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Maternity leave

matleaveHere you can find out the basics about maternity leave for:

You can also read about some special situations, such as how it may be possible to extend your maternity leave if your baby has to stay in hospital after the birth, or how maternity leave may be converted to paternity leave if the mother is hospitalised after the birth.

 


 

 

Employees in the Belgian system

Length of leave                                                                      

                     

                                                       

                     

You are entitled to 15 weeks maternity leave (19 weeks in the case of a multiple birth). This is divided into ‘prenatal’ and ‘postnatal’ leave.

    • Prenatal leave: one week of maternity leave is considered as obligatory prenatal leave, and can only be taken before the birth. You can start your maternity leave a maximum of 6 weeks (8 weeks for multiples) before the expected due date.

      If your baby is born early and you had not taken one week of maternity leave prior to the birth, you essentially ‘lose’ this week of leave, as your maternity leave is still calculated as having started one week before the birth.

      Note: any sick days taken during the 6 weeks (8 weeks for multiples) before the due date are considered as part of your maternity leave, even if the reason for the absence is unrelated to the pregnancy. However, any office closures or bank holidays during this period (i.e. when you are off work through no fault of your own) are not considered as part of your maternity leave.
    • Postnatal leave: with the exception of the one obligatory week of prenatal leave and any other maternity leave you took before the birth, you simply use the remainder of your maternity leave after your baby is born.

      Nine of these weeks are mandatory postnatal leave. This means that your postnatal leave will be a minimum of nine weeks and a maximum of 14 weeks (minimum of 11 and maximum of 16 weeks for a multiple birth).

Formalities  

                                                  

To receive payment for your maternity leave, you need to send a medical certificate to your mutuelle that states the expected due date of your baby and start date of your maternity leave. Check with your mutuelle when they need to receive this certificate – they may ask you to send it only once you start your maternity leave. Once you have sent the certificate, they will then send you the relevant paperwork in relation to your maternity leave rights and payments.

Your mutuelle pays your maternity leave. For the first 30 days, you will receive 82% of your gross salary (with no upper limit). As of the 31st day (and in the case where your maternity leave has been extended as explained above), this amount is fixed at 75% of your gross salary, with an upper limit of around €139 per day (correct as of November 2018).

At the end of your maternity leave, you need to send a completed 'attestation de reprise de travail' / 'bewijs van werkhervatting of van werkloosheid' (form signalling that you have resumed work) to your mutuelle. Your mutuelle will have sent you this form earlier in your pregnancy.

Read more about maternity leave for employees and unemployed mothers on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (French and Dutch).

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 Self-employed in the Belgian system

Length of leave                                                        

You are entitled to up to 12 weeks maternity leave (maximum 13 weeks in the case of a multiple birth), with a minimum of three weeks. Maternity leave is divided into ‘mandatory prenatal', 'manatory postnatal' and 'optional' leave. 

    • Mandatory prenatal leave: one week of maternity leave is considered as mandatory prenatal leave, and can only be taken before the birth. You can start your prenatal leave maximum three weeks before the due date.

      If your baby is born early and you had not taken one week of maternity leave prior to the birth, you do not ‘lose’ this week of leave - any 'unused' days are added to your obligatory postnatal leave, to ensure that you have three uninterrupted weeks of leave.

    • Mandatory postnatal leave: two weeks of maternity leave are considered as mandatory postnatal leave, and must be taken as from the date of the birth.

    • Optional leave: the remaining nine weeks (10 in the case of a multiple birth) can be taken:

      • before the birth. Because there is one mandatory week of prenatal leave, and prenatal leave cannot start more than three weeks before the due date, you can take maximum two weeks of optional leave before the birth.

      • after the two weeks of obligatory postnatal leave. These weeks of leave can be taken in periods of seven days (i.e. they do not have to be taken consecutively) until at latest 38 weeks after the birth.

        Any weeks of optional leave after the birth can be taken full-time or part time, with one full-time week being equivalent to two part-time weeks, e.g. you can take nine (10) full weeks, or 18 (20) part-time weeks at any time with the 38 weeks following the birth.
Formalities

To receive payment for your maternity leave, you need to send a medical certificate to your mutuelle that states the expected due date of your baby. You can send this as soon as possible, and by the 7th month at the latest. Your mutuelle will then send you the necessary paperwork that you need to send back to them when you start your maternity leave.

Your mutuelle pays your maternity leave. The daily amount is not dependent on your income. 

Read more about maternity leave for self-employed mothers on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (French and Dutch).

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What happens if my baby has to stay in hospital?

If your baby has to stay in hospital beyond the first 7 days after the birth, you should be able to extend your maternity leave.

For employees                                                                              

                                                                                           

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. This extension of maternity leave cannot exceed 24 weeks.

The additional time is added at the end of your official maternity leave.

What’s the procedure?

Before the end of your official maternity leave, give your mutuelle a letter from the hospital stating the length of time your baby was hospitalised for.


Read more on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (French and Dutch).

For self-employed mothers  

                       

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 additional time is added after the two weeks of mandatory postnatal leave. It is possible to take these extra days 'part-time'.


What's the procedure?

Within two weeks of the birth, inform your mutuelle of the number of additional days of maternity leave and provide a letter from the hospital stating the length of time your baby was hospitalised for. If at this time, your baby is still in hospital, your maternity leave can be further extended and you will again need to ask the hospital for a letter stating the length of hospitalisation.


Read more on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (French and Dutch).

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What happens if the mother has to stay in hospital?

If the mother (who is an 'employee' or unemployed) is hospitalised during her maternity leave, the remaining maternity leave can be converted to paternity leave provided the father is also an 'employee' in the Belgian system.

This 'converted' paternity 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 needs to inform his employer in writing before the leave begins, indicating when he will begin this paternity leave and how long he is likely to be absent. As soon as possible, he should provide his employer with a medical certificate confirming that the mother will be hospitalised for longer than seven days.

He 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 seven days; and
    • that the baby has left hospital.

The mutuelle will then send the father the paperwork that needs to be completed. The leave will be paid by the mutuelle and is fixed at 60% of the father's salary, with an upper limit of around €139 per day (correct as of November 2018).

During this time, the mother continues to receive her maternity leave pay, and is still protected against being made redundant.

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What happens if the mother passes away during her maternity leave?

If the mother (who is an 'employee') dies during her maternity leave , the remaining maternity leave can be converted to paternity leave if the father is also an employee.

The father needs to inform his employer in writing within seven days of the mother's death, indicating when he will begin this paternity leave and how long he is likely to be absent.

He 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.

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References:

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