Equal pay for equal work: do temporary workers earn the same as fixed-term employees?
According to Belgian law, temporary and contractual workers in the same company must be paid equally for the same work. So, why do temporary workers often have the impression that they are paid less? The answer lies in the different ways temporary workers are paid.
Belgian law prescribes that the wages of temporary workers and the salaries of fixed-term employees who perform the same jobs in the same company must be equal. Unlike other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, where temporary workers often earn less at the start of their temporary labour contract, temporary workers in Belgium have the right to and must be paid the same wages and benefits from day one.
The term “pay scale” may be new to you. So let’s look at its definition. A pay scale in Belgium is a table that divides gross wages according to function and experience. The amounts in the table increase with experience and function level. It is the same for your colleagues doing the same job with the same experience as it is for you, regardless of nationality or contract type.
This system treats all employees (within the same company) equally. The advantage of this is that everyone with the same education, function, and level of experience earns the same amount.
In 2019 the lowest national gross wage per hour was 9.69€, excluding other benefits.
Monthly vs weekly
In contrast to fixed-term employees, who are paid monthly, temporary workers are paid weekly by their employment agencies. When you start working you will be informed about your wage per hour and not the monthly wage, which may look lower, but at the end of the month you earn as much as your colleague who is paid monthly.
As a temporary worker you are also entitled to a holiday allowance just as fixed-term employees.
The holiday bonus is calculated based on all your benefits and wages for the year preceding the year of the holiday. Moreover, the calculation takes into account all the places where you have worked.
You receive 15.38% of your gross earnings and it is paid in June by the National Office for Annual Vacations (RJV), not the employment agency.
Deferred income tax
There is also another reason for the illusion of a difference in pay for the same work. Like every employer, the employment agency automatically deducts taxes and social contributions from the salary before payment. Payroll tax is withheld on employees’ salaries and paid to the government. For contract employees, this amounts to around 30%, depending on their family status. Temporary workers are free to choose the percentage of their wages to be withheld, with the minimum of 11.11% required. Employment agencies recommend raising this to about 20% to ensure that you do not have to pay any additional taxes when the final tax declaration is processed by the tax authorities after the end of your contract (usually in the year after the end of your contract).
End-of-year bonus and other advantages
In recent years, a lot of work has been done to guarantee temporary workers the same rights as their fixed-term colleagues. All the benefits that apply to an organisation’s fixed-term employees now also apply to temporary workers. This means that temporary workers are entitled to similar year-end bonuses if they have worked at least 65 days as a temporary worker from July XXXX to the end of June YYYY. This bonus is 8.33% of the gross wage earned in the mentioned period. You also receive meal vouchers, eco vouchers and the same rights of access to the company’s facilities and services, such as canteens, childcare and transport.
Belgium is a world leader in terms of ensuring equal pay for equal work – yet another reason to apply for a job here. At Link2Europe, we will be happy to help you. Get in touch or browse through our numerous job offers.