What should an employment contract include?

Last modified:

Wednesday 22 January 2020

An employment contract, a contract between you and an employee, is not just a piece of paper. The document clearly states the rights and obligations of each party. So, drawing up such a contract should not be done lightly.

The 4 essential elements of an employment contract

1. An agreement

Both you and your employee must agree to the contract. Signing the contract has the effect of imposing certain obligations on you. The employee works for you; you pay wages.

2. Work

The purpose of an employment contract is to lay down the rules for a particular function. In it the employee declares that he or she will be carrying out the work carefully and accurately. As an employer, the onus is then on you to provide work.

3. The remuneration

You clearly state the employee’s remuneration in the employment contract. This can be a specific amount (calculated wages); alternatively, you can opt for a piecework pay, hourly wage, commission, etc. (calculable wages). You also declare that you will pay the agreed remuneration.

4. The employer’s authority

Your employee works under your authority. This means that you are the supervisor and that you supervise the execution of the work. You don’t have to be doing that constantly. Having the legal possibility to exercise the authority at any time is sufficient.

In addition to the above essential elements, the employment contract contains some additional information. These would include the contact details for you and your employee, the payment method and the function’s start date.

Need to amend a contract?

Neither you nor your employee may change the essential elements unilaterally. You will need your employee’s consent in order to change one of the above components.

What are the types of contract?

There are different types of employment contracts. The contract can be determined by, for example, the nature of the work (e.g. blue-collar workers, white-collar workers and sales representatives) and the employment conditions (full-time or part-time). The duration of the employment contract may also differ. In this respect, there are four possibilities:

  • an open-ended employment contract
  • a fixed-term employment contract
  • an employment contract for a clearly defined project
  • the contract for a worker substitution

More info can be found on the different employment contracts on the website of the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (in French or Dutch only)

What are the formal requirements?

Some employment contracts must be drawn up in writing, and be individualised to each employee. This applies to:

  • part-time work
  • a fixed-term contract
  • clearly defined work
  • the contract for a worker substitution

If there is a collective labour agreement, it can replace the employment contract. Even though an open-ended contract may be concluded either orally or in writing, it is advisable to also put such contracts down on paper.

A contract should be drawn upon the employment commencement date at the latest and supplied in Dutch for Dutch-speaking workers and in French for French-speaking workers.


An employment contract not only contains your rights and obligations, but also that of your employee. The contract that you draw up should at the very least include the consent given by both employer and employee, the remuneration, the description of the work and your authority as the employer. Although you are not always obliged to put the contract terms on paper, a written agreement provides clarity.

Not too sure where to start? Your social secretariat will probably have a number of standard contracts that you can consult online or request by telephone.

Let's stay in touch

Join more than 25,000 subscribers and receive every fortnight in your mailbox our free newsletter (only in French or Dutch), packed with the latest news, fascinating testimonials, actionable advice and an overview of useful workshops and networking activities for entrepreneurs in Brussels !