weeks (1/10 parental leave).

    If you take your parental leave like this, you can do so for a maximum period of 40 months, or several periods of ten months (or multiples of ten months).

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How do I request parental leave?

As the procedures for applying for this kind of leave are rather complex, it’s best to check with your Human Resources department.

Typically you should submit your request for parental leave three months (and minimum two months) before you wish to start taking parental leave.

If you take full-time parental leave in one go, you are protected against being made redundant during this time, and any notice period begins after the end of the parental leave. This is not the case for parental leave that is spread out.

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Can my employer refuse my request?

This depends on how you wish to take your parental leave.

If you meet the conditions (age of child, and have worked for that employer for at least 12 months in the previous 15 months):

  • your employer cannot refuse a request to take parental leave either full-time or at 1/2 or 1/5 time.

    However, they can ask that you delay it by a maximum of 6 months.
  • your employer may refuse to accept a request to take a 1/10 parental leave.

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How much am I paid?

The government allowance you receive:

  • is independent of your salary; but
  • depends on your presence time (e.g. working at 80%, 50% etc.) in the period before taking parental leave.

For example, if you are working full-time, you currently receive about €890 per month net (as at 19 November 2023) for full-time parental leave. If you are working part-time, the amount you will receive is prorated.

Also, as mentioned above, your child’s date of birth (before or after 8 March 2012) will determine whether you can receive a government allowance for three or four months.

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Does parental leave impact my paid holiday allowance for the following year?

Unfortunately, yes. Unlike maternity and paternity leave – which are counted as normal working time for the calculation of your holiday allowance – days of parental leave are not taken into account when calculating the number of legal holidays you are entitled to in the following year.

On the website of the ONVA/RJK (National Office for Annual Holidays) you can see how many paid holidays you are entitled to according to the number of days actually worked. Remember that other absences such as sick leave, maternity/paternity leave still count towards your allowance.

If you take a full-time, 1/2 or 1/5 parental leave, you can use the information on the ONVA/RJV site to roughly calculate the reduction in your working days, provided the reduction of your working time was in days.

If you take a 1/10 parental leave, whether or not this impacts your holidays calculation may depend on whether you take one half-day per week (in which case those days may still count towards your holiday allowance), or one full day every two weeks (in which case this is not counted as a working day). Check with your employer for confirmation.

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More information

You can read more:

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