From 2025, people in Flanders will only be able to buy electronic service cheques – the payment system used in Belgium for domestic work. But how will this alter the current arrangement and impact users?
The service cheque system allows people to pay an employee of a recognised company for domestic work carried out on private premises, be it the user's home or outside. This includes tasks such as cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping and transporting people with reduced mobility. Previously, these jobs were often done without social contributions and taxes being paid.
To prevent this work going undeclared, Belgium created a system subsidised by the government to ensure that an employee can work with the full status of a fixed monthly salary. Around 127,000 employees in 1108 companies and more than 750,000 users are taking advantage of the service cheque system.
People purchasing service vouchers to pay these employees are given a tax reduction. In Flanders, one service cheque costs €9 with a 20% Vat reduction. Each cheque is worth one hour's work.
'Beneficial for all'
From 1 January 2025, the Flemish government will further digitalise the service cheque system, with alternatives made for those who are less digitally skilled. A transition period will allow users, businesses and domestic helpers to adapt to the changes.
"From 2025, only electronic service cheques can be purchased," said Flemish Minister for Employment Jo Brouns. Paper service vouchers will disappear from circulation. "With extensive digitisation, we will make the service cheque system more accessible, smooth and easy to use, both for the user and for household helpers."
The cheque remains valid for 12 months in Flanders. Under the current system, it is no longer possible to exchange or refund cheques after the expiry date has passed. As part of the digitalised system, service cheques that are not used in time can be automatically refunded to the user, avoiding financial loss to anyone who loses track of their service cheques.
The present minimum of ten cheques that can be bought per purchase will also disappear.
For service cheque recipients, the new system removes the need to fill out and submit paper cheques and therefore removes the risk of losing them. "They can now follow the same method of recording their services for all their clients," Brouns explained.
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Finally, the payment system will also be updated. Currently, the subsidy is determined by who purchases the cheque whilst the amount disbursed to the domestic worker is determined when the cheque is used.
The current system and the many wage indexations of recent years have been a "financial blow" to service cheque companies – more than half of these companies reported losing money at the end of October.
With a fully digital system, the government can align the subsidy with the date the work was carried out, meaning the service cheque company will receive a subsidy aligned with the actual wage index.