Fewer employee bonuses handed out in 2022 as financial crisis bites

Fewer employee bonuses handed out in 2022 as financial crisis bites
Credit: Belga

Fewer salary bonuses were paid out to employees of SMEs last year, however, the average amount of bonuses awarded increased by almost €100.

The bonus, a tax-friendly, non-recurring performance-related benefit that the employer can grant to a group of employees if they achieve results set in the form of predefined targets, is regarded as an interesting way to motivate a certain group of employees to achieve certain goals.

The amount, which is capped but is also indexed annually (in 2023, it is capped at €3,434), can change every year, and it is up to the employer to decide whether it will be paid every year or not.

As the paying out of this bonus is optional, fewer SMEs awarded salary bonuses to their employees than in 2021, according to an analysis by HR services group Liantis. However, the average amount of bonuses awarded, increased to €1,426.31 gross from €1,333.25 during the previous year.

"The main cause is the crisis: employers may therefore be inclined to make fewer wage bonus plans," said Matthias Debruyckere, a legal expert at Liantis, adding that labour costs were already very high as a result of Belgium's automatic wage indexation.

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"In addition, the targets might have been set a little more sharply and therefore more difficult to achieve." The targets that are set cannot be too easy as part of the federal plan for such bonuses. 

Overall, white-collar workers were more likely to be granted the bonus. Among blue-collar workers, just 1.74% received a wage bonus in 2022. The bonus based on this year's achievements will not be paid out until the beginning of 2024 at the earliest.

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