If you are a full-time or part-time employee (only in specific cases) in the private sector, you are entitled to be absent from work in order to follow a recognized study program through the paid educational leave system (in Dutch: ‘betaald educatief verlof’ or ‘BEV’).
The study program you want to follow with paid educational leave does not necessarily has to be related to your profession. You may choose to follow any program for professional purposes.
Your employer cannot refuse your request for paid educational leave, but he has to agree with the planning of your absences.
Which courses are eligible?
The law sets out a limited number of categories:
- Courses which have obtained special accreditation (via an accreditation committee or joint labour committee).
- Courses taken with a degree contract, provided that all of the lessons are scheduled at the weekend or after 4 p.m., with a minimum of 32 contact hours per academic year.
- Courses taken with an exam contract with a view to obtaining a degree.
Which of the University of Antwerp's courses have obtained special accreditation (via an accreditation committee or joint labour committee)?
- Nursing and midwifery (bridging and Master programmes). This programme is accredited by JLC 330.
- Social work (preparatory, bridging and Master programmes). This programme is accredited by JLCs 319, 329 and 331.
- The dedicated teacher training programme and the Postgraduate Dutch as a Foreign Language course was accredited by the Accreditation Committee.
If you follow a programme which is accredited by a joint labour committee, you are automatically eligible for paid educational leave if you are taking at least 32 hours of classes per academic year and are employed in a sector overseen by this joint labour committee. If your employer is regulated by another joint labour committee, they may refuse the request for paid educational leave. In this case, educational leave is a privilege, not a right.
Are you following a different programme and studying with a degree contract?
If you follow one of the programmes below, with at least 32 contact hours per academic year, then you are also eligible for paid educational leave:
- Evening programmes in Philosophy (abridged Bachelor and Master programmes).
- Training and Education Sciences (preparatory and bridging programmes).
- The Training and Education Sciences Master programme can also be taken as evening courses if the programme is spread over two years.
Compulsory Master modules and a large number of optional modules are offered as evening courses (the courses alternate annually).
- Social Work and Sociology (preparatory, bridging and Master programmes), taken as a blended learning programme.
Blended learning is a form of self-study with limited contact hours. You will have to take sufficient modules in order to have at least 32 contact hours.
- Master in Corporate Law (Advanced Master, Faculty of Law)
- Master in Tax Law (Advanced Master, Faculty of Law)
These programmes are eligible for paid educational leave because they are scheduled at the weekend or after 4 p.m.
Are you studying with an exam contract with a view to obtaining a degree?
Then you are eligible for paid educational leave if you are taking one of the following programmes:
- A Bachelor programme. Bachelor programmes with a shorter study duration are also eligible.
- A Master programme.
- An advanced Master programme.
- A preparatory or bridging programme. These do not lead to a degree but the enrolment also makes use of a degree contract. As a consequence these programmes are also eligible.
Are you studying with an exam contract with a view to obtaining credits?
You do not fulfil the conditions for paid educational leave.
Do you combine a credit contract with a degree exam contract?
This is not a problem provided the exam contract is entered into with a view to obtaining a degree and not to obtaining credits. Please make sure, when enrolling, to state that you wish to enter into a degree exam contract (and not a credit exam contract). This must be stated clearly on the enrolment form. Otherwise, your request for paid educational leave will be refused.
Can you enter into a degree exam contract if you wish to take only a limited number of programme components?
Technically, you can enter into a degree exam contract for just one programme component. Please note, however, that the faculty may approve (the content of) your contract at its own discretion.
When enrolling, you state which contract you wish to enter into, but are then required to submit your programme to the faculty for approval, which may be declined. This also applies to the normal degree and credit contracts.
We recommend that you always enquire beforehand with the faculty or programme coordinator. Some faculties decline to approve an exam contract for some (or even all) programme components.
Which programmes are not eligible for paid educational leave?
- Programmes based on a degree contract whose classes are all organised during the day.
- Programmes based on a degree contract whose classes are organised partly during the day and partly at the weekend and/or in the evening.
- Programmes based on a credit contract.
- Third-cycle evening and weekend programmes which were not included in the Bachelor-Master reform.
- Doctoral programmes.
- Language training programmes organised by Linguapolis during the day.
- Programmes which lead to a certificate but not to a degree (for example, post-graduate refresher programmes).
- It is not possible to request paid educational leave for a dissertation or Master dissertation, even under an exam contract.
- Nor can you request paid educational leave for an internship. An internship will not be taken into account when calculating contact hours or holiday hours. Holiday hours which can be taken on the basis of contact hours can be used for an internship. Educational leave may be extended without pay to complete an internship required for a programme unless the employer refuses.
- Students who take distance learning programmes without contact hours are not eligible for paid educational leave. Those who take distance learning programmes with at least 32 contact hours per academic year, where classes are organised after 4 p.m. or at the weekend, are eligible. An exam contract without contact hours is also permitted (see above).
Which employees are eligible?
Two types of employee are eligible for paid educational leave:
- Employees who are employed by privately-held companies
- Contractual employees of an autonomous public undertaking (such as De Post, De Lijn, NMBS, Belgacom and so on)
The following employment conditions apply:
- you work full-time
you work part-time, under one of the following schemes
- at least 4/5
- at least, part-time with a variable schedule (or at least half-time (halftijds) but only for professional training followed during normal working hours)
You must be employed by a Belgian company or enterprise. No age or nationality conditions apply.
The programme you are following does not have to be related to your profession. You may choose to follow a programme for professional purposes, without there being a relation to your current profession, but it can also be a general educational programme.
How long does paid educational leave last?
- The number of leave hours per academic year is equal to three times your weekly working hours, irrespective of the number of credits and time of enrolment (first or second enrolment period).
- Subject to the employer's agreement, paid educational leave can be taken from the day on which the certificate is issued.
- Educational leave must be taken between the 15th day after submitting the enrolment certificate to your employer and the last day of the exam period.
- If you have registered for several exam periods, leave must be taken before the date of the last exam of the last exam period.
Important: the calendar for paid educational leave runs from 1 September to 31 August. During this time, the employee can take three weeks of paid educational leave at the most, regardless of the number of exam periods for which he or she has registered. However, employees can register for exam periods in various academic years during this time.
The right to educational leave is re-examined from 1 September onwards. If the employee still has exams to take in September, he or she is entitled to paid educational leave in September. However, the employee will have to take into account that this leave will be deducted from the three weeks of leave to which they are entitled up to and including 31 August of the following year, if they again register for one or more exam periods during this time.
What if you stop studying?
Employees who stop studying lose the right to educational leave, beginning on the date they notify their employer that they have terminated their studies. The employer must be notified within five days of the termination of studies. The number of holiday hours to which the employee is entitled will be determined on the basis of the hours that the employee actually attended class before terminating his or her studies.
Compensation of educational leave?
- Compensation paid during educational leave is equal to the employee's normal wages, capped at a certain amount. This amount is set annually in September. The maximum reimbursable gross wage for employees working in Flanders is €2,871 euros a month. The employer is entitled to limit wages for this additional leave to this amount.
- An employee who is absent from work and who wrongly invokes the right to educational leave may not claim payment of his or her normal wages for this absence (for example, if he or she took leave after the date of the last exam, or for a programme not included in the scope of the law). If the error is only established after the employee has already received his normal wages, the employer may request a reimbursement.
Formalities for the employee?
1. You are studying with an exam contract with a view to obtaining a degree
If you enrolled with an exam contract then an enrolment certificate is sufficient. You can obtain this certificate from the central student administration. You do not have to submit an exam contract for a complete programme. The certificate must state clearly that the exam contract has been entered into with a view to obtaining a degree (and not to obtaining credits).
Attendance certificates do not have to be filled out, given that you will not be admitted to the lessons with an exam contract. After every exam period, you will have to provide your employer with an attendance certificate for the exams which includes the dates when the exams were taken. You can obtain this certificate from the faculty administration.
If your enrolment certificate states that your exam contract was entered into with a view to obtaining a degree and you can demonstrate that you took all of the exams then you are entitled to the maximum number of holiday hours (three times your weekly working hours) even if you did not enrol on a complete programme. It is not necessary to take all of your programme's exams during a particular exam period.
2. You are studying with a degree contract
Employees wishing to take educational leave for a programme with a degree contract need to submit a request to their employer. This is done using a particular document (the certificate of regular enrolment), which can be obtained from the faculty's education administration.
Every three months, the employee should also submit an attendance certificate to his or her employer. The faculty administration request this certificate via the SisA database and complete it with the contact hours attended.
Authorised and unauthorised absences are not includedeligible for educational leave. For this reason, the employee should submit an attendance certificate. However, all absences should be recorded and authorised where possible. Authorised absences may include, for example, illness. (see below)
If the number of hours of unauthorised absence is higher than 10% then the right to paid educational leave will not be granted for a six-month period. This six-month suspension commences on the first day of the three-month period following the three-month period during which the employee was absent for more than 10% of the time. Depending on the period of suspension, it may be carried over to the next academic year.
Absences are only authorised in the following cases:
- The employee or a member of his or her household is ill (medical certificate required)
- There is a public transport strike
- The lecturer is ill or on strike
- The university is closed
- Exceptional wintry weather conditions (excessive snowfall, general icy conditions);
- Absence for professional reasons, based on a statement from the employer that the employee was working during the course hours.
- Students can only be in attendance once they have enrolled.
- Attendance is recorded when the student signs the lecturer's attendance list or when the lecturer signs off on the student's attendance document. Each programme has developed a particular system for these documents, and this is clearly communicated to students.
- There are deadlines for submitting these documents to the faculty administration, i.e. the Friday before the Christmas holiday, the Friday before the Easter holiday, and 31 May. Paid educational leave is calculated on the basis of three-month periods rather than the six-month periods of an academic year. Students who do not respect the deadlines will receive a blank certificate! Students may not submit documents to authorise absences retrospectively.
- The education secretariats provide these attendance certificates to employees as quickly as possible, and the documents should then be passed on to the employer immediately, along with doctor's or employer's certificates supporting the leave of absence.
- Employees who wish to take educational leave to prepare for or take exams in September should also provide their employers with certificates that show the correct exam dates. The right to educational leave can only be extended if the employee actually takes part in this exam period. A list of marks which includes the exam date can also be accepted. The exam period's end date is especially important. The employee is entitled to take educational leave until this date.
- Overlapping of programme components when a course is postponed: If two programme components overlap, students are entitled to be absent if they cannot attend the classes of one of the two programme components.
When should this request be submitted?
The request should be submitted by 31 October of each academic year at the latest. If the employee enrols late, i.e. after 31 October, or changes employers during that academic year, the request must be submitted within 15 days of enrolment or upon changing employers.
Naturally, attendance certificates can only be issued after the student has enrolled. If your programme changes after your personal study programme has been approved, you will need to have a new certificate issued as soon as possible and submit this to your employer.
Can you combine paid educational leave with a career break?
If you take a career break, under the legislation pertaining to paid educational leave you are considered a part-time employee. As a consequence, you have to meet additional requirements to be able to make use of this scheme. This means (i) that you work at least 4/5, or according to a variable (not cyclically recurring) schedule, or that you work at least 'half-time' (halftijds) with a fixed schedule; and (ii) that you are having professional training whose course hours coincide with your working time. You should also take into account the fact that the right to paid educational leave is reduced because you are employed on a part-time basis.
Do you have the right to take paid educational leave?
If you have fulfilled all the legal requirements then your employer is obliged to grant you paid educational leave. You have the right to take it! However, you are not free to decide when to take it. You will have to discuss this with your employer first. For example, your employer may object to the simultaneous absence of over 10% of his workforce.
Once you have submitted a request for paid educational leave to your employer, you are automatically protected against dismissal until you have completed your programme. This means you can only be dismissed for reasons unrelated to your absence during your paid educational leave. Your employer will have to substantiate your dismissal.
Formalities for the employer?
The employer pays for the paid educational leave. However, the employer can obtain reimbursement from a fund established specifically for this purpose.
Where can you find more information?
For more specific information (and the required forms), you can refer to the website of the Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue.
You can also contact the Directorate for paid educational leave directly.
Phone +32 2 233 47 02, email@example.com
For more specific information, you can aslo contact the Centre for Work and Studying of the University of Antwerp via the helpdesk or via the website.