A pension scheme, hospitalisation insurance and devices remain fixed items within the remuneration package. A creative approach means that the cost of these is manageable.
Company cars, group insurance, various types of cheques, an internet connection at home, working part-time or even childcare through the employer – each of these is an example of fringe benefits. Although the social and tax regulations for each benefit type are different, they do have one common characteristic: employees love them. Let's look at three of the most popular benefits in more detail:
Devices – the ideal fringe benefit?
Hip, handy and sought after: smartphones, laptops or tablets have everything needed to be a dream fringe benefit. Employees are delighted and they are a benefit which employers can perfectly justify. Communication plays a key role in any company. However, the challenge is ensuring that costs are kept at a reasonable level. How should you approach this?
- Set your employees a maximum amount for their mobile phone usage. Whoever exceeds the limit, pays the difference. A third of companies offering staff a mobile phone employ such an arrangement. On average, the employer ends up paying €25 to €50 per month, but for more senior roles, this amount will often be significantly higher.
Mobile phone operators have also developed special packages in order to process the administration relating to split-bill arrangements. For any amounts below the limit, they send the bill directly to the employer. The employee is billed directly for any extra usage.
- Ask your employee to pay back a fixed amount each month by way of a salary deduction. This way, you as an employer can recover a part of the costs and also restrict the taxable benefit as far as your employee is concerned.
The "normal" taxable benefit amounts to €12.50 per month for a mobile phone or a smartphone, €15 per month for a laptop or tablet and €5 per month for mobile internet or broadband internet at the employee's home. If the employee completely repays that benefit, then they are no longer liable for taxes on the personal privilege resulting from the benefit.
Saving for later – the supplementary pension scheme
According to a survey by SD Worx, 81% of Belgian employers are contributing to a supplementary pension for their employees, who are increasingly coming to greatly value this benefit. This is not only due to lenient tax treatment, but also due to the growing focus on the pension issue. If you, as an employer, also wish to do this, then you have a number of different possibilities.
- Group insurance or pension scheme
With a collective pension scheme, you build up, with fixed, monthly payments, supplementary pension capital for your employees. Sector or company CLAs increasingly require such a scheme to be set up, with or without being "social" in nature. Despite this, premiums for non-statutory pension accrual usually remain relatively modest.
If you want to do something extra for your staff's pensions, then a supplementary pension scheme also offers fiscally attractive opportunities for paying out a classic bonus or end-of-year premium. Tax and social deductions on pension payments are minimal, whereas around half of a normal bonus will disappear.
- Personal pension scheme benefits
You also have the possibility of further optimising the pension scheme of your most valuable employees – think of managers or self-employed company executives for instance – on an individual basis. This can be done thorough so-called personal pension scheme benefits. Very strict rules apply to this, including respecting the 80% rule. This states that the employer contribution for this non-statutory pension, together with the statutory pension, may be no higher than 80% of the employee's last normal annual gross salary.
Furthermore, for your wage-earning employees, a ceiling of €2,340 (the amount for 2016) is also in force, per employee and per year. Finally, take account of the fact that personal pension scheme benefits cannot be created in the 36 months preceding (early) retirement.
Hospitalisation insurance: affordable care
Nowadays, hospitalisation insurance is almost indispensable. Employees also especially value this particular benefit. Three points to consider:
- As an employer you are obliged to inform your employees that they are entitled to personally continue the collective policy if they leave the company. With individual continuation in later life, however, the premium can be very expensive. In order to avoid the premium for a future transition already being too high, your employees can take out a waiting policy in order to pre-finance their future premium. You are also obliged to inform affiliates of this. With such a waiting policy, upon later transition, your employees pay a premium based on their initial affiliation age.
- In agreement with your insurer, you confirm whether your employees are or are not obliged to affiliate themselves to the collective hospitalisation scheme. Ensure that you establish hospitalisation insurance as a voluntary fringe benefit that your employees may replace with another optional benefit of their choosing. If insufficient employees are affiliated to the collective policy, the premium for each employee may increase.
- The premium which you as an employer pay for a collective hospitalisation insurance scheme is a benefit which is exempt from tax. For you as an employer, however, these costs are not tax deductible.
Performance-related salary bonuses increasingly popular
CLA 90 performance-related bonus schemes are on the increase. Last year, 15% of administrative workers and 12% of manual workers received this type of bonus. As an employer, you could effectively combine such a bonus scheme with just about any objective and clearly measurable goal which you would like to see achieved within your company.
Examples are profit increase, cost reduction, a reduction in average delivery time, reducing the number of accidents at work or sick days, etc.
It is important to note that collective goals must be the focus here and that all employees (or a clearly defined group) must be involved in the scheme.
The advantages of a bonus scheme
Paying out a little extra through such a bonus scheme has some important advantages. Let's cover the main ones:
- If the maximum amount is respected – €3,219 per employee in 2016 – at the social level, the paid-out bonus is only subject to the 33% special employer contribution and a 13.07% employee deduction. The tax burden is also minimal.
For example: An "ordinary" bonus that generates €1,000 net for the employee, costs the employer €2,695.90. For a performance-related bonus, the cost falls to €1,503.80.
- For the employer, the bonus is fully tax-deductible as an operating cost.
- The salary bonus does not count in the calculation of holiday pay and the end of year premium.
- A performance bonus can never become an acquired right. It is given once and you are never obliged to repeat it the following year.
- Performance-related salary bonuses fall outside the government's ruling. This way, it's perfectly legal for you to provide your employees with a little extra.
A flexible salary as an alternative
A new trend which has grown in response to economy measures is "flexible rewards". This means that employees can adapt their remuneration package to suit their personal needs.
Due to the crisis and the current tendency to freeze salaries, increases are often difficult to implement. However, through making salaries more flexible you can improve employee satisfaction. The starting point of a flexible reward scheme is simple: a summary is made of each employee's total salary package and the budget which corresponds to this. On the basis of this, certain salary components can be exchanged for other benefits from a "shop".
So far, this idea has seen little application in the market, mainly because it is difficult to organise in a fully statutory way. Human Resources company SD Worx has succeeded in creating a legally supported "cafeteria scheme", which offers employees the possibility of choosing independently from a number of fringe benefits.
"Fixed salary flexibility is not always simple, since pay scales are often linked to sector or company CLAs," explains SD Worx's Kathelijne Verboomen. "But variable bonuses and fringe benefits normally lend themselves to it very well. Within a flexible reward system, the budget for a salary bonus can, for instance, be allocated to an extra car or car wash budget, non-statutory holiday days, a laptop, tablet or smartphone, an electric bike, a babysitting service for sick children, etc. Non-statutory holiday days are particularly fashionable at the moment.
On the other hand, we are also seeing that employees who don't wish to have a car, prefer to reduce their car budget in return for other benefits, or cash. We've noticed this following the replacement of a company car or a promotion. Employees who are promoted – and therefore enter into a higher car category – but are still satisfied with the car they have can use the extra budget in another way."
How to prevent a stroke with the help of your smartphone
Fibricheck is a medical application that anticipates strokes using just a smartphone. This kind of innovation focused on human well-being is at the heart of BNP Paribas Fortis’s sustainability strategy.
Digitalisation is affecting even medicine. Convinced that the digital world and the traditional medical world must work together, Fibricheck has developed an application to anticipate strokes. This ethos makes human interests a core concern.
By supporting this Belgian company, BNP Paribas Fortis wants to do its bit to build a more sustainable world and help new and inspiring ideas to emerge.
A diagnosis using your smartphone
Smartphones are becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives. We use them to communicate, cook and read... so why not for medical diagnosis? With Fibricheck, the user can now check their heartbeat, to anticipate the risks of a stroke. The Fibricheck application focuses on the most common kind of heart arrhythmia: atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for 20% of strokes.
How does it work?
Above all, it is important to know that Fibricheck is available only by medical prescription. Once you have installed it, you just need to put your finger on your smartphone camera for 60 seconds, for all the required data to be recorded. The algorithms will do the rest, to provide an instant result. If any anomalies are detected, the results will be analysed by a Fibricheck doctor and made available to your doctor. Technology is used to serve human interests.
An irregular heartbeat is not always easy to detect. The advantage of Fibricheck is that it does not need to be used in a specific place (e.g. at the doctor's surgery), or during a set period. It allows multiple measurements to be taken, to provide an overview of your heartbeat.
Checks in companies
The health of your employees is crucial. Heart arrhythmias do not always have clear, visible symptoms. Consequently, detection plays a crucial role in preventing the greatest risks. This is why Fibricheck is offering to check your employees.
For more information, consult the Fibricheck website.
Challenges when recruiting internationally
Recruiting a member of staff for relocation to a foreign subsidiary requires some careful thinking. We have compiled the questions that are most frequently asked when people are faced with this human-resources quandary.
International recruitment involves recruiting people in their company's country of origin and relocating them abroad to work in a foreign subsidiary. In a globalised world, this has become common practice. However, when setting up a Belgian company abroad you will face a series of legal obstacles, as soon as your employees cross the border out of Belgium. These include employment laws, residence permits, taxation and social security. These questions will make things clearer up for you:
Should I recruit before developing my strategy?
No. Before starting the recruitment process, the first thing that a company must do is clearly define what it wants to achieve in the country where the subsidiary will be set up. It must take cultural differences between the countries into account. If the company usually recruits locally to be on the same wavelength as its target customer, when recruiting internally candidates should be adaptable and self-reliant, but above all they should be fluent in the country's language (in English, at the very least).
Can my employee work in this country?
If the free movement of workers applies within the EEA (European Economic Area) and in Switzerland, you do not need any special permit apart from your Belgian identity card. You must have a work permit as soon as you cross the border out of this area. The paperwork to apply for this can be extensive and even complicated (particularly in the United States). It is essential you have a lawyer who specialises in immigration.
Do I need a centre of operations in the country?
If you want to employ staff in a different country, you should have a local entity. Depending on the country in question, a small entity (sometimes no more than a letterbox) can be enough.
Where should social-security contributions be paid?
In the EEA and countries that have a bilateral social security treaty with Belgium, the social security system in the country of work will apply. In situations involving simultaneous employment, the social security system in the country of residence applies. As a rule, an employee cannot be subjected to different systems. Outside the EEA, you should operate on a case-by-case basis (legal and tax advice is essential in these situations).
What about salary and working conditions?
Employees can only work in an export market if they have an employment contract adapted to the salary and working conditions of the country in question. As a general rule: the mandatory legal provisions in the country of work will take precedence over the ones that appear in your Belgian employment contract.
Where should taxes be paid?
Double taxation is not a very appealing option for employees who are being relocated to work abroad. To avoid this, Belgium has signed treaties with a large number of countries specifying the country responsible for taxing the salaries that you pay. As a general rule, workers are taxed in their country of work, except in cumulative cases (the 183-day rule), where the national law of the country responsible for taxing the salary will apply.
Can I recruit internationally from Belgium?
Yes, you can. For example, in the Brussels-Capital Region, Actiris has an International department, which selects candidates with an interest in working abroad. This body is a member of EURES, a network of more than 1,000 employment counsellors (EEA and Switzerland). If your employees do not want to be relocated abroad, its counsellors can also place your job offers on the EURES portal.
Should I go it alone?
Certainly not. The steps that you need to take before relocating one of your workers abroad or recruiting internationally are too complex for you to tackle without any advice; only a specialist firm will be able to help you take these different steps (residence permits, work permits, social-security payments, taxation).