Social Security

In Belgium, every declared job is submitted to social contribution. It is a mandatory withdrawal on your professional revenues which will serve to finance the social security. Depending on your work regime (salaried, civil servant or independent), the manner of paying for your social security will differ.

Contribution of salaried workers and of civil servants will be directly withdrawn from their gross salary and transferred to the National Office for the Social Security (French acronym ONSS, for Office National de la Sécurité Sociale). Independent workers shall pay their contribution every 3 months to an insurance of their choice. Salaried workers and independents therefore have a different social protection regime.

Workers are not the only ones to finance the social security. Employers participate too. For each employed worker, an employer shall pay 24.77% of the worker’s gross salary to the ONSS. Finally, the Belgian state also contributes to the total budget by using, amongst others, a deal of the VAT incomes.

Social Security for Salaried Workers

In this first part, we will explain social security for salaried workers. If you are interested in social security for the self-employed, go directly to the end of this page.


Salaried workers participate monthly to the social security financing amounting up to 13.07% of their gross salary. Employers’ and State’s parts are added to these revenues. As salaried workers represent about 80% of the total workforce in Belgium, the amount of contributors is high which enables a larger social cover than that of independent workers (about 12%), The ONSS then allocates these amounts according to needs in 7 domains (pillars) : Health-Invalidity Insurance, family Benefits, pensions, unemployment, professional diseases, work accidents, paid Holidays. 

1. Health-Invalidity Insurance

The Health-Invalidity Insurance corresponds to the health care refund system but also to the financing of a replacement revenue in case of work incapacity, invalidity or parental/maternity leave. We already mentioned how the INAMI and the mutual insurances are operating, Should you wish further information on their functioning, do not hesitate to consult the technical flyer dedicated to health and refund of medical fees. We will, hereafter, approach the provision of a replacement revenue : 


A. Work incapacity: When visiting a physician, he/she may decide to order a sick leave. The length of this sick leave shall be written on the medical certificate which your physician will hand over to you.. During this period, you will not be working but you will nonetheless receive a part of your salary. Precisely, employees receive 100% of their salary during the 1st month of sick leave. Once this time elapsed, the mutual insurance takes over with a monthly payment equivalent to 60% of the employee’s gross salary. For workers, the mutual insurance shall take over after 2 weeks of work incapacity. Should your work incapacity exceed a year, you are entitled to an invalidity status. Your salary will then always be linked to your former gross salary but the percentage shall vary upon your family composition (dependant family, isolated, cohabitant).


B. Paternity / Maternity Leave : Maternity leave  for a salaried worker corresponds to a 15 week period of work stoppage during which the female worker receives a replacement revenue which represents 82% of your gross salary for the first 30 days and decreases to 75% as from the 31st day.

To correctly understand the maternity leave process, it must be sliced into 3 distinctive parts : the pre- natal leave (before birth), the mandatory leave (1 week before birth) and the post-natal leave (after birth). The length of a post-natal leave is minimum 9 weeks but can be longer if the worker reschedules a part of the 5 weeks of pre-natal leave. The non-utilized weeks during pre-natal leave will indeed be added to the post-natal leave. Please note that from 2020 onwards, a sick leave decided by a doctor before birth does not force you to start your pre-natal leave. It becomes a simple work incapacity period.

Paternity leave is currently fixed to 15 days to be taken as a whole or in a staggered way. Salary is 100% guaranteed by the employer during the first 3 days and by mutual insurances up to 82% of the gross salary during the last 12 days.

2. Family Benefits

Family benefits relates to family allowances but also to birth grants, adoption grants as well as back-to-school bonus. These financial aids are paid by FAMIRIS or another familial allowance fund till the age of 18. Children who carry on with studies beyond 18 years of age remain to their parents’ charge. They are thus still entitled to receive family allowances up to the day their child reach the age of 25.

A. Family Allowances: It’s a financial aid received monthly by parents  to help them to take care of their children. The amount of this aid depends of the year of birth of the child. Two regimes are co-existing : Children born before 2020 receive the same amounts whereas children born after 2020 benefit from new, more advantageous, amounts. To calculate the amount of your family allowances, you can simulate on FAMIRIS’ website.

B. Birth Grants: This is a one-off amount given at the birth of the child to help their parents to cope with expenses linked to a newborn child. This amount shall be higher for the first child than for the others. Please note that the adoption grants, which are equivalent to birth grants, can also be requested by fostering families.

C. Back-to-School Bonus: This is an amount given towards end of August, before going back to school. This will help parents to pay school expenses, such as a satchel, notebooks, etc., …


3. Pensions

In Belgium, retirement age is fixed at 65. It will become 67 as from 2030. The public organization in charge for retirement is the Pensions Federal Service (French acronym SFP, for Service Fédéral des Pensions). The amount of your pension depends on 3 criteria, namely : you family composition, the length of your career and the amount of the revenues perceived during your career. SFP’s website allows you to simulate your pension wages’ calculation. Do not hesitate to consult it.

You are 65 and have scarcely worked or not at all ? CPAS can come to your help by granting you a GRAPA (French acronym for Garantie de Revenu pour Personnes Agées – Guaranteed Revenue for Elderly Persons). Please contact your commune’s CPAS for further information.

4. Unemployment

As for each pillar of social security, there’s an organization taking decisions concerning unemployment for persons who have lost their jobs. In this case, it’s the ONEM (French acronym for Office National de l’Emploi – National Office for Employment). It collects all data concerning the job(s) you have done throughout your career in Belgium. It can therefore know whether you meet the conditions to benefit from unemployment allowances. To benefit from those allowances, you must notably be registered with ACTIRIS (Brussels Unemployment Administration). You must also not be responsible for your unemployment situation (for instance, you must not have resigned from your job or have been fired for serious misconduct…). Last but not least, you must have worked long enough to open your rights to access to these allowances (sufficient reference period). Should these conditions be met, you will be able to file for request for unemployment allowances with your syndicate or at the CAPAC (French acronym for Caisse Auxiliaire de Paiement des Allocations de Chômage – Auxiliary Fund for Payment of Unemployment Allowances)

The amount of your unemployment allowances depends on many criteria. First of all, the amount of your last perceived wage will be taken into account. Your allowances indeed represent part of your last salary. Then, the percentage vary according to your family composition and to the amount of time spent unemployed. In Belgium, unemployment allowances are progressively decreasing which means that the amount of your allowances shall diminish with time. 

5. Professional Diseases

A professional disease is a disease contracted by exercising your job. Work conditions may progressively harm your body and provoke health problems. There’s a list of more than 150 diseases linked with work conditions which is recognized by FEDRIS (French acronym for Agence Fédérale des Risques Professionnels – Federal Agency for Professional Risks). If a doctor establishes a direct link between your occupation and your health problems, FEDRIS shall take all expenses linked to this disease in charge (medical care, medication, materials) and shall give you a replacement wage should this disease prevent you from going to work.

6. Work Accidents

In social security, the « work accident » branch is slightly different from the others as there is no public organization which explicitly deals with compensating the victims of work accidents. Belgian employers are legally obliged to insure their employees with a private insurance organization. In case of an accident on the work premises or on your way to work, this insurance shall take all medical expenses in charge as well as a possible replacement wage in case of work incapacity. In case of failure of your employer to do so, you can contact FEDRIS and your syndicate.

7. Paid Holidays

Concretely, paid holidays are considered to be days during which you are not working but for which you are paid a wage. However, this definition only represent a deal of the rights linked to paid holidays. A difference should be made between simple and double holiday allowance.


  • The simple allowance corresponds to the above definition. Should you work full time for a year, you would have access, the following year, to 20 days during which you would perceive a salary during your holidays.


  • The double allowance is a unique yearly amount, paid around the month of June, on the worker’s account to help him/her afford some vacation. This is better known by the designation of holiday bonus or premium. It’s a legal obligation, your employer cannot refuse it. For a person who has worked full-time for the whole previous year, the amount of a double allowance is equivalent to 20 days’ wage paid in one go.

Social security for independent workers :

Independent workers also contribute to social security in order to benefit from a basic social protection (see hereafter), in exchange with a registration to social insurance fund . However, it’s a different regime than that of salaried workers. In short, social security for independents offers less advantages for independents than for salaried workers. For instance, an independent has no right to holiday allowances, it is he/her who will have to get an insurance for his work premises. His/her retirement allowance amount will also be inferior to that of a salaried worker.

The social security for independent workers is taken in charge by the INASTI (French acronym for Institut National d’Assurance Sociale pour Travailleurs Indépendants – National Institute for Social Insurance for Independent Workers). This organization controls that all quarterly payments are done by each person exercising an economic activity, as an independent, in Belgium. Indeed, independents pay their contributions every 3 months to a payment fund of their choice. The amount of contribution varies upon the size and age of the company. This amount is then spread out according to the 5 pillars covered by social security :

  • Health-Invalidity Insurance : As every salaried worker, independents are entitled to the refund of their health expenses via a mutual insurance company or the CAAMI. The latter can also give access to a replacement revenue in case of illness but only if invalidity period is 7 days or more. The maternity leave shall also be shorter than that of salaried workers.


  • Family benefits : Family allowances, birth grants and back-to-school bonusses are the same than that of salaried workers..


  • Pensions : Independent workers are also entitled to a pension when reaching the age of 65. However, they are not obliged to stop working at that age. The amount of the pension wage for independents is lower than that of other regimes. An independent will note be able to cope with everyday life costs based on this sole revenue. It is therefore highly advised that an independent worker signs up a complementary pension savings scheme during their career.


  • Gateway Right Law : Independent workers are entitled unemployment revenues but only under certain conditions. This is called the gateway right law. It is a right to access to unemployment compensation in case of bankruptcy, official termination, collective debt settlement or forced interruption of activity.


  • Caregiver’s allowance : An independent worker who wishes to cease his/her activity to care for a relative is entitled to a caregiver’s allowance for a maximum period of 12 months.


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