Congratulations! You’re about to become a parent for the first time. Or maybe you’re growing your family and have become self-employed since your last baby was born?
Either way, Belgium is a great place to raise a family! And even though self-employed parents don’t benefit from all the same advantages as employees, there is valuable support on offer. You just have to know about it!
In this article we look at:
- types of government allowances paid to all parents in Belgium, including the birth allowance worth over €1000 for your first child and monthly child allowance of around €170
- types of paid leave for self-employed parents, including maternity leave of up to 12 weeks (13 weeks for a multiple birth), birth leave of 20 days (formerly paternity leave / co-parent leave) and adoption leave
- impact on social security payments and pension for self-employed mums, including exemption from social security payment in the quarter following the birth and possible payment of some of your pension contributions if you have a ‘social’ pension
- free service cheques (‘titres services’/’dienstencheques’) worth over €900
- benefits from your health insurance fund, including financial bonuses, service cheques, gift vouchers and more
- additional reimbursements and services from your hospitalisation insurance provider, including coverage of medical care in the month before the birth and the two months after, as well as support related to your hospitalisation including home help, postnatal maternity care etc.
- tax advantages linked to being a parent, including an increase of your tax-free allowance and tax deductions for daycare expenses
- free stuff, including a free upgrade to first class when travelling by train in Belgium, €40 ‘birth party’ voucher from Colruyt, and LOTS of companies offering gift boxes of sample products for mum and baby
Curious about other aspects of pregnancy and birth in Belgium?
If you’re also interested in reading more about who can look after you during pregnancy and birth, choosing where to give birth, how to prepare for birth, how to find an English-speaking doula, where to turn for general support after birth or in particular breastfeeding support, please take a look around this site!
Government allowances for all parents in Belgium
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you can apply for a generous birth allowance offered by the Belgian state for every child born. This is part of the family allowance system, and is handled at regional level. The exact amount and procedures to follow differ depending on the region you live in. In Brussels, you receive €1288.87 for your first child, and €585.85 for subsequent children.
The amount will be paid to your bank account two months before your estimated due date. If you forget to apply for this before the birth, don’t worry, you can still apply for it after your baby has arrived.
If you’re adopting a baby, you’re entitled to an adoption allowance. This is the same amount as the birth allowance, but with slightly different paperwork and timing.
Once you’ve applied for the birth allowance, you’ve already set the ball in motion to receive monthly child benefit payments – no more forms to submit! The monthly payments automatically start being paid the month following the month of your baby’s birth. For example, if your baby is born 2 April, you’ll start receiving child benefit payments as of May.
The monthly amount differs slightly by region. In Brussels, you receive €175.76 per month per child aged 0 to 11, and slightly more for older children.
Read more about family allowance in Belgium.
Types of paid leave for self-employed parents in Belgium
If you have been registered with a health insurance fund for at least six months, and have paid social security contributions for at least two trimesters, you are entitled to between 3 and 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (13 weeks for a multiple birth).
The week before the birth and two weeks after the birth are mandatory. The remaining nine weeks can be taken either before the birth (starting three weeks before the birth at the earliest) or, in periods of 7 days, until at latest 38 weeks after the birth. It’s also possible to take the nine optional weeks as part-time leave.
The amount you’ll receive for weeks taken:
- full-time is around €830 gross per week for the first four weeks (and around €750 thereafter);
- part-time is around €415 gross per week for the first four weeks (and around €380 thereafter).
While you’re on full-time leave, you’re not allowed to perform any professional activites. On part-time leave you can perform your usual activities maximum half-time, and you’re not allowed to do any other professional activity.
Read more about maternity leave for self-employed mothers.
What if your baby is hospitalised?
For each consecutive day your baby has to stay in hospital beyond the first seven days after the birth (provided the baby was not discharged from hospital during that time), you can extend your maternity leave by the same number of days, e.g. if your baby stays in hospital for 10 days in total, your maternity leave is extended by three days. The maximum extension is 24 weeks.
The additional time is added after the two weeks of mandatory postnatal leave. It is possible to take these extra days ‘part-time’.
When you adopt a child under the age of 18, both employees and self-employed parents have the right to up to six weeks leave. It is mandatory to take one week of adoption leave.
The six weeks of leave are individual, i.e. if both you and your partner are the adoptive parents, you are entitled to six weeks leave each. The leave cannot be transferred between parents.
You receive a fixed amount of around €580 per week of adoption leave. This is paid in one go, at the latest one month after the start of your leave.
Read more about adoption leave for self-employed parents.
Birth leave (paternity / co-parent leave)
All fathers and co-parents are entitled to 20 days of paid leave after the birth of their baby. These need to be used within four months of the birth, otherwise they are lost.
As a self-employed father / co-parent, you can take this in one go, as individual days, or as half days. If you take maximum 9 full days of leave (or 18 half days), you are entitled to receive 15 free service vouchers (‘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.
Read more about birth leave for self-employed parents.
Social security payments and pension contributions
Provided you have paid your social security for the two quarters before your baby’s birth, you, as a self-employed mother, do not have to pay social security for the trimester following the birth. This is not something you need to apply for, as it’s accorded automatically by your social insurance fund.
When it comes to your pension fund, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that if you have a ‘social’ pension fund (PCLI social or sociaal VAPZ) you enjoy some specific birth-related benefits – for example, if you have a PCLI sociale with Liantis, they’ll add the equivalent of two trimesters’ contributions to your pension plan, or if you have a PCLI sociale/sociaal VAPZ with Acerta, they’ll give you 25% of your pension contribution and a bonus of €250 per birth!
Bad news though, is that contributions to your pension fund are not tax deductible the year you give birth – go figure!
Free service cheques
As a self-employed mother, if you met the conditions to receive paid maternity leave, you’re entitled to 105 hours of service cheques that you can use to pay for household help (e.g. cleaning, ironing, cooking) after the birth of your baby. This is worth €945 in total!
You apply for this via your social security fund – procedures differ slightly between funds, so check with your own.
Cheques remain valid for 12 months in the Flemish region, 8 months in the Walloon region, and 6 months in the Brussels-Capital region.
Benefits from your health insurance fund
Most, if not all, health insurance funds (‘mutuelles’ / ‘ziekenfondsen’) providers offer some kind of welcome bonuses, advantages and other support when you have a baby.
For example, Mutualité Chrétienne currently offers a bonus of €350 as well as a breastfeeding cushion or gift voucher for Qualias medical equipment shop; Partenamut also offers a €350 birth/adoption bonus as well as €200 worth of service cheques; Helan offers €150 worth of home help after birth per affiliated parent, which can be from an official home help provider or a certified doula!
Check what’s on offer from your health insurance fund and hospitalisation insurance provider and take full advantage!
Additional reimbursements and services from your hospitalisation insurance provider
If you have hospitalisation insurance in addition to the basic health coverage you have via your health insurance fund, then you’ll most likely be entitled to various services and advantages related to the birth and postnatal period.
Typically, this kind of insurance reimburses any medical care you need during the month before the birth and until three months after the birth – which is great for gynaecologist appointments, postanatal physiotherapy, postanatal midwife care etc. With AG’s Care Hospitalisation ‘Delta’ option, this pre- and post-natal period is doubled to two months before and six months after birth.
You can also often request extra support in relation to your hospitalisation. Some providers remimburse the purchase of service cheques, while others, depending on your contract, offer more. For example, thanks to the Medi-Assistance option of the AG Care Hospitalization insurance you can request help with household chores, postnatal maternity care and even care for your pets while you’re hospitalised (if needed). Note though that it’s worth thinking ahead and arranging such support towards the end of your pregnancy so everything is in place when you need it.
Ask your hospitalisation insurance provider well in advance what services, advantages and support you can count on.
Tax advantages when you have kids
Having children is expensive, and thankfully you’ll be able to claim back some of that (ok, a teeeeeeny amount) in taxes.
First of all, having a child increases your tax-free allowance – for the 2023 declaration (2022 revenue) your tax-free allowance is increased by €1,690. Technically speaking, a child is only a tax dependant of one parent … so which one?
- If you and your partner are married or legal cohabitants, you complete a joint tax return, so it doesn’t matter who declares your child(ren) as tax dependant. The tax authorities will automatically ‘assign’ the child(ren) to the parent with the highest taxable income.
- If you and your partner have not entered into an official cohabitation agreement, the ‘head of the family’ takes the child(ren) as tax dependants. This is usually the parent with the highest taxable income.
- If you’re separated, the child is typically dependent on the parent they are domiciled with. If you have joint custody with the child’s other parent, you can opt for ‘tax co-parenting’, in which case you both benefit from half the tax-exempt amount.
Once your child starts daycare, you can deduct these expenses – provided the care is offered by a person or organisation who meets certain strict requirements. Childcare expenses (for children under 14 years old) up to a maximum of €14.40 per day give right to a 45% tax reduction.
For those of you are interested in getting free stuff in general, and free baby stuff in particular:
- The SNCB / NMBS knows that travelling in a crowded 2nd class train carriage can be traumatic at the best of times, and especially when you’re pregnant. So as from your 6th month of pregnancy, you can travel in first class at no extra cost. You may well have a visible bump at this stage, but it’s still best to keep a medical certificate with you which states your estimated due date.
- Colruyt gives you a €40 ‘birth party’ voucher upon the birth of your baby, plus two vouchers for 25% discount on baby food and baby care products, and a product as a gift with each of those two vouchers. French / Dutch
- Greenkit is a ‘discovery box’ of eco-friendly products for baby and mum, distributed as of six months of pregnancy by a network of midwives across Belgium, including the wonderful Zwanger in Brussel / Milk Kliniek and Wheel of Care in Brussels.
- La Boite Rose / De Roze Doos has been giving parents in Belgium free boxes of sample baby-related items for decades. French / Dutch
- Babyboom also offers free gift packs of sample products and offers. French / Dutch
- Babydump invites you to sign up for a free gift package, which you can pick up at one of their two Belgian stores within 3 months of your request. Dutch only
- When you join Kruidvat’s ‘Le Club Avantages Bébé’ / ‘Baby Voordeelclub’ you can pick up a welcome back as of your 18th week of pregnancy.
- By joining MultiPharma’s ‘MultiCo’ programme you can get a free Baby Box with sample products and advantages. French / Dutch
- Zeeman offers you a free baby body (i.e. romper suit) that you can pick up at one of their stores. French / Dutch