OK, let’s talk formalities (Belgians are famous for these). Here are the steps you need to take if you are employed (self-employed, not working or unemployed have different regimes… I’m going to limit this to my own situation).
Telling your employer you’re pregnant
By Belgian law, you must tell your employer you are pregnant at least 8 weeks before your due date. Ideally, this should be done by registered letter, but any other means by which you get a proof of receipt is fine (e-mail, fax, etc.). Once you do this, you are protected against being fired for being pregnant, you are allowed time off for your appointments, etc., so it’s always a good idea to do this as soon as possible.
This would be the equivalent of Social Security. Everyone who works in Belgium (or who’s spouse/partner does) must be registered at a mutualité for health insurance, etc. This comes out of your paycheck each month, but if you would like additional coverage you can subscribe to an additional top-up insurance. Things differ from one company to the other, so you may be entitled to more or less depending on the one you choose. However, the basic coverage is the same in all of them.
The mutalité will be paying your maternity leave, so you must let them know you are pregnant and that you had the child. Some of the also pay a one-off childbirth allowance. I’m registered with Euromut, so will be receiving an extra €350 from them once little sprout is born. This allowance is not attributed by law, so it is entirely up to each company if and how much they pay. This is different from the allocation de naissance that you are entitled to by law.
Before the baby is born, you should send the mutualité a medical certificate indicating your due date. They should then give you a form to fill out la feuille de renseignements indemnités that should be filled out by you and your employer so they can calculate how much you’re entitled to.
Once baby is born, you must send them an original birth registration certificate (copies not accepted) as soon as possible (this should be given to you at the maternity if they are qualified to register babies there, or from the commune where your baby is born and registered), along with the feuille de renseignements indemnités. Based on this, they will calculate the maternity leave you are entitled to and will register your baby as your dependant.
At the end of your maternity leave, you must send the mutualité a certificate stating you are returning to work within 8 days of doing so. This certificate is a postcard that is handed to you by the mutualité and that should be filled out by your employer.
If you decide to stay home after ML, then you must say so in writing and send a certificate from ONEM (National Employment Office http://www.rva.be/Default.htm) stating you are taking parental leave or pausing your carreer.
You must register your child at the commune where the birth took place (many maternities now have this service available in-house) within 14 days of the birth. This must be done by one of the parents or someone who assisted the birth. The person registering must take along:
- His/her identification card (or birth certificate if you do not have one) as well as the mother’s
- The original of the birth certificate
- and a marriage certificate if the parents are married
They will then give you 2 birth registration certificates: one for the mutualité and the other for the caisse d’allocations. If you had your baby in a different commune than the one you live in, they should send all paperwork to yours directly and you will then be invited to pick up your child’s identification documents there.
Caisse d’allocations familiales
You are also entitled to two additional allowances: a one-off birth allowance (currently € 1.129,95/first child or € 850,15/following children); and a monthly family allowance (amount depends on your revenues). Now this gets interesting… I really can’t explain the logic of it, but if both parents are employed the father must ask his human ressources department or, if there is none, directly to the caisse d’allocations his employer works with. The mother can’t. Even though she will be the one receiving the allowances. I really can’t understand it, but that’s how it is!
So, around the 6th month of pregnancy, you can ask for the allocation de naissance, in which case it will be deposited in your account during the 7th month. This I DO think makes sense. Plus, you’re entitled to that amount even if something goes wrong with the pregnancy, as long as it has lasted more than 180 days.
What you have to do (or your husband) is ask for the forms for allocation de naissance and for allocations familiales, fill them out and send them in. In some cases, you can even get them in English.
For the allocations familiales, you must wait until the birth, and then send in the form, along with the birth registration certificate. You will receive your first monthly payment the month after birth.
And basically that’s it. Unless you are taking parental leave, which I’ll explain in a later post, when I actually know what I’ll have to do ;)!!!
Some websites where you can find additional info are: