Labour Rights

Different national labour laws in Belgium  state explicitly that “the nullity of the contract can not be invoked in respect of the rights of workers resulting from the application of this law” (wording from the Labour Contract of 1978, see below) or a similar formulation.

The most important laws are:

Law of 07/03/1978 regarding the Labor Contract Law (Article 14): different types of employees, duties of employers and employees (wage payment, provide a safe working environment, …), for cancellation,

Law of 03/16/1971 Labour Code (Article 5): prohibitions on child labor, working hours and rest breaks, maximum weekly working time, protection of pregnant women and maternity leave.

Law of 04/12/1965 concerning the Protection of Wages of Workers (Article 47): when and how wages must be paid, which in case of late payment, pay slips, …

Law of 04.10.1971 on Labour accidents (Article 6): requirement for employers to take out insurance, right to employee compensation.

YOUR RIGHTS AS AN UNDOCUMENTED WORKER

What is “undocumented work”?

If you are not allowed to work in Belgium because e.g. you don’t have a stay permit, but you work anyway, you are an undocumented worker. Undocumented work usually also is informal or ‘black’ work. This means that your boss does not pay any taxes or social security taxes.

Your boss is liable to severe punishment for this act. You cannot be punished for working! On the contrary, you have a lot of RIGHTS, amongst others:

– You have the right to a minimum wage, which amounts to 7,5 € per hour or more (the minimum wage varies according to the kind of work)

– You have a right to a benefit in case you had an accident at work (medical cost, occupational disease,…).

What can I do to protect my rights?

Look for proof that you have worked:

ð      Keep every document : a name card, written instructions, a badge, etcetera.

ð      Write down how many hours you have worked and what salary you received

ð      Find out who is your boss, write down his/her name and surname, address, telephone number, the COMPLETE name of the company, the number plate of the car,…

ð      Remember where you have worked (street, number, municipality)

ð      Find people who can testify that you have worked

ð      Take photos of your work

Do not be deceived by attractive offers:
  • Anybody working as a self-employed person (not having a boss), must pay taxes and social security. For example if you are a partner in a company, you also are an owner of the company. You officially work as a self-employed person and you have much less rights.
  • Anyone who searches workers for a boss and who pays the salary in place of this boss becomes a boss himself and is liable to punishment. Moreover you will get the trouble if the boss does not pay your colleagues’ wages.

Join a union

If you ever have serious problems at work, they can give you free advice. They can defend you in court, at the inspection, and organise medical examinations in case you have had a work accident. You should be a member prior the occurrence of the fact. All addresses of unions can be found here.

Ask the union people to clearly explain in which cases they can help you and in which cases they cannot, and how much you have to pay for the membership fee. This varies according to the union and the region. In some regions the union is better informed about the problems of undocumented people than in other regions. The unions are NOT connected to the government.

What will happen if I am caught by the inspection?

You are NOT punished because you were working. Therefore, tell the truth to the inspector regarding for instance the amount of days that you have worked. Your declarations to the inspector can be of importance to you later.

There are however other risks:

  • Without a stay permit, you can be deported.
  • If you receive financial assistance from for instance the OCMW, you may lose this.

More information on your rights on the website of  OR.CA.
You find translations of this text in other languages at the OR.C.A.

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