Pregnancy and support for freelance mothers in Belgium

Thinking of having a new member of the family? Elina shares how Belgium can support you and your freelance business
During the last 9 months, I was on moms-to-be or ''pampers'' blogs more than ever in my life. As a matter of fact, I avoided reading those at all cost, as there was little that would concern me. That was until, of course, I found out I am pregnant. Being 100% engaged in my business, I was worried about how I was going to combine the pregnancy, the child and the work that is heavily dependable on me.

Expecting a child is wonderful news! It is true when they say that the moment you have your own child (or are expecting), a new world opens up to you. What opened up to me was the understanding of what a woman goes through in preparation for having a child.

While I was talking to other freelancers, I realised that my experience may help others who are expecting a child and are concerned about how to handle business life after its birth.

I still have to discover it myself and perhaps there will be another blog post with more precise tips and suggestions, but now I'd like to share what a freelance mom-to-be can expect in terms of support in Belgium. This blog post is not about the psychology or organisational side of life with the newborn: it will look at the financial side of things.

You, as a woman, you realise that you will be dependable a lot, also financially. If you didn't build reserves before this wonderful moment, you may need to look critically at how you are planning to handle your finances in the first 3-6 months (depending on how long you are planning to stay off work with your child).
What a freelance mom-to-be can expect as support in Belgium?
Actually a lot, but is it enough for a freelancer or independent professional who relies heavily on their business activity to generate monthly income? Let's have a look.
''Starters'' allowance or birth premium
Funny name, but this is the first social allowance that you can request and get at around month 6 of the pregnancy. Depending on your location in Belgium, the amount is €1,144.44 in Flanders and €1,122 in Wallonia and Brussels.

Maternity leave

In comparison with other countries, in Belgium, the maternity leave is rather short. If you are a freelancer (zelfstandige), you have 3 weeks obligatory rest (1 week before and 2 weeks after the birth) and then you can have 9 weeks full time off (or you can also spread this time over 36 weeks, if you are expecting 1 child and 10 weeks if you are expecting 2 or more.

This time off is paid by your mutuality fund. Request the papers, fill them in and wait for their response. I have to admit, I did it very late and still don't have an answer in terms of my social allowance during maternity leave. From what I read on Accerta website, it should be around €514.64 per week.
Your obligatory social contribution
Your obligatory social contribution can be waived in the following quarter of your child birth, taking that you have paid diligently social contributions in the last 2 quarters.
Your pension funds
Here comes the little caveat. Your voluntary contribution to your pension fund (VPAZ) won't be tax deductible the year you gave birth. So you get some support from the government, but they make sure you pay it back, he-he.
Monthly allowance
Once a child is born, you can also expect a monthly allowance, which again differs depending on the region in Belgium:

  • Flanders: €166.46 per child
  • Wallonia - €158.10
  • Brussels €153
Help at home
In Belgium, housekeeping help is very regulated and you can purchase special checks that you can use to hire someone to help you with the cleaning of your house or apartment. As a freelance mother, you get 105 cheques via your social security secretariat which you can spend on cleaning lady. Each cheque cost €9 and equals 1h work. Thus you have 105 hours of help and the €945 value.
As a freelance father (or partner)
Freelance fathers or partners can also take a paternity leave to help with the baby. In this case they can request 15 full days paid at €85.77 per day.
Total
So if we calculate all together (for 3 months), the amount looks the following:

  • Birth premium: €1,122

  • 9 weeks of maternity leave: 9 x €514.64 = €4631.76

  • Housekeeping cheques: €945 (delivered as a service)

  • 3 months child allowance: €166.46 x 3 = €499.38

  • Total: €7198.14

Waived quarterly social taxes: - €1500 (in my case)

It may look like a lot for some, but keep in mind that the cost of living in Belgium is very high. To give you an indication: in Belgium, people earning below €1,284 per month are at the risk of being below the poverty line. So €1,284 is the minimum you would expect to cover your basic needs.

When you run a freelance business and have business expenses, your monthly costs are much higher and my case is not an exception. My main concern when making a plan for the idle time was how to ensure the continuity of my business with less resources available. Interested to know more? Subscribe to our Freelance Digest where I will share how I handle the business part of my changing life.

I would also love to learn how it is organised in your country (if you are not located in Belgium) and what sort of support you get from your local governments. Send me a note on Linkedin.
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