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As provided for in the Apprenticeship for Occupations Practised by Employees Act of July 19, 1983, an apprenticeship contract in Belgium is a fixed-term contract under which an employer undertakes to provide or arrange training for trainees ("apprentices") aimed at qualifying them to perform their chosen occupation, and under which trainees undertake to learn the practice of that occupation under the employer's authority and to attend the courses of instruction necessary to their training under the employer's supervision.

The occupations for which an apprenticeship contract can be concluded, the duration of the apprenticeship and the weekly distribution of practical training and general and complementary theoretical instruction are laid down by Royal Decree. As a rule, an apprenticeship contract cannot be concluded before the age of 16 and must be concluded before the age of 18. Every apprenticeship contract must be drawn up separately in writing for each trainee, and at the latest when the trainee enters into service. The contract has an obligatory content, on pain of being declared null and void, and carries a probationary period of not less than one month and not more than three months. Trainees receive an allowance corresponding to a percentage of the minimum wage entitlement in the industry concerned for an employee possessing the skills that the trainee wishes to acquire. This allowance is deemed to be pay within the meaning of the Pay Protection Act of April 12, 1965.

The Joint Committees and the National Labour Council are responsible for appointing apprenticeship committees which draw up a model training programme for each occupation.

The 1983 Act also contains somewhat detailed regulations on the obligations of the parties, suspension of the performance of the apprenticeship contract, its termination, the way in which the period of apprenticeship is organized, and implementing and supervisory bodies. Without prejudice to the provisions of the Act, trainees are still subject to the provisions of labour legislation in general, which are applicable to them in their capacity as persons deemed equivalent to employees. In enterprises with fewer than 50 employees, the 1983 Act is not applicable to those occupations for which apprenticeship contracts can be concluded under the conditions specified in the regulations on further training in small businesses.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009