Everything you need to know about parental leave
What is parental leave?
Parental leave is a form of job-protected leave that you can take flexibly from the birth of your child until his or her twelfth birthday (or until 21 years of age if your child has a mental or physical disability of at least 66%).
The duration of the parental leave is 4 months, which can be taken full-time or part-time (1/2, 1/5 or 1/10).
Who can apply for parental leave?
- Mothers, fathers and co-parents are all entitled to parental leave.
- You are entitled to 4 months of leave for every child under the age of 12, or up to the age of 21 if your child has a mental or physical incapacity of at least 66%.
- You are also entitled to parental leave for adopted children.
- You must have been working for your current employer for a minimum of one year.
Parental leave: good to know
- Your employment rights are protected from the date of your leave request, up until three months following the end of your leave.
- If you take parental leave, your salary is replaced by a career-interruption allowance from the National Employment Office (NEO).
- You might still be entitled to an additional incentive bonus from the Flemish Government, on the condition that you live in Flanders and work in the private or social sector.
- You can apply for parental leave as long as your child is under the age of 12 (or younger than 21 years old for children with a mental or physical disability).
How long is Parental Leave?
You are entitled to a total of 4 months leave for every child under the age of 12, or up to the age of 21 if your child has a mental or physical incapacity of at least 66%. The options include:
Full-time parental leave
You don't work at all for 4 months. You can also take it in one-month blocks if you like, so four separate periods.
Half-time parental leave
You work 50% of your regular hours for a periods of 8 months. You can also take this in two-month blocks.
1/5 parental leave
You work 80% of your regular hours over a 20-month period. You can take this in 5-month blocks.
You can also combine these options. For example, 2 months of full-time leave, followed by working half-days and then working 80%.
1/10 parental leave – Half days
In contrast to full-time, half-time and 1/5 parental leave, you are not automatically entitled to half-day parental leave as an employee. First you need to discuss this with your employer, who then has to approve your request. You can submit your request in writing (by email or letter), which your employer must respond to within one month. Once approved, send your 1/10 parental leave application to the National Employment Office (NEO), and nothing is standing in your way to spend half a day a week at home with your child.
You can take your 1/10 parental leave over a period of 40 months. Those 40 months can be divided into blocks of 10 months.
How to apply for parental leave
You need to apply for parental leave in writing through your employer. You’ll receive an allowance from the NEO during your parental leave. It’s best not to wait too long to start the application procedure if you wish to take this leave.
You must first send an email or letter to your employer. Don't wait too long. Your employer is not allowed to refuse your request, but does have an option to postpone for up to 6 months. Once you have notified your employer, you can apply via an official application form from the National Employment Office. This must be sent by registered mail to your local National Employment Office within two months of the commencement of your parental leave at the latest. Important note: if you want to divide your parental leave into separate period blocks, you need to apply for each period separately.
Am I entitled to benefits when I take parental leave?
If you choose to take parental leave, you can apply for a substitute income from the NEO. How high this income will be depends on the leave option you choose (full-time or part-time), your age, the number of children in your family, etc.
And if you live in Flanders, you may also be eligible for an incentive payment from the Flemish Government. You do need to meet a number of conditions, however.
See which NEO benefit applies to your situation here.
Do you live in Flanders? Apply for an incentive bonus from the Flemish Government.
Specific situation: Parental leave for people working in education
You are also entitled to parental leave if you work in education. You can take it full-time, half-time, part-time or 1/5 spread over several months or years.
Those working in the private sector can only take 1/5 parental leave if they work full-time. If you work in education, then you and your child are luckier. If approved, even those who are registered for half-time or part-time employment on a statutory or contract basis can take one day a week. Perfect for organising your family life and catching your breath.
Full and part-time parental leave is an absolute right, providing you satisfy the conditions. A full-time career break even counts towards your length of service. You can apply for all forms of parental leave via your school board or centre administration.
You must satisfy the following conditions:
- You are the biological mother or father of your child
- You are the parent who has acknowledged the child
- You are the adoptive parent
Can my employer refuse my parental leave?
Every employee is entitled to parental leave, in addition to maternity leave and paternity leave. This enables you to spend more time with your child. Your employer cannot refuse parental leave. They can, however, delay it for a maximum of 6 months, if it has the potential to compromise company operations. So make sure that you request it in plenty of time.
One exception to the rule: parental leave in half-days. Your employer is allowed to refuse this leave. You first need written permission from your employer.
What are the conditions you need to meet?
- Parental leave must be requested from your employer in writing at least 2 months and at most 3 months in advance. You can send your request by email or letter.
- The request must be completed by both you and your employer. You must specify your parental leave start and end dates and the manner in which you wish to take it: full-time, half-time, 1/5 or 1/10.
- You must provide your employer with proof of your child’s birth.