The number of Belgians taking advantage of paid parental leave rose to 9.4% last year, an increase of 22% since 2018.
“Mothers continue to take more parental leave than fathers, but an increase is also seen among fathers,” noted Belgian HR provider SD Worx, which analysed data on parental leave in the country.
There are almost twice as many mothers on parental leave as fathers in Belgium. In March 2022, there were 84,254 parents on paid parental leave, of whom 55,538 were women and 28,716 were men.
“Extra flexibility is welcome for working young parents. Since mid 2019, there has been a relaxation in the options for taking full-time and half-time parental leave,” said Anneleen Verstraeten, SD Worx legal consultant.
“Full-time parental leave can be taken in weeks with the agreement of the employer, which is interesting for bridging shorter school holidays. The half-time parental leave can also be more flexible: it can now be taken per month instead of per 2 months or a multiple.”
Preferences vary for different types of parental leave
The biggest increase (28%) among mothers was seen in the 1/10th leave formula, which was introduced in June 2019 and allows for a 10% reduction in full-time work. Almost as many men as women use this formula.
Among both mothers and fathers, the 1/20th break continues to be the most popular, although its use is not increasing any further.
The slightly increased birth rate in Flanders and Wallonia in 2021 is not the only reason for an increase in parental leave, says SD Workx.
“The main explanation is the growing success of the 10% formula, which appeals to parents as a way to combine work and family,” said Verstraeten.
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Under that formula, a parent takes half a day's leave per week or one day every fortnight. This results in a limited impact on income, as well as for the 20% formula.
“The gross salary of the parent is recalculated to 90% or 80% of the full-time salary,” Verstraeten explained, adding that “the loss of wages is partly compensated by an allowance from the RVA. Those who work in the Flemish Region can also receive an incentive payment from the Flemish Government.”
This means that an employee under the age of 50 who earns €2,750 gross receives €2,475 while on a 1/10th parental leave formula. The loss of €275 on a monthly basis is compensated by €76.65 gross NEO benefit and €36.42 gross Flemish care credit incentive.
The extra time for the family thus costs this parent just over €160 gross on a monthly basis.