At Work in Brussels

Unemployment Benefits in Brussels

Home > Expat Guides > Europe > Belgium > Brussels

In theory, all employees can claim for unemployment benefit. Freelancers who lose their work, but who were working as an employee before becoming an independent can also, subject to conditions, get the unemployment benefits. Civil servants do not contribute to this system as they are protected and they cannot be made unemployed (however, as some of them can now be made redundant, a specific system has been implemented by the unemployment insurance).

The registration

It is the ORBEM (Office Régional Bruxellois de l’Emploi) that is charged of job seekers, finding them a job and training. The ONEM (Office national de l’emploi) is in charge of applying the rules of the unemployment regulation. ONEM decides whether the person can get the job seeker allowance when the request has been made.

Anybody available for work and domiciled in the region of Brussels can register as job seeker at the ORBEM. The registration as a job seeker is not mandatory, but it is essential in order to keep its right to familly allowances and social security, to be able tos use the Orbem services to find a job and to get unemployement benefits.

A youth who is looking for a job can ask for allocations d'attente (waiting allowance). More details on Bruxelles-J website.

The registration must be done as soon as possible, at the end of the studies or as soon as the youth is ready to start a job. Indeed the waiting period will start only at the registration time. If you lose your job, you must also register as a job seeker as soon as possible. If the ONEM give you an allowance, you will be able to get it as soon as you have registered.

In addition to the registration at the Orbem, you must go to the payment organisation of your choice (ask Orbem), with the C4 form given by the previous employer in order to claim you allowance. This organisation will create a file and will transmit it to the Onem office that will take a decision within one month.


The person seeking unemployment benefit must have worked for a certain number of days during the period prior to unemployment (refering period), as indicated in the table below:

Number of days at work
Refering period
Less than 36 years old
312 days
18 months
from 36 to 50
468 days
27 months
50 and above
624 days
36 months

The main principle is that all the days where you paid social contribution (unemployment periods included) are added, for example paid leave, sickness, strike, bank holidays, etc.

In order to claim unemployment benefits you have to comply with a series of conditions:

  1. You have no income.
  2. You have been made unemployment (not resigned).
  3. You do not work.
  4. You are able to work.
  5. You are available for work.
  6. You can be controlled.
  7. Your residence is in Belgium.
  8. You have not reached retirment age.


The amount of the allowance depends on the family situation, the duration of unemployment and the salary earned when employed.

In the unemployment system you have to distinguish between:

  • the employee with a family. In case of unemployment he is losing the only income of the family while he's in charge of a family;
  • the single person. He or she loses the only income but he/she is not in charge of people.
  • partnership. He/she lives at the same place as someone who earns a wage.

The basic unemployment allowance is equal to 35% of the average salary (limited to a maximum of 58,83€ a day from the 1st July 2001). It is also possible to get an additional allowance, depending on personal situations:

  1. 20 % adapting benefit : Anybody during the first year of unemployment. After 1 year, job seekers lose their specific allowance. In order to compensate, unemployed in charge of a family get 20 % additional allowance.
  2. 5 % if you lose your unique income: this additional benefit is for people in charge of a family or for single unemployed people and there is no time limit. After 1 year of unemployment, this amount is raised to 9% for single people.

After 1 year, the second period of unemployment starts and never stops for people in charge of a family or singles. But for partners (people living together but not a married couple), the total duration of this second period is 3 months, plus 3 months for each year that you were employed previously. After this period, the unemployed person enters the 3rd period and get a fixed amount of 13€ ( July 2001).

The amounts are in the table below:

1st year
2nd period
3rd period
Workers in charge of a family
Single person
fixed amount

The employee that becomes unemployed after resigning from his job cannot benefit frm the job seeker allowance.

Update 18/11/2005


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Addthis

Recommended Service Partners

International Movers

When you move internationally you are taking a big step. Lots of things are changing and you have a million things to think about and take care of. If you are able to select a top of the line moving company that moves for a modest price, it can take a big weight of your shoulders in busy times.

Our network of international removal companies can move your furniture & possessions to Belgium and anywhere overseas.

Filling in the form at the bottom will allow you to request up to 5 quotes from various moving companies. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Do you have comments or personal information to communicate about this article? Add your comment.

Go to the Forum to talk more about unemployment benefits in Brussels, at work.

Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).