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Doing Business in Belgium

Characterized by a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, Belgium is one of the best regions to setup your business in Europe. The country is well positioned in the middle of western Europe, offers multiple languages in which business can be carried out and has a diversified economy. If you are considering expanding your business to Belgium, you may need a partner who understands local regulations and process, to make your transition into the Belgian market easy.

Benefits of doing business in Belgium

There are a number of benefits to starting or expanding your operations to the market in Belgium, including:

  • Location – Neighboring Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg, and France, Belgium offers easy access to its regional neighbors. Trading across these borders is easy and convenient and has both Dutch and French speakers.
  • Developed Infrastructure – well known for its developed infrastructure which includes sophisticated transport networks consisting of railways, airports, seaports, and inland ports.
  • European Headquarters – Brussels is home to EU headquarters, NATO and a number of other multinational corporation headquarters. As a world class city, this is an ideal place to setup a European headquarters.

The Legal System in Belgium

Belgium’s legal system is a civil law system which has a strong French influence. The Belgium Constitution was written in 1831 and it contains general principles of the federal system and sets out the functions of executive, judicial and legislative powers.

In Belgium, courts are not bound by precedent from higher courts. While decisions from higher courts are not binding, they are used as persuasive tool and decisions from higher courts carry strong authority.

Different regions have their own executive and legislative authorities that have jurisdiction and regulate certain issues. The regulations and statutes enacted at a regional level carry the same authority as those enacted at a national level.

Public Holidays in Belgium

  • New Year’s Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Labor Day
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Belgian National Day (Independence Day)
  • Feast of Assumption
  • All Saints’ Day
  • Armistice Day
  • Christmas Day

Business Entities in Belgium

There are a number of different business entities available in Belgium. The most appropriate entity should be chosen based on the needs and of your business. The most common types of business entities available in Belgium include:

  • Private Limited Company (Société privée à responsabilité limitée – SPRL) – This type of structure is generally used by small businesses. The minimum share capital requirement is €18,550. At least 2 shareholders are required in order to setup this kind of structure, with the liability being limited to their respective contribution. The shareholders do not have to be Belgian citizens.
  • Partnership (Société en nom collectif – SNC) – A general partnership must be formed by at least 2 persons who will both be liable for the debts and obligations of the company. The partners have unlimited liability, and all decisions must be taken unanimously or unless the partnership agreement allows for decisions to be taken by a majority.
  • Joint Stock Corporation (Société anonyme – SA) – A Belgian Joint Stock company can be formed by an individual or a legal entity, provided the following requirements have been met:
    • 2 shareholders.
    • 3 directors.
    • Minimum share capital of €65,550.
  • Branch office Belgium (Succarsale) – A branch office in Belgium serves as an extension of the parent company located abroad and carries out the same business activities. A branch office is treated the same as a resident company for tax purposes.

Working Hours in Belgium

Working hours are set at a maximum of 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week according to Belgian law. These working hours are able to be reduced through a collective agreement.

Certain industries, such as healthcare and hospitality may request an employee to work more than 8 hours in a single day however this may not exceed 11 hours in a day or 50 hours per week. Employees whose hours exceed 8 hours per day are to be paid at 150% for every additional hour.

Leave Days in Belgium

Annual leave

According to Belgian law, an employee’s holiday entitlement is dependent on their length of service in the previous calendar year. If an employee has worked for 5 days per week, over a calendar year, they are entitled to 20 annual leave days.

If an employee has not worked for a company for a period of 12 months, their holiday will be reduced proportionally according to the time period actually worked. Annual leave cannot be carried over to the following year.

Sick Leave

In a case of sickness or injury, an employee is entitled to up to 30 days of paid leave, from the employer. The rate of pay differs on the nature of work (i.e., whether the employee is a blue or white-collar worker), as well as on the length of service the employee has served.

Healthcare in Belgium

Overall, Belgium has one of the most reputable healthcare systems in Europe. While their healthcare system is divided into private and public, fees are payable in both types. The whole system is funded through a combination of health insurance schemes and social security funds.

Private Healthcare

With private healthcare, people usually go to clinics as the larger hospitals are usually public. These private clinics are generally managed by universities or other institutions. Clinics are generally able to treat various ailments and injuries, however for more severe cases or more serious injuries people may be required to go to a hospital.

Public Healthcare

Public healthcare in Belgium is primarily funded through social security contributions and healthcare plans of employees. All persons employed in Belgium are required to contribute towards a Belgian health insurance fund. This is done through the usual social security contribution process. However, many expats often choose to add private health insurance, which gives them access to private clinics.

For citizens from a European Union member country, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, they are able to access Belgium’s public healthcare system through the European Health Insurance Card. This card provides these expats with the same access to treatment as Belgian citizen, at the same cost. The card must be issued outside of Belgium in order to be used.

INS Global in Belgium

Are you considering starting a business or expanding your current operation to Belgium? Having a partner who understands local regulations and processes makes the transition into a new market much easier. Our consultants have the necessary knowledge and expertise to assist your company to enter the Belgian market, without the usual administrative headache involved. Get in touch with us today and allow INS Global to simply your global expansion.

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