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Belgium gives official status for close caregivers

Close caregivers will be able to apply for official status through their health insurance from 1 September.

Together with the new status, they will also be eligible for thematic leave.

Close caregivers are parents, children, spouses or other loved ones who take care of a highly dependent patient or handicapped person. Over 600,000 persons are said to be in such situations in Belgium.

For Social Affairs Minister Maggie De Block, close caregivers provide “invaluable” assistance. “They therefore need to be able to rely on a fair social security,” she noted.

“This status will enable us to better monitor this informal care. It will provide political decision-makers with guidelines for developing support measures for caregivers.”

To obtain official status, a caregiver needs to apply for recognition, by means of a sworn statement, with his or her health insurance and comply with a number of conditions. These include developing an emotionally or geographically close relationship or one of trust with the assisted person, who does not necessarily have to be a family member.

The caregiver also needs to provide his/her support and assistance for non-professional purposes, free of charge, and with the help of at least one professional, while taking the assisted person’s life plans into account.

A thematic holiday for close caregivers has also been created alongside this recognition. It enables persons with close caregiver status to apply to their employers for a suspension or reduction of their social security deductions from 1 September.

This holiday will be covered by an allowance granted by the National Employment Office, ONEM. It is being added to three other pre-existing thematic holidays: parental, palliative care and medical assistance holidays.

If the employee opts for a full-time interruption of work, (s)he can benefit from that holiday for one month. If (s)he opts for a half-time or 1/5th system, (s)he can benefit from it for two months.

“These periods can be extended by royal decree to six and 12 months for an entire career, but such a measure will have to be defined by a future government,” Labour Minister Nathalie Muylle explained.

In the public sector, the new system should be applicable from October or November at the earliest, since the royal decree that needs to define the regulation is still before the Council of State.

The Brussels Times

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