Definition of ‘student’
In order to be considered a student in the regulatory framework explained below, an individual has to:
- be at least 16 years old (or 15 years and having completed the first two years of secondary school) and;
- be enrolled full-time in a secondary school, higher education or university.
Individuals enrolled in a system of part-time education or evening classes are in principle excluded, however, pupils in a dual learning system can still be considered as students provided they meet a number of conditions. Students working for the same employer for an uninterrupted period of more than 12 months are excluded as well.
General principles and formalities
Under Belgian law, when employing a student, an employment agreement must be concluded in writing at the latest when they start working. The employment agreement has to contain a number of specific provisions: the identity of parties involved, place of work, start date and end date of the employment, working time, salary etc. The employer must also hand over a copy of the company’s work regulations, for which the student must sign an acknowledgement of receipt.
The first three working days of the employment agreement for student work constitute a probationary period, during which both parties can terminate the agreement without notice or indemnity in lieu of notice. The employment agreement for student work will automatically terminate on the agreement’s expiry date without formalities, however, parties can terminate the agreement before its expiry date by observing a short notice period.
In order to determine a student’s salary, the industry-specific regulations must be consulted. If no such industry-level collective bargaining agreement on student work exists, the guaranteed minimum monthly salary will apply.
A prior notification has to be filed with the National Social Security Office (the so-called DIMONA notification) no later than on the day the student starts working. This notification has to mention the start date and end date of the employment and detail the total number of hours the student is expected to work for the employer on the basis of the employment agreement.
Social security and income tax consequences
Every paid activity as a student is, in principle, subject to regular social security contributions. However, for a maximum period of employment – which is normally 475 hours per calendar year, but has been increased to 600 hours for 2023 and 2024 –, students and their employers are exempt from paying those regular social security contributions on the student’s salary, provided an employment agreement for student work is concluded and the work is performed during periods when the student is not required to attend school. A solidarity contribution of 8.13%, split between employer (5.42%) and employee ( 2.71%), will, however, be due on the student’s salary.
Similarly, no withholding taxes will be due on the student’s salary during this maximum period of (currently) 600 hours per calendar year.
If this threshold is exceeded, regular employer and employee social security contributions as well as withholding taxes will be due on the student’s salary for the hours that exceed the threshold.
Please note that, as a support measure for the broader healthcare industry, hours worked there by a student in the first quarter of 2023 are neutralised when determining the 600-hour threshold.
The 600-hour threshold has to be assessed at the level of the student, regardless of the number of employers they might have worked for.
In order to keep track of how many hours a student has already worked, a database that is linked to the DIMONA-notifications is available: email@example.com. This web-based application enables students to consult their outstanding balance of the 600 hours that can be performed under the beneficial system of solidarity contributions. Students can also print out a certificate of their outstanding balance to present to their (future) employer. This certificate contains a pass code that will allow the employer itself to verify the outstanding balance on the Student@Work application.
Companies looking to employ students have to keep in mind the specific formalities that must be complied with and verify the students’ outstanding balance of hours that can be performed under the more beneficial system of solidarity contributions.
If you are considering hiring a student during the summer months and are looking for more guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out; we’d love to hear from you!