Maximum working hours, overtime, weekly rest and leave
Articles 19 and 20 set the maximum weekly hour limit at 40 hours. However, the average working time limit may not exceed 38 hours, or a lower limit fixed at the joint committee level or at the company level. The actual weekly working time might be between 38 and 40 hours (or the applicable average weekly working time limit), but in that case, employees are entitled to time off in lieu, in order to ensure that the average number of hours is respected.
The maximum daily hour limit is in principle set at nine hours.
If the employer fails to comply with these strict rules/conditions, the employer can be held criminally liable under the Criminal Social Code (Articles 138-106/1 of the Criminal Social Code). Article 138 of the Criminal Social Code imposes a level-2 sanction on an employer (or its representative) who violates the weekly/daily limits as set out in the Law of 16 March 1971 relating to work. A level-2 sanction currently consists of a criminal fine between 300 and 3,000 EUR or an administrative fine between 150 and 1,500 EUR.
Law / 16 March 1971 / Belgium / Law of 16 March 1971 Relating to Work
Under Belgian law, it is strictly forbidden to put children to work or to let them work or to make them perform an activity outside of the ordinary course of the education and learning process. For the purposes of this law, “children” are defined as minors who are less than 15 years of age or who are still subject to full-time compulsory education.The law permits some individual exceptions to the above-mentioned general prohibition of putting children to work. However, the conditions for these exceptions are strictly regulated, and the application of these exceptions must be authorized by a competent officer in writing.
If a child does perform any activity under an exception, a child of 6 years of age and under may only do so between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., a child between 7 and 11 years of age may only do so between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and a child between 12 and 15 years of age may only do so between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The law of 16 March 1971 relating to work also regulates maximum working hours, setting out weekly and daily limits. Exceptions to those weekly and daily limits are only possible in certain situations specified by the law; and the conditions, limitations, and procedures stipulated must be respected. If the employer fails to comply with these strict rules/conditions, the employer can be held criminally liable under the Criminal Social Code.