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Maternity protection

Law of 1 August 2001 on the protection of pregnant workers, workers after childbirth and breastfeeding mothers

Chapter 1: Scope of application and definitions

The law applies to all women, without distinction as to age or nationality, married or unmarried, who are linked by an employment or apprenticeship contract or employed as pupils or students during educational holidays.

Chapter 2: Maternity leave

A pregnant woman cannot be employed during the 8 weeks prior to the expected date of childbirth (date attested by a medical certificate). If the birth takes place after that date, the prohibition is extended until actual childbirth.
Post-natal leave covers the 8 weeks immediately following childbirth (date attested by a medical certificate). This period may be increased to 12 weeks in the case of a premature birth (before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy), multiple births or for breastfeeding mothers. 
The employer must retain the pregnant woman in his employ or in a similar post with equivalent remuneration. Maternity leave is included in the calculation of seniority rights. Maternity leave is treated as a period of employment and gives entitlement to annual recreational leave. Leave which is not taken before the beginning of the maternity leave is carried forward within the legal time limits.

Chapter 3: Night work

After consulting the occupational physician responsible, a pregnant or breastfeeding woman (until the child is one year old) cannot be required to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The employee must apply for this dispensation by registered letter. The occupational physician must then be consulted within 8 days by the employer and he must deliver an opinion which will be notified within a fortnight of the date of referral.
The employer must transfer the employee to a daytime workplace without any reduction of her previous salary. If the transfer is impossible for technical or objective reasons, the employer, acting upon the opinion of the occupational physician, must grant a dispensation to the female employee for the entire period determined by the occupational physician.

Chapter 4: Agents, procedures and working conditions

The employer must notify to every woman employed in his business, the Joint Committee and if there is no such committee the Staff Delegation and/or the equal opportunities delegate if appointed, a list of tasks which pregnant or breastfeeding women cannot be required to perform.

In cooperation with the appropriate occupational physician, the employee is required, in the case of all activities which may present a risk, to assess the nature, degree and stipulate the duration of the exposure, so as to enable the risk to be assessed and determine the measures to be taken (see attached list).
If the results of the assessment reveal the existence of a risk, the employer, acting on the opinion of the occupational physician responsible, must take the necessary measures by making provisional adjustments to the working conditions or working time. If such an adjustment is not possible for technical reasons, the employer, acting on the opinion of the occupational physician responsible, must assign the employee to a different post without any reduction of her salary. If a change of assignment is impossible for technical reasons, the employer, acting on the opinion of the occupational physician responsible, must grant a dispensation to the employee.

Chapter 5: Provisions common to Chapters 3 and 4

The opinions of the occupational physician may be the subject of an application for a review sent by registered letter by the employee or by the employer to the Directorate for Health, Occupational Health Division. An appeal may be made against the decision of the physician in charge of the division to the Arbitration Council for Social Insurance within 15 days of the date on which the opinion of the physician in charge of the division was delivered. The Chairman will then hand down a ruling within 15 days. An appeal may be made against the judgment of the Arbitration Council to the High Council for Social Insurance. A reply must be given within 15 days.

Chapter 6: Working hours

A pregnant or breastfeeding woman cannot be required to work overtime. A pregnant woman benefits from dispensation from work with no loss of remuneration to attend prenatal examinations. 
At her request, breastfeeding time, divided into two periods of 45 minutes each, must be granted (at the beginning and end of the normal working day). If the day is only interrupted by a break of not more than one hour, the two periods may be reduced to one breastfeeding time of at least 90 minutes. The breastfeeding time counts as working time.

Chapter 7: Prohibition of dismissal

The employer is not allowed to notify termination of the employment contract or issue an invitation to attend the preliminary interview to an employee when she is in a medically confirmed state of pregnancy and for up to 12 weeks after childbirth. In the event of notification of termination prior to such medical confirmation, the employee may, within eight days of receiving notice, provide evidence of her state of pregnancy by forwarding a medical certificate by registered letter.
However, in the event of a serious fault, the employer may decide to dismiss the employed woman immediately pending a final decision by the labour tribunal.
The provisions on redundancy do not prevent the expiry of a temporary contract. On the other hand, if the employee has been recruited on a permanent contract with a trial period, such trial period shall be suspended from the point at which the medical certificate is presented to the employer until maternity begins. The portion which remains to run will resume on the expiry of the period during which dismissal is prohibited.