In Belgium, there is a system of fidelity stamps in the construction industry. It consists in giving employees engaged on construction sites an additional annual benefit and in motivating them to work. Both national and foreign employers posting employees to work in Belgium are subject to this scheme.
1. Fidelity stamp system
The fidelity stamp system that functions in Belgium guarantees workers employed in the construction industry an additional benefit in the form of an annual bonus. The benefit in question is intended to reward the employee for his/her loyalty to the construction sector and, at the same time, to encourage to continue working there.
The period of the year after which the bonus is paid begins on 1 July and lasts until 30 June of the following year. Therefore, it’s impossible to equate it with the calendar year.
It should be emphasised that the loyalty stamp system constitutes an integral part of the minimum working conditions specified in collective agreements. Accordingly, both Belgian and foreign enterprises that post employees to perform construction work in Belgium are obliged to comply with it.
The body responsible for administering the loyalty stamp system is the Employers’ Office for the Organisation and Control of Life Protection Schemes, i.e. Office Patronal d’Organisation et de Contrôle des Régimes de Sécurité d’Existence, abbreviated as OPOC. In Flanders, the body in question is known as the Patronale Dienst voor organisatie en controle van de bestaanszekerheidsstelsels, PDOK for short.
Every entrepreneur in the construction industry is required to register with OPOC/PDOK. This obligation is accompanied by that one to pay contributions to OPOC/PDOK. The contribution is 9.12% of the total amount of salaries paid to workers. OPOC/PDOK uses the funds collected in this way to pay annual loyalty bonuses to employees.
If the entrepreneur fails to comply with the above-mentioned obligations, the investor or contractor for whom construction services are provided may deduct the appropriate amounts from the salary due to the contractor.
3. Is it possible to be exempted from the obligation to be subject to the fidelity stamp system?
The employer having the head office in the EU and posting construction workers to Belgium may obtain an exemption from the obligation to pay contributions to OPOC/PDOK. For this purpose, it’s necessary to demonstrate that posted workers are subject to a security system in the country of origin comparable to the loyalty stamps scheme. It’s assumed that a comparable system applies to a foreign employer if, in the State where he conducts an economic activity, he is obliged to pay workers, in addition to normal remuneration, additional benefits: bonuses, loyalty bonuses, thirteenth salaries or to make payment to finance such additional benefits. Therefore, the employer should be required to pay employees a benefit of an annual nature whose value corresponds approximately to one month’s salary of the worker.
OPOC/PDOK assesses whether the system used by the foreign employer is equivalent.
At the end of each quarter, employers registered with OPOC/PDOK are required to submit a declaration indicating the amount of gross remuneration due to employees for work on Belgian territory during a given quarter. On the basis of the amount in question, the amount of the contribution paid by the entrepreneur is determined. Indeed, the contribution is 9.12% of the gross remuneration due to individual workers.
Submission of the declaration and payment of the contribution shall occur no later than the last day of the month following the quarter which the declaration concerns, i.e.:
- for the period from 1 July to 30 September – by 31 October,
- for the period from 1 October to 31 December – by 31 January,
- for the period from 1 January to 31 March – by 30 April,
- for the period from 1 April to 30 June – by 31 July.
It should be emphasised that the employer exempt from the obligation to pay contributions has to provide OPOC/PDOK with a list of employees assigned to work in Belgium during a given quarter.
5. Information concerning the number of collected fidelity stamps
After the end of the contribution year, counted from 1 July to 30 June of the following year, it’s determined how many fidelity stamps individual employees have collected.
In September or October, workers receive a card informing about the number of stamps collected, and, therefore, about the amount of the bonus. The bonus constitutes 9% of gross remuneration calculated for the reference period from 1 July to 30 June of the following year.
If the employees are still in Belgium, the cards are transferred to them through the employer. In the event that workers no longer remain in Belgium, these documents are given to an authorised agent or representative. However, he/she doesn’t have to give the cards to employees. He/she may return them to OPOC/PDOK with a list of workers, including, among others, their exact address and bank account number abroad. If the employer whose workers are no longer in Belgium doesn’t have an authorised proxy or representatitve there, the employer receives the information cards and gives them to his employees.
6. Legal notice
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