Leave for informal carers: finally a reality!

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

Since 1 September 2020, it is now possible for employees to make use of the leave for informal carers. This is thematic leave[1] that can be granted to an employee who is recognised as an informal carer.

As a reminder, in order to be recognised as an informal carer, the employee must first submit a declaration of honour to his health insurance fund. The declaration of honour still had to be determined by Royal Decree. This decree, published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 25 June 2020, entered into force on 1 September 2020. Consequently, since that date, it has been possible for the employee to start the procedure for applying for leave for informal carers.

Who can be recognised as an informal carer?

An informal carer is a person who continuously or regularly helps or supports a person with a need for care.

In order to be recognised as an informal carer, the following cumulative conditions must be met:

  • have a relationship of trust or a close, affective or geographical relationship with the assisted person;
  • have a permanent and actual residence in Belgium;
  • be registered in the municipal register or the register of foreigners.

In addition, the informal carer must provide the assistance and help on a non-professional basis, free of charge and in cooperation with at least one professional carer. Finally, he has to consider the life project of the assisted person.

In order to be recognised as such, the informal carer must, with the consent of the assisted person or his legal representative, submit an application for recognition to the health insurance fund by means of a declaration of honour. He is advised to contact his health insurance fund directly in order to obtain a model document of the declaration of honour.

If the informal carer's health insurance fund approves the application for recognition, it will send a certificate to the informal carer to inform him of the decision. In the absence of a decision within 12 weeks following the submission of the full declaration of honour, the person concerned shall be automatically recognised in the capacity of informal carer.

The recognition as an informal carer remains valid for 1 year from the date of signature of the declaration of honour. An application for extension may be submitted. It is sufficient for the informal carer and the person assisted to declare on their word of honour that the situation is such that the conditions are still met.

What does the leave for informal carers actually involve?

Form and duration

The leave for informal carers can be taken as:

  • a full suspension of work;
  • a reduction of work to a half-time job;
  • a reduction of work by 1/5.

In the event of full suspension of work, the duration of the leave shall be one month per person in need of care.
However, a Royal Decree may extend this period up to a maximum of 6 months.

The duration of the entitlement to full suspension of work shall in any case not exceed 6 months over the entire professional career.

If the work is reduced by 1/2 or 1/5, the duration of the leave shall be 2 months per person in need of care..
However, a Royal Decree may extend this period up to a maximum of 12 months.

The duration of the entitlement to reduction of work (1/2 and 1/5) shall in any case not exceed 12 months over the entire professional career.

Important!

Only full-time employees can reduce their work to 1/2 or by 1/5. Part-time employees may only fully suspend their work.
However, a Royal Decree can determine the conditions under which a part-time employee may reduce his work by 1/5 or up to half of a normal full-time job.

Application procedure

An employee who wishes to exercise his entitlement to leave must inform his employer in writing at least 7 days before the start date of the leave, unless the parties agree otherwise in writing.

In his application, he must indicate the period for which he wishes to obtain the leave. He must also enclose proof of the recognition of his capacity as an informal carer of the person in need of care.

The notification can be made by handing over a written document to the employer (the latter signing a duplicate as an acknowledgement of receipt) or by means of a registered letter which is deemed to have been received on the 3rd working day after it was handed over to the post office.

Benefits

An employee who invokes the entitlement to leave for informal carer can claim an interruption allowance payable by the National Employment Office (RVA/ONEm).

More information about the procedure to apply for benefits? http://www.onem.be

More information about the amount of the benefits? http://www.onem.be

Protection against dismissal

The employee who takes up leave for informal carers is protected against dismissal, as are the employees who take other thematic leave.

Sources: Act of 12 May 2014 on the recognition of the informal carer, Belgian Official Gazette 6 June 2014; Act of 12 May 2014 recognising informal carers, Belgian Official Gazette 2 July 2019; Royal Decree of 16 June 2020 implementing the Act of 12 May 2014 on the recognition of the informal carer and the granting of social rights to the informal carer, Belgian Official Gazette 25 June 2020; Info sheet ONEM T164

 


[1] Thus, henceforth there are 4 types of thematic leave: parental leave, leave for medical assistance, leave for palliative care and leave for informal carers.

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