Occasional work and domestic workers: important changes from 1 October 2014

Auteur: Anne Ghysels

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) signed a convention on 16 June 2011 on decent work for domestic workers.

The convention provides that each member state has to take appropriate measures to offer domestic workers the same social security protection as other employees.

Given that this is not currently the case (domestic workers are not, or are only partly, subject to employee social security), changes were needed to the Belgian legislation.

As of 1 October 2014, domestic workers will be fully subject to employee social security.

Up till 30 September 2014, occasional work is regarded as work carried out in connection with the employer’s household or their family in so far as it does not exceed eight hours a week for one or more employers.

From 1 October 2014, occasional work is defined as the activity or activities carried out for the benefit of households of the employer (being a natural person) or their family, with the exception of manual household activities to the extent that the employer does not exercise these occasional activities within that household professionally and regularly and provided the activities do not amount to over eight hours a week for one or more employers.

This new definition is of great importance because an occasional employee is not subject to employee social security (in this regard, there is no change).

The new definition is mainly, but not exclusively, aimed at babysitters. Those doing shopping for the elderly, drivers of physically disable persons, etc. can also be regarded as occasional employees under the new definition.

What are concerned here are social or friendship services for which these people receive a small recompense. There can be no intention of carrying on an occupational activity.

If you are currently employing occasional employees and have questions about the new definition, please contact our payroll agency to examine with them the situation of your employee in terms of employee social security.

Those who carry out manual household activities (e.g. domestic workers) can no longer be regarded as occasional employees. From 1 October 2014, they will be subject in all cases (whether more or less than eight hours a week) to all sectors of social security (for further details, see below). 

From 1 October 2014, all domestic workers will be fully subject to social security.

To recall, a domestic worker is someone who primarily carries out manual household work related to keeping the employer’s house (who is a natural person) or their family.

Note: domestic workers are not ‘domestic servants’, who do work of a non-household nature in connection with upkeep of the employer’s household and their family (such as chauffeurs, governesses, etc.) and these changes relative to social security liability do not relate to them. 

Till 30 September 2014

The old rules still apply till 30 September 2014, under which the social security liability of domestic workers depends on their status (living in or living out) and the number of hours worked.

  • Domestic workers who live in (i.e. who live with the employer) are subject to employee social security regardless of the number of hours worked;
  • Domestic workers who live out are not subject to employee social security:
    • if they provide services for less than four hours a day for the employer that employs them, or
    • if they work four hours or more a day for a single employer but do not work a total of 24 hours a week for one or more employers.

Domestic workers are not fully subject to employee social security: they do not pay contributions for child allowance or pay moderation.    

From 1 October 2014

Full employee social security liability

From 1 October 2014, all domestic workers will be fully subject to social security.

For domestic workers that are already subject to employee social security, that will result in their having to pay additional contributions for the child allowance (7%) and pay moderation (7.48%) sectors.

Reduction in employer social security contributions

That said, the new liability will not necessarily lead to extra expense for the employer in all cases: from 1 October 2014, employers will be able to claim structural reductions and, possibly, the target group reduction for ‘house personnel’. The target group reduction is granted for hiring a first domestic worker (subject to compliance with certain conditions, including that the domestic worker has to have been unemployed and fully entitled to benefit for six months).

If all the conditions are met, the reductions in employer social security contributions can in some cases reduce the employer cost or keep it the same compared to what the employer paid for the same employee prior to 1 October 2014.

Check out the www.socialsecurity.be social security portal for comprehensive details of the conditions for claiming these two reductions in employee social security contributions.  

Your payroll agency will certainly be contacting you if you presently employ domestic workers and undertake all the procedures necessary to make sure your domestic workers are fully subject to employee social security on 1 October 2014.

Source: Royal Decree of 13 July 2014 repealing sections 5 and 18 and amending section 16 of the Royal Decree of 28 November 1969 implementing the Act of 27 June 1969 revising the Decree-Law of 28 December 1944 on the social security of manual workers, Official Gazette, 28 July 2014. 

Auteur: Anne Ghysels