Alternatives to legal holidays

The European Holidays

What is European leave?

Not everyone is entitled to 20 days of annual leave, but thanks to the European holiday or the additional holiday, someone can still be granted paid holidays.

The situation differs depending on whether employees have not worked or have worked only partially in the past year.

  • Workers start work or resume a professional activity as a salaried person and have therefore not contributed at all to the entitlement to annual leave. In that case, they can directly benefit from European holidays after having worked for 3 months without interruption.
  • Employees who have only worked partially in the past year and are therefore not entitled to their full statutory holiday entitlement. In this case we speak of a 'supplementary system', in the sense that the European holiday supplements the right to statutory holiday.

Employees can therefore enjoy these holidays both during the first year worked and in the following year in the form of supplementary holidays.

Entitlement to European leave is optional. Employees are therefore not obliged to take it. If they do take European leave, they cannot combine it with other schemes such as youth holidays or senior holidays. They therefore have to choose.

What are the conditions for taking European leave?

There are three conditions that must be met:

  • The workers must start or resume a remunerated activity.
  • Employees must complete a 3-month start-up period. This means that they must have worked for three months continuously for one or more employers during the same calendar year.
  • The employees must have used up their statutory leave before they can enjoy the European holiday.

How are these holidays paid for and by whom ?

During their European vacation, employees receive the same salary as during their statutory vacation. In contrast to the other two systems, however, these holidays are not financed by the NEO but via an advance on the double holiday allowance of the employees for the following year. This means that their double holiday pay will be reduced in proportion to the number of European holidays they take. The employees thus finance their holidays themselves.

Youth Holidays

What is youth holiday?

When school-leavers start working for the first time, they are not entitled to their full statutory holiday. To remedy this, they may supplement their statutory holidays with youth holidays. The days of youth holidays are granted by the NEO in the form of a youth holiday allowance.

Just as for the European holiday, this additional entitlement is optional. School-leavers are therefore not obliged to take their days of youth holiday.

What are the conditions for granting youth holidays?

To be entitled to youth holidays, various conditions must be met:

  • The young workers must have finished their studies (including the final project) or stopped them in the course of the holiday year.
  • The young workers may not be 25 years old on 31 December of the holiday reference year.
  • The young workers must have worked as wage-earners during the holiday year for at least one month and this employment must include at least 13 working days or 70 hours (with one or more contracts).

The law also stipulates that young employees cannot benefit from these days of youth vacation, if they have not used up their normal days of annual leave. They must therefore first take their statutory holidays.

How are these holidays paid for and by whom?

In contrast to European holidays, youth holidays are financed by the NEO. The young employees will therefore receive an allowance ('youth holiday allowance') for each day of holiday.

This benefit is equal to 65% of the average gross daily wage that the worker earns on the first day of the youth holiday, capped at €2,369.64 gross per month (2020).

Senior holiday

What is senior holiday?

Senior holiday aims to encourage older workers to resume work. Employees who have been unemployed for a while or who have not worked the entire year are not entitled to their full statutory holiday entitlement. That is why the 'senior' profiles are given the possibility to supplement their statutory holiday with senior holiday until they reach 20 days.

Just as for the two previous systems, the employees are never obliged to take these senior holiday days.

What are the conditions for granting senior holiday?

To qualify for senior holiday, several conditions must be met:

  • Employees must be 50 years of age on December 31 of the vacation year.
  • The employees may not be entitled to their entire statutory holiday entitlement during the holiday year. The supplementary scheme is therefore only applicable after a period of full unemployment or invalidity. Other causes of interruption do not permit the granting of this scheme.
  • The employees must have an employment contract at the time they take their senior holiday.
  • The employees must have used up their normal holiday entitlement before taking their senior holiday.

This system differs from the 'junior' equivalent in that it is not unique. This means that this holiday may be applied for more than once, once the employees once again fulfil the conditions.

How is this holiday paid for and by whom?

Like youth holidays, senior holidays are funded by the NEO and paid for by the payment of a 'senior holiday allowance'. The rules for calculating this benefit are exactly the same as those for youth holidays, namely 65% of the average gross daily wage.


The implications of these alternative holidays for employers

The various alternatives to statutory holiday are rights for employees. When they wish to enjoy them and meet the required conditions, employers cannot refuse to do so. However, just as for statutory leave, employees must comply with the rules of the sector and the company in which they work in order to fix their leave dates.

The administrative formalities that employers must complete in order to grant these rights vary according to the system chosen. For European leave, it is sufficient for the employers to prefinance payment for this leave. No administrative procedure is thus required for this scheme. With regard to youth holidays and senior holidays, the employer - or the social secretariat - must make an electronic declaration on the NEO website. The employee must submit form C103 to the payment institution of his/her choice (syndicate or HVW).

Finally, the financial consequences of these alternatives also differ. With European holidays, employees receive an advance on the double holiday allowance. The holiday is thus financed in advance by the employers, but this is later deducted from the payment of the double holiday allowance. The employee thus finances his supplementary holiday himself. Youth holidays and senior holidays, on the other hand, are fully financed by the NEO.


Heidi Vergauwe

Dedicated and meticulous Payroll & HR Advisor, always willing to go for the extra (s)mile!