As a self-employed business person or head of an SME, you can sometimes feel alone at the helm and at a loss when faced with a difficult legal, social or financial situation involving third parties. If this is the case, joining a union or movement for the self-employed can provide significant support for the development of your business.
Movement, syndicate, federation, union: these are different names for organisations that assist, support and work to defend the interests of the self-employed and small- and medium-size companies.
Paid memberships in these groups are fully deductible from business expenses.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the services usually provided by these organisations, each of which has its own speciality areas.
- Legal aid
- Social services
- Management, accounting and tax advice
- Marketing assistance
- Receivables collection
- Information (Internet site, newspapers, publications, notification letters, etc.
- Document preparation (contracts, general terms and conditions, forms, estimates, leases, etc.)
- Networking (potential partners and customers)
- Company transfer consulting
- Discounts (meal vouchers, energy, magazines, sports, leasing, etc.).
COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATION AND DEFENCE
As mentioned above, these organisations also generally represent the interests of companies at different levels of government. This involves understanding the needs of companies, communicating those needs and lobbying decision-makers for measures that benefit companies.
It’s thanks to this collective defence that a number of measures have been implemented recently. They include:
- a decrease in social security contributions for starters;
- a reduction from one month to 15 days of the sickness benefit waiting period;
- a tax deduction for the supplementary pension for all self-employed persons;
- the reactivation of the trial period for hiring;
- the extension of maternity leave;
- parachute payments;
- and many others.
PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATIONS FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED
Brussels Enterprises Commerce & Industry (BECI)
Introduction: BECI (Brussels Enterprises Commerce & Industry) is a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce and the Brussels Business Federation. These two private non-profits, which are managed by and for their members, are based on a neutral, bilingual, inter-professional model.
BECI represents two-thirds of employment in Brussels and over 35,000 companies. The Brussels Business Federation defends the interests of Brussels-based companies and entrepreneurs and provides them with free training.
Telephone: +32 2 648 50 02
Address: Avenue Louise 500, 1000 Brussels
Languages: French - Dutch (bilingual)
Speciality: aid to companies and entrepreneurs active in Brussels
Services provided: support for company start up, financial aid, prospecting (network development), mobility, company transfer, exporting, assistance to companies dealing with difficulties and recovery assistance following bankruptcy.
Cost: several packages are available to members: prices start at €27.50/month for a natural person.
Introduction: the IZEO movement brings together, represents and vigorously defends the self-employed and SMEs.
Telephone: +32 2 563 68 52
Address: Rue des Chartreux 45 – 1000 Brussels
Languages: FR and NL
Services provided: legal protection & assistance for the self-employed
Introduction: the Fédération Patronale Interprofessionnelle (SDI - Trade Union for the Self-employed and SMEs) is a national apolitical interprofessional federation. It represents and assists the self-employed and SMEs in all sectors: retailers, artisans, the liberal professions and company heads. In addition to its activities as a lobbying group, it has specialised to support its members in all legal, social and financial areas that impact small businesses in any way.
Registered office: rue de la Presse, 4, 1000 Brussels
Correspondence/Consultations: avenue Albert 1er, 183, 1332 Genval
Telephone: +32 2 652 26 92
Languages: FR and NL
Speciality: representation and assistance for the self-employed and SMEs
Cost: annual membership: €190, tax deductible
- 40 specialised advisers assist members at every step of their business development
- a legal department is actively involved in defending their rights vis-à-vis individuals and private or public organisations
- members benefit from an effective receivables collection service provided by a bailiff’s office
- members receive the free “Indépendant & Entreprise” magazine and SDI-News newsletters
- members receive products and services at preferential prices
- members have unlimited access to the interactive website at www.sdi.be
Introduction : Totally apolitical, the Fédération Patronale Interprofessionnelle (SDI) assists and represents the self-employed and SMEs in all sectors: traders, craftsmen, holders of liberal professions and company directors. In addition to its activities as a pressure group, it has specialized in supporting its members in all legal, social and economic fields that affect small businesses in any way.
Address : rue de la Presse, 4 à 1000 Bruxelles
Correspondence/Consultations : avenue Albert 1er, 183 à 1332 Genval
Website : www.sdi.be
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone : +32 2 652 26 92
Languages : French and Dutch
Sector : interprofessional
Speciality : representation and assistance of the self-employed and SMEs
Cost : annual membership fee of 190 EUR tax deductible
Services provided :
40 specialized advisors assist its members at all stages of their business development
a legal department actively intervenes to defend their rights vis-à-vis any person or private or public organization
its members benefit from an efficient debt collection service provided by a bailiff's office
its members receive free of charge the magazine Indépendant & Entreprise and the newsletters SDI-News
its members benefit from useful products and services at preferential conditions
its members have unlimited access to the interactive website
Introduction: the Syndicat Neutre pour Indépendants (SNI - Neutral Trade Union for the Self-Employed) was founded over 40 years ago and has 40,000 members. The SNI is an impartial organisation which represents the self-employed and knowledge workers, as well as SMEs. throughout the country.
It has no affiliation to a given party, political tendency or sector. The SNI is the voice of entrepreneurs and defends their social, financial and cultural interests vis-à-vis the authorities, public opinion and in the media.
Cost: €180 year w/o VAT
- personalised contracts
- free mediation in debt disputes
- individual information and advice
- extended services
- group energy procurement
Introduction: The UCM provides many different independent services. The self-employed can select services from a menu: business advice centre, social secretariat, energy pack, legal aid, etc.
Addresses: Rue Colonel Bourg, 123-125, 1140 Brussels/Avenue Louise 209A, 1050 Brussels
Telephone: + 32 2 775 03 80
Sector: all sectors
Speciality: business advice centre, social security office, social secretariat, UCM Mouvement
Cost: €175 year w/o VAT
Services provided:UCM Mouvement is at the heart of the UCM and differentiates it from all other social groups. It provides a range of benefits that can be useful to the self-employed starting out or already in business.
- Unlimited legal aid provided by legal experts in tax, commercial and intellectual property law to the self-employed throughout their professional life.
- receivables collection. the Mouvement helps the self-employed collect unpaid invoices. The UCM goes even further via its credit management partner.
- an extensive business network with 24,000 self-employed and SME members in all sectors. the network offers conferences, workshops and training.
- the Diane Network also provides an extensive network for women entrepreneurs.
- tax shield insurance. In the event of a disagreement following a tax audit, the insurance, which is free to members, covers the expenses incurred.
- collective defence. thanks to its many members, the UCM carries weight in social consultations (Group of Ten, economic consultative committee, etc.). the consulting department is able to defend the interests of the self-employed fairly via these bodies. the UCM lobbies different levels of government to promote the development of business activities.
- partner reductions
- themed workshops
- the UCM magazine
- employer legal protection
UNITED FREELANCERS (CSC)
Introduction: with United Freelancers, the CSC is also positioned as a union for the self-employed. Self-employment status doesn’t guarantee that the relationship with customers is always an equal one. The UF backs workers and defends their collective rights (all self-employed workers concerned) when applicable. The UF helps the self-employed strengthen their independence.
Address: Chaussée de Haecht 579, 1030 Brussels
Telephone: +32 2 244 31 00
Languages: French, English, if required
Sector: inter-professional, all business sectors (health care, construction, hospitality, education, services, etc.), and all working conditions (platform work, part-time or full-time self-employed, intern in training, etc.)
Speciality: as a worker union organisation, the UF defends workers in their disputes with ordering parties. The UF and the CSC represent self-employed workers at all levels of sector and national social dialogue.
Cost: CSC membership costs about €17/month. Workers become CSC members for self-employment and all other professional activities, regardless of their status. Membership fees are deductible as personal expenses.
- services contract review
- clarification of status
- clarification of social security rights (contribution waivers, unemployment rights, etc.)
- defence of self-employed workers vis-a-vis ordering parties
- collective defence of the self-employed
- defence in labour court
- partnerships (insurance, lawyers, accountants, etc.)
Introduction: UNIZO, (Organisation for the Self-Employed and SMEs) is a politically-independent interest group of and for self-employed entrepreneurs in Flanders and Brussels. UNIZO's services focus on three main issues: services for entrepreneurs, their defence, and networking. The concerns voiced by entrepreneurs are the basis for the defence of company interests at all government levels: municipal, regional, federal and European. UNIZO’s values are sustainability, innovation, cooperation, the customer and company spirit.
Address: Willebroekkaai 37, 1000 Brussels
Telephone: +32 478 44 41 19 - 0800/20 750 (24/7)
Speciality: support for independent entrepreneurs
Languages: NL – FR – EN
Sector: inter-professional – collaboration with all major sector organisations.
Cost of services: members receive a preferential rate for most UNIZO services. First-time members can join free for the first six months. The rate is different for the self-employed and SMEs.
Starters: free for the first six months
Self-employed: €206 year w/o VAT
Companies: €417/year w/o VAT
Services: information, advice and quality services for entrepreneurs.
Promoting entrepreneurship is one of UNIZO’s most important goals. For this purpose, it provides a wide range of projects, learning networks and services to its members.