The summer holidays are fast approaching and employers might be thinking of hiring one or more students to compensate for employees going on holiday. Although it is expected that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student work during the summer of 2020 will decrease in comparison with last year’s record, a lot of companies will still hire students. In addition, the government’s deconfinement measures - not in the least the reopening of the hospitality industry - will curb the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student work during the summer, compared to the 2020 Easter Holiday, which saw a steep decline in student work. The perfect time to recap the general principles of student work.
In order to be considered a student in the framework of the legislation set out below, an individual has to be in full-time education and cannot be enrolled in a system of part-time education or night school. Even though part-time students are in principle excluded, pupils in a dual learning system can still be considered as students provided that a number of conditions are met. Students working for the same employer for an uninterrupted period of more than 12 months do not qualify either.
Under Belgian law, employing a student entails the obligation to conclude an employment agreement in writing at the latest when the student starts working. The employment agreement has to contain a number of specific provisions: identity of parties involved, place of work, start date and end date of employment, working time, salary etc. The employer also has to hand over a copy of the company’s work regulations, for which the student should sign an acknowledgement of receipt. A copy of the signed employment agreement, together with a copy of the acknowledgement of receipt of the work regulations, has to be sent to the competent authorities (‘social inspectorate’) within 7 days following the start of the employment.
The first 3 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, both parties can terminate the agreement before its expiry date by observing a short notice period.
In order to determine a student’s salary, one has to consult the industry-specific regulations. If no such industry-level collective bargaining agreement on student work exists, the guaranteed minimum 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.
For a maximum period of employment of 475 hours per calendar year, students and their employers are exempt from paying the regular social security contributions on the student’s salary provided that the employment is performed during periods when the employee is not required to attend school. A solidarity contribution of 8.13% (5.42% to be borne by the employer and 2.71% to be borne by the student), however, will be due on the student’s salary.
Similarly, no withholding taxes will be due on the student’s salary during this maximum period of 475 hours per calendar year.
If this 475-hour threshold is exceeded, regular employer and employee social security contributions as well as withholding taxes will be due on the student’s salary as of the 476th hour of student work.
Please note that, as a COVID-19 support measure, hours worked as a student during the second quarter of 2020 will not be taken into account when determining the 475-hour threshold.
The above 475-hour threshold has to be assessed at the level of the student, regardless of the number of employers the student 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 has been set up: www.studentatwork.be. This web-based application enables students to consult their outstanding balance of the 475 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 need to 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 contact us!