New for 2021: Utility costs rise, minimum pension to increase

Summary

A number of new measures come into effect on 1 January, affecting employment, health, driving and domestic bills

Health

GPs and specialists may charge more for a number of consultations next year, but patients will not see an increase in their contributions. The patient contribution for a home visit is the only fee that will increase, from €13.87 to €14.01.

Parental leave for fathers and co-mothers will be extended from 10 to 15 days, for births from 1 January 2021. In 2023, a further five days will be added. Maternity leave will also be extended for Flemish civil servants and teaching staff. The extension applies to employees as well as to self-employed persons and civil servants.

Cigarettes will become more expensive from 1 January as excise duties rise. The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes increases from €6.80 to €7.50 and a 50g pack of rolling tobacco increases from €9.70 to €11.17. Advertising tobacco products on posters or in the windows of shops selling tobacco is to be banned. The FPS Public Health will carry out checks from January.

Finance & employment

Minimum pensions for nearly 815,000 people will gradually increase from 1 January. The increase will take place in four phases, on 1 January 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. The increase of the minimum pension to €1,500 net for a full career, as provided for in the coalition agreement, applies to employees, the self-employed and statutory civil servants.

Minimum unemployment benefits will increase by 1.125%. The increase comes on top of the automatic index of benefits. In concrete terms, for a cohabiting person with dependents, the minimum benefit will increase by €15.10 to €1,357.22 a month. For people who live alone, this is a monthly increase of €12.37 to €1,111.90 a month.

Approximately 470,000 employees who are part of the joint committee 200 – the largest group of employees in Belgium – will see their wages rise by 0.95% in January due to indexation. All teachers will see their salaries increase by 1.1% from 1 January compared to August 2018. This is a pledge from the previous government.

Driving


Flanders will tax new cars differently from January. Some cars will be loaded more heavily, others more lightly. Exemptions for plug-in hybrids and CNG cars will disappear and commercial vehicles will be taxed more heavily.

Anyone who receives a company car from their employer and is allowed to use that car for commuting and private trips is taxed on that benefit. One of the elements in the calculation is CO2 emissions, relative to the average emissions of newly registered cars.

Prices for vehicle inspections will rise slightly, as will the charge for the category B driving licence.

The rates for the kilometre charge for trucks are indexed on 1 January, following indexation in July in Flanders and Brussels. The legislation on new commercial green number plates will also come into effect on 1 January, which will have consequences for the kilometre charge.

The entire Brussels region will become a “City 30” where the maximum speed of 30 kilometres per hour will become the norm. However, tunnels and major access roads are among the exemptions, with a limit of 50 or 70kph.

Utilities

A number of Proximus customers will have to pay more for telecom services. The bundles Internet + TV, Tuttimus and Familus, among others, are becoming more expensive. The prices of mobile subscriptions will not change.

From January 1, Bpost will increase the rates of postage. Non-priority stamps are 9% more expensive, priority stamps 33%. Sending letters abroad will be up to 20% more expensive.

Due to the removal of the exclusive nightly rate, almost 150,000 households will see their electricity bills rise significantly in 2021. For households using storage heaters, distribution network tariffs will increase by an average of €113 next year.

The energy requirements for new houses in Flanders are becoming stricter, with all new homes required to be “nearly energy-neutral”, or E30. The E-level is a measure of the energy consumption of the home. In 2006 the maximum E-level was E100, in 2008 it was E80 and is now E30. The stricter E-level applies to building applications submitted from 1 January 2021.

All homes in Flanders must have a smoke detector or fire detection system. The obligation applies to both rental properties and properties occupied by the owner.

Photo: top, Getty Image/PeopleImages; centre, Getty Images/Albert Pego