50 Years of Social Security Rights for Freelancers

In 2018, Belgium marks 50 years since the introduction of the obligatory social security for freelancers (zelfstandige/independant/single-trader). The national office for the social security of the self-employed is celebrating this with the campaign Happy Independent’s Year.

During the year you can meet the 50 ambassadors of different profiles and hear their story, contribute and vote for new ideas for improving the social rights of the self-employed in the Improver section, or take part in one of the many partner events – including Freelance Business Day!

History of the pension and other rights of the self-employed in Belgium

The first government pillar of the social security for self-employed in Belgium was introduced in 1937 with the act on child benefits for self-employed. After the WWII, the act on pensions followed and in 1968, a new law united the three pillars of social security for freelancers, bringing together family contributions, pensions and health&invalidity insurance. This law also marks the beginning of the social security funds which collect the contributions.

Two years later, in 1970, the RSVZ/INASTI was created by fusioning of the RKZ (national office for the child benefits for self-employed) and the RPZ (national office for the pensions of the self-employed). Since its beginning, RSVZ/INASTI was charged with protecting the social rights of the self-employed. As part of the organisation, a national social fund was created (Nationale Hulpkas/Caisse nationale auxiliaire) which manages the social contributions of those self-employed people who do not choose any of the other social funds.

What are your rights as a freelancer in Belgium?

Over the past 50 years a lot has changed regarding the rights you are building through paying your obligatory contributions. These contributions, which you are paying 4 times per year, now accumulate your rights in the following way:

  1. Family allowances (these allowances are paid out by the child allowance fund linked to your social security fund):
    1. Child benefits: monthly benefits for each child in the family, as well as annual school allowance.
    2. Maternity benefit (or birth benefit): paid out at the birth of a child.
    3. Adoption allowance: paid out at the adoption of a child.
  2. Pension rights:
    1. Old age pension: by paying into the social security fund as a self-employed or helping person, you are building a minimum legal old age pension. Currently, the retiring age is set at 65 years, but this will increase over the next 10 years.
    2. Survivor’s pension: surviving spouse of a self-employed or helping person has a right to survivor’s pension
    3. Pension for divorced ex-partner of the self-employed or helping person (under certain conditions)
  3. Obligatory basic health insurance (note that while you pay your contribution to the social security fund, you need to join a health insurance fund to obtain reimbursements):
    1. (Partial) refund of basic health care (e.g. doctor’s visits, medicines)
    2. Long-term sickness allowance: starting from the 2nd month of (temporary or permanent) inability to work or disability. You are not covered in your first month of illness or disability.
  4. Bankruptcy insurance (overbruggingsrecht/droit passerelle):
    1. If you have to declare bankruptcy or need to close your business because of circumstances beyond your control (fire, natural disaster, destruction of your business premises, work-related allergy that prevents your from performing your duties …), you have the right to a bankruptcy benefit for up to 12 months.
    2. During that time you also keep your family allowances and your social security benefits without having to pay the contributions.
    3. You can request this benefit several times in your career but it can only be paid out for a maximum 12 months over your entire career.

Voluntary insurances to improve your social security

Additionally, you can voluntarily sign up for additional insurances:

  1. Supplementary pension for the self-employed (vrij aanvullend pensioen voor zelfstandige-VAPZ/pension libre complémentaire – PLC): this tops up your minimum pension with additional annuity or capital that is paid out as soon as you qualify for the old age pension. This type of insurance is offered by the social security funds and financial institutions.
  2. Supplementary health insurance (hospitalisation insurance) (hospitalisatieverzekering/assurance hospitalisation): this insurance covers your extra costs related to hospitalisation, including pre- and post-hospitalisation examinations and treatments. This type of insurance is offered by the health insurance funds and financial institutions.
  3. Guaranteed income insurance (verzekering gewaarborgd inkomen/assurance revenu garanti): this insurance kicks in when you are declared unfit to work because of long-term, temporary or permanent, illness or invalidity. Note that often you will need to wait a few months before this allowance gets paid out.

Several of these additional insurances are encouraged by the government in the form of tax breaks for the insurance premiums paid during the year.

A short overview of your rights in Dutch and French can be downloaded from the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (RSVZ/INASTI) website.

What is RSVZ/INASTI?

Rijksinstituut voor de Sociale Verzekeringen der Zelfstandigen (RSVZ)/l’Institut national d’assurances sociales pour travailleurs indépendants (INASTI) is the office that ultimately handles your quarterly social security contributions. While you pay your contributions through your social security fund of choice, the money actually ends up with RSVZ/INASTI which also keeps the records of your contributions and is responsible for calculating your pension rights and benefits.

Besides managing the independents’ pension fund, the Institute also functions as an information point for all matters related to the social security of the self-employed and freelancers in Belgium. It is in close contact with the social security funds and can draft studies about different topics upon their request.

Do you have questions about social security rights?

At the Freelance Conference Day on 14th April in Brussels, you will be able to speak with experts on insurance and personal wealth.

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