The definition of a student
The term student can be interpreted broadly. However, there are two important requirements to be considered as a student:
- Being enrolled full time in an educational institution. This can be in secondary education, higher education or at the university. Also persons who prepare an examination for the central examination board have the status of student.
- Studying is the main activity and working is of secondary importance. In other words, obtaining a diploma is the main objective.
Who is allowed to conclude a student agreement
There is no maximum age for being employed as a student.
However, there is a minimum age of 15 or 16. A student can already work from the age of 15, provided that he has followed the first two years of secondary education. If this is not the case, he can work from the age of 16.
Students can be employed during the school holidays as well as during the school year. However, it is important that the student does not work at times when they are expected to attend compulsory classes or other school activities.
Students who graduate in June can still work as students until September 30th of that year. Afterwards, they may be employed by the same employer on a permanent or temporary basis. In this case the nature of the student job must be clearly different from the normal job. It is not the intention that the student job is used as a trial period for the normal job.
Certain persons are excluded from the student definition
Certain categories of student are excluded from the definition of student and may not conclude a student contract.
- Students who follow evening school
- Students who follow education with a limited curriculum
- Students who are employed for more than 12 months continuously by the same employer
- Students who are doing an internship which is part of their study programme
These persons can only be employed with an ordinary employment contract.
Foreign students from the European Union and students from Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland have the same rights and obligations as Belgian students. They do not necessarily have to reside or study in Belgium.
Other rules apply to students from other countries. They may work provided that they legally reside in Belgium and are enrolled full time in an educational institution in Belgium. They must also have a work permit and are therefore not exempt. Not even if they only work during the school holidays.
Job student versus working student
As there is no official definition of the terms "work student" and "working student", this can sometimes cause confusion. However, it is usually interpreted as follows.
- "Job students" are students who work a maximum of 475 hours per calendar year and are therefore subject to reduced social contributions. They pay a solidarity contribution of 2.71% and no withholding tax.
- "Working students" are students who work more than 475 hours per calendar year and are subject to the normal social security contributions. From a fiscal point of view, they therefore pay as much tax as a normal employee from the 476th hour worked, i.e. when the student quota is exceeded. As these students pay social contributions, they also build up holiday rights and are entitled to holiday pay.
It should be noted that with the term "working student" colleges and universities sometimes also refer to students who combine working and learning. These students do not automatically have the status of student, since the main activity is no longer studying.
A written agreement must always be concluded between the student and the employer in which it is explicitly stated that a student contract is involved. This is signed by both parties before the student starts work. In the case of temporary work, a contract is concluded between 3 parties: the student temporary worker, the user and the employer (the temporary employment agency).
The contract contains the normal details (job, working hours and work schedule, pay, joint committee, etc.), but also a notice period. The first three days of the contract are in any case considered to be a trial period. During this probationary period, the contract may be terminated without notice. This rule also applies if it is not explicitly mentioned in the contract. If the contract is longer than one month, the notice period is three days for the temporary employee and seven days for the employer. The term of notice starts on the Monday following the week in which the contract was terminated.
Terms of employment
The pay depends on the joint committees that have been concluded in the sector. If there is no agreement in the sector, the salary is determined on the basis of the guaranteed average minimum monthly income (GMMI) of the National Labour Council (NAR).
In principle, a student is entitled to the same benefits as an ordinary employee. Thus, a student will normally also receive meal vouchers as an ordinary employee. However, it is possible that a certain group of employees is explicitly excluded in the collective agreement. If the student belongs to this group of employees, he is not entitled to them.
As far as the commuting allowance is concerned, the student also follows the same rules as the ordinary employee.
Specific rules apply to public holidays. A student is entitled to a paid holiday if the holiday falls during the contract and the student would normally have worked on that day. If the student has worked for more than 15 days without interruption, he is also entitled to the public holiday which falls within the 15 days following the contract. If the student has worked for more than one month without interruption, he is entitled to the public holidays falling within 30 days of the agreement. However, these rules only apply on condition that the student is not employed by another employer in the meantime.
Child Benefit and Taxes
A student retains the right to child benefits on condition that a number of rules are observed. These rules depend on the region where the student lives. Child benefit has recently been regionalised. Different rules apply for Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking Community.
More specific information can be found on the following websites:
In principle a student remains dependent on his parents, but he must be careful not to earn too much on a yearly basis. If he earns too much, he is no longer dependent on his parents. The maximum amounts a student may earn change each year and depend on the family situation. The exact amounts can be found on the website of the FPS (Federal Public Service Finance).
Like everyone subject to personal income tax, students are entitled to a "tax-free allowance". This part of the income is therefore not taxed. The concrete amounts can also be found on the website of the FPS. Every student is obliged to complete an annual tax return.
Students and COVID 19
Because of the COVID measures taken by the government, the hours worked by students in the 2nd quarter of 2020 were not counted towards the 475-hour quota. All hours worked by students in the 2nd quarter thus fell under the solidarity contributions and the counters of the quota were frozen. As from July 1st the counters started running normally again.
Since the hours of the 2nd quarter of 2020 did not count towards the student work quota, this also had an impact on the right to child benefits. For Flanders, the hours of quarter 2 were not taken into account, in Wallonia there was no limitation to 240 hours rule and in Brussels there was no limitation for the 2nd and 3rd quarter (even if the student did not continue his studies in the next school year).
This also had consequences in terms of taxation. The income from student work in the 2nd quarter of 2020 was not taken into account for the net means of existence. This was to avoid that students were no longer dependent on their parents.
For students working in care and education, these rules also apply for the 4th quarter of 2020 and for the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2021. The hours of the 4th quarter (October-December) 2020 and the 1st and 2nd quarter (January-June) 2021 do not count towards the student quota. Therefore, they will not show up in the counter either. Also the exception rules for child benefit and tax are applicable for these periods for the students in care and education.
It is not always easy to determine whether a person can still be employed as a student or not, as the term student is not defined in the law. The most important thing is to always check what the main objective of the student is: studying or working. If the main objective is to study, a student contract can be drawn up. If the student also remains within his quota of 475 hours, he is a student worker. As soon as he exceeds the 475 hours, he is employed as a student worker.
Sources and information Federgon, werk.belgie.be, www.mysocialsecurity.be/student
Axis Advice is based on up-to-date data and reliable sources. However, the articles are provided for information purposes and do not constitute binding legal advice. Although Axis makes every effort to keep the content of this article correct and up-to-date, no rights can be derived from it.
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