Pseudo self-employment

Fairwork Belgium: Pseudo self-employment

Pseudo self-employment is when someone is officially registered as self-employed but in fact, works for someone who tells them what to do and decides whether their work has been carried out well and who pays them for their work. First, we explain a bit more about what pseudo self-employment is and then we offer five possible solutions for employees who are stuck in pseudo self-employed status. If you would rather have this information in a single brochure, you will find this here.

The five most common problems

Here we list the five most common problems and what steps you can take. For each problem, we first describe the situation and then offer a solution.

You have received a proposal to work with someone on a self-employed basis. This person asks you to sign a contract which contains commitments you have agreed between you. You are unsure whether these commitments are appropriate as a self-employed person. If these commitments entail your partner having authority over you (and therefore being your boss), it could be worth considering if you should be their employee.


You have been working for less than a year and you still have doubts about the agreements you agreed to. Even if you have signed a contract, you can still have it checked to see if you are working under the correct statute.


You have been working for less than a year and your partner is not honouring the agreements made. You may officially be self-employed, but in practice your partner decides how, where and when you work.
Here’s what you can do:

Administrative Commission for the Regulation of Employment Relationships

The Administrative Commission for the Regulation of Employment Relationships is a part of the Federal Public Service Social Security. This commission will assess whether you are self-employed or an employee. They have the ability to check contracts drawn up beforehand, or up to one year after you began working.

Please note that the working relationship must still exist when you submit the application. You may not submit an application if you have already stopped working, even if the period of one year from the beginning of the working relationship has not yet expired.

The Administrative Commission cannot carry out an investigation into employment relationships that are already being investigated by another body. This means you may not submit an application to the Administrative Commission and lodge a complaint with another service at the same time.

What should you do?

In order to submit an application, you must complete the standard form that can be found on their website. There are several ways to submit the application form.

  • You can hand it in at the FOD Social Security reception. You will be given a receipt.

Address:FOD Sociale Zekerheid (Social Security)
Kruidtuin Administrative Centre
Finance Tower
DG Beleidsondersteuning en -coördinatie
Kruidtuinlaan 50
1000 Brussel

  • You can send the form by registered post to the Administrative Commission

Address:Administrative Commission on Employment Relations
DG Policy Support and Coordination
Kruidtuinlaan 50, bus 135
1000 Brussel

  • If one of the parties is registered with a social insurance fund, the application can also be made through that fund.

It is not necessary for both parties to sign or submit the application, you can do that individually. The Administrative Commission will notify the applicant(s) of its decision in a registered letter. They have three months in which to do this, extended by the time it takes to request additional information, if necessary. So if the Administrative Commission sends an email asking you for information and you don’t answer until two weeks later, the three-month period will be extended by two weeks. After the decision has been made known, you have one month in which to appeal at the labour tribunal.

Important:Only the applicant will be directly informed of the decision. That means that the appeal period for the other party will not start yet. This will only happen after the actual notification. It may therefore be advisable to inform the other party immediately (for example by way of registered letter), in order to reach a definitive decision as soon as possible.

What can be decided?

If the Administrative Commission rules that you should be an employee instead of self-employed, the contract must be modified within six months of this decision. If you continue to work as self-employed under the same circumstances, your employer (not you) may be penalised. The commission’s decision in not retroactive. If you have already worked for a few months under the wrong statute, this will not be reversed. Only work that takes place after this decision will be regarded as work under the new statute.

If you were already working when you should have been an employee instead of self-employed, but your employer dismisses you (because they don’t want any employees, for example), you are entitled to severance pay. When calculating how much severance pay should be paid, the entire period you worked for this employer will be considered work as an employee.

If your employer refuses to comply with this decision, you can take them to an employment tribunal to enforce your rights.
If the Aministrative Commission rules that you are not an employee and you are already working, you can still see if one of these options is helpful to you.

  • Point 2: you are self-employed (or pseudo self-employed) and you wish to terminate your self-employed status.
  • Point 4: you are pseudo self-employed and you want a ‘quick solution’.
  • Point 5: all you’re looking for is a debt solution with the social insurance fund.

You are officially registered as self-employed but you don’t wish to continue in this role. Here’s what you can do:

Terminating self-employed activity at the social insurance fund

As a self-employed person, you must join a social insurance fund no later than your first working day. If you are no longer self-employed, it is important to notify the fund as soon as possible. When you notify the social insurance fund that you are terminating your self-employed status and you prove this termination, social contributions will cease.

Any debt accrued to this point will remain outstanding, but no new debts will be added. Only if there is a recalculation of your contribution to Social Security, is it possible that an additional payment will be required.

Please note: the social security contribution is 20.5% of the annual income of a full-time self-employed person, with a minimum quarterly contribution of €717.18. The €717.18 refers to a minimum annual income of €13,998.78. If you earn more than €13,998.78 as a self-employed person, the social insurance fund will carry out a recalculation and ask you to pay the difference. If you believe that you are going to earn more than €13,998.78, you should contact your social insurance fund to carry out a recalculation. This means you will avoid receiving a hefty bill through your letterbox the following year. If you earn less than €13,998.78, you will still have to pay the €717.18. You may request an exemption from social security contributions. Find more about this in Point 5.

There are various ways you can work as self-employed and depending on which you choose, there are certain steps you must take in order to terminate your self-emloyed activities.

  • You are a working (active) partner and you have shares in a company:
    • You sell your shares (or return them) and receive a copy of the share register which shows that you have sold or returned your shares.
    • Or you request a written declaration from your manager confirming that you no longer carry out self-employed activities.
  • You are a director/manager:
    • You call a general meeting with your partners to record the termination.
    • The termination and report of the general meeting must be published afterwards in the Belgisch Staatsblad (Belgian Official Journal).
  • You are a sole proprietor and you work alone:
    • You delete your company registration number at a KBO branch (Crossroads Bank for Enterprises) near you. You will receive a certificate of deletion.
    • You request a deletion of your VAT number at the tax office.

You must take these documents to the social insurance fund to have your registration deleted. You will also have to sign a sworn statement confirming that you are no longer working as self-employed.

Problems caused by your co-partners refusing to cooperate

  • You are a working (active) partner, but your contact with the company is either not good or non-existent.

    You can send a registered letter to the company announcing your resignation. With a copy of the letter and the proof of registered post, you can prove to the social insurance fund that the company is aware of your resignation.

    The social insurance fund is, however, not obliged to accept this letter as proof of resignation.

    Request advice from the RSVA (the national organisation for social insurance for the self-employed) and follow the appropriate information in point 4.

  • You are a director/manager, but your contact with the company is either not good or non-existent.

    You can personally publish your resignation in the Belgisch Staatsblad

    via the website → appendix of legal entities → Forms:
    Form 1 –
    fill in A and B
    Form 2 –
    fill in A and C
    You then hand these documents in at the Commercial Court (rechtbank van koophander) where you will be asked to pay 148.35 euros to the Staatsblad.

A ruling by the Administrative Commission is also binding for the participating organisations and can therefore also be used by the social insurance fund as proof that a person is no longer self-employed. Read more about this in point 1.

You’ve been working for more than a year as self-employed, but in reality, your partner behaves like your boss: they say where and when you work, check your work, and you are accountable to them…

Your wages are not always paid (on time) or are simply too low, you work from early morning to late evening, without holidays. You may have had an accident at work.

You wish to change your status to that of an employee so that the arrears in your wages will be paid, and so that your employer will be responsible for social insurance contributions (and not you).

You have proof and witnesses who will attest to your working situation, or you are willing to have the inspectorate evaluate your workplace. You may have colleagues who are in the same situation and would also like to find a solution with you. You know that an investigation into pseudo self-employment can take a long time.

Here’s what you can do:

File a complaint with the inspectorate services of the government social security department (Rijksdienst voor sociale zekerheid).

Lodge your complaint with the RSZ inspectorate and they will begin an investigation to determine whether you are an employee or self-employed. In other words, they will extensively interview you to determine whether there was any question of authority in the relationship between you and your employer/client.

They will then confront your employer/client with your statements. If you are still working, the inspectorate may also evaluate where you work to gather evidence.

If you’re no longer working,> you must cancel it as soon as possible. You’ll find the necessary information in Point 2.

Not every complaint is investigated further by the RSZ inspectorate. They apply several criteria (pragmatic, not official) to decide whether to follow up a complaint.

These criteria (which do not all have to be fulfilled) are:

  • The employment period was the appropriate length;
  • This is a case for economic exploitation;
  • The employer has a history of this behaviour;
  • There are colleagues in the same situation;
  • This is a case for organised fraud;
  • The company is still in operation;
  • The people working at the company are still in the workplace.

What should you do?

Go to the RSZ inspectorate offices in the region where you work or make an appointment by phone or email.

You take all information about your employment with you. Collect as much information as you can with as many written documents as possible (such as contracts, signed papers, invoices, proof of payment, text messages…). Collect the employer’s contact information and that of any other persons responsible or colleagues. If you have difficulty expressing yourself in Dutch, French or English, take someone with you who can interpret for you.

It’s important that you produce as much information as possible about your employment and the employer during the interview.

Please note:it is not necessarily clear that you initially agreed to work as self-employed and then wish to change this status after problems have arisen. Carefully explain why you initially accepted the self-employed status and why you are now disputing this. Maybe you were unaware that you were working as a self-employed person, for example. You couldn’t find any other work and this employer would only take you on in this manner.

What are the consequences?

The RSZ inspectorate will investigate your case, which can take several months to a year to complete. After the investigation, there are three possible outcomes.

  • If a sufficiently substantiated case can be set up, the RSZ generally chooses to follow civil procedure. This means that a declaration for the regularisation of the employment situation will be made. In other words: the inspectorate will request your status be changed to that of an employee. It is then up to the RSZ to demand unpaid social insurance contributions from the employer. They will never demand contributions in arrears from an employee.
  • If the case concerns large-scale fraud, the RSZ inspectorate may also decide to initiate criminal proceedings. In this case, a Pro Justitia will be submitted to the labour prosecutor’s office and your case can then be processed in court. With the RSZ inspectorate ruling, you can also apply to the employment tribunal to demand all other rights as an employee.
  • If too few elements are found to prove the employer-employee relationship, the case will be closed.

If you wish to continue to look for a solution to the situation, it is best to ask the RSVZ for advice. You’ll find the necessary information in point 4.


If you file a complaint with the social inspectorate, get in touch with a more specialised service too, such as UNIZO, a trade union, a self-employed syndicate & SMEs. They can help you to take your case further. There are times when you need a lawyer to ensure that the correct procedures are followed so that you receive what you are entitled to.

You’ve been working for more than a year as self-employed but in reality, your partner behaves as your boss: they say where and when you have to work, check your work and you are accountable to them…

Your wages are not always paid (on time) or are simply too low, you work from early morning to late evening, without holidays. You may have had an accident at work.

You no longer wish to be self-employed and you have debts with the social insurance fund. The most important thing for you is to find a solution to this. You may already have tried, without success, to deregister at the social insurance fund.

You are choosing a ‘quick solution’ because you have too little proof of your work situation, or maybe because you don’t want to get involved in long procedures.

Here’s what you can do:

File a complaint with the RSVZ

The government body for social insurance of self-employed persons (RSVZ) is the responsible organisation for registering and de-registering your self-employed status with social insurance funds. In other words, they can decide who is self-employed and who is not, and who has to pay social security contributions and who does not. If you indicate that you wish to start work as a self-employed person and then begin work, the RSVZ is also obliged to respect this employment relationship. If the RSVZ believes there is doubt regarding the employment relationship, they can collect data and initiate an investigation. The decision to cancel your self-employed status will only be taken if there is NO activity or if the RSVZ records that the period and the activity as a salaried activity. In other words, your status will be changed to that of employee.

What should you do?

Go to the RSZ inspectorate offices in the region where you work or make an appointment by phone or email.

Take all the information about your employment with you. Collect as much information as you can with as many written documents as possible (such as contracts, signed papers, invoices, proof of payment, text messages…). Collect the employer’s contact information and that of any other persons responsible or colleagues. If you have difficulty expressing yourself in Dutch, French or English, take someone with you who can interpret for you.

You will have to prove that you genuinely want to lodge a complaint against your employer and that this is not a case of wanting to get out of paying social contributions. So the RSVZ will only consider de-registering you as a self-employed person if you commit fully to the investivation. This is to ensure that people do not abuse the procedure.

For example: if your employer signed a registration with the social insurance fund and not you, you will also have to report this to the police as forgery. This will ensure that an investigation is initiated.

What are the consequences?

The RSVZ can decide to end (but not delete) your registration as self-employed, even if the social insurance fund previously refused to do so. You will then be neither an employee nor a self-employed person, meaning that you will not accrue any new debts in social contributions. Read point 5 for a solution to existing debt.

It can occur that people are registered as self-employed, but in reality have not worked at all (nor as pseudo self-employed). If this is the case, you may request to be unregistered as self-employed for that period. You will then be considered not to have been self-employed. No social contributions need be paid for this period and previously paid contributions can be reclaimed. This does mean however that you are not entitled to social benefits for that period and that any benefits you received (such as child allowance, healthcare costs…) must be paid back. The request to be unregistered is a thorough process. You will have to defend your decision to register as self-employed if it later emerges that you were never active. This is to prevent people using this as a method to avoid paying social contributions.

Please note: this request can have consequences for your residence rights. If the RSVZ suspects that you only registered in order to obtain a residence document, they will notify Immigration Services. There is then a possibility that your residence rights will be revoked.

if it emerges that there are enough elements with which to demonstrate your employment situation and to convert your status from self-employed to an employee, the RSVZ may also decide to initiate an investigation. If there is enough evidence, they can also ask the social insurance fund (in certain circumstances) to hold off sending a bailiff until more becomes clear. This does not happen automatically however, and only where there is full cooperation and a case with clear documentary evidence. Be aware that they cannot make the final decision on whether you must pay social security contributions or not – only the RSZ and the court has the ability to decide this.

You can unregister as self-employed yourself, or you can continue to work as pseudo self-employed, but you have accrued debts with the social insurance fund or the National Fund in the past or you are unable to pay your social security contributions at present.
Here’s what you can do:

1. Request exemption from social contributions for financially disadvantaged self-employed persons from the social insurance fund/national fund.

Application forms can be found at their offices or on the website of the social insurance fund with which you are affiliated. The name of the form is ‘INFORMATION FORM A Exemption from social contributions requested by a self-employed person’. This form is 11 pages long, so it takes a while to fill in. The social insurance fund should help you with that. They are obliged to do so on the basis of the Charter of the Socially Insured.

This exemption is only granted to those who are unable to pay contributions: you must demonstrate this yourself. Family income and expenditure, any debts incurred and the composition of the family (add proof of family to the application – this is available from the municipality) will all be taken into account. The exemption can only be requested for the previous year, so it is important to submit the application quickly. It takes about six months before a decision is taken on whether or not to grant the exemption. If you do not agree with the decision, you may appeal against it at an employment tribunal.

The deadline for submitting an application for exemption is 12 months from the first day of the quarter (three months) following the quarter in question. You can therefore only request exemption for a maximum of four quarters.

The quarters are as follows:

  • 1st quarter = January, February and March
  • 2nd quarter = April, May and June
  • 3rd quarter = July, August and September
  • 4th quarter = October, November and December.

If, for example, you make an application on 5 April 2020, you will be able to request exemption for, at most, the previous 4 quarters : the 1st quarter in 2020 and the 4th, 3rd and 2nd quarters in 2019.

Please note: the period in which you were exempt from paying contributions will not be included when calculating your pension. (You reserve the right to pay the exempted contributions later in order to retain your pension rights, as long as they have not expired). If you are granted an exemption, the company may be approached to pay those contributions. After all, every one of the partners is jointly responsible.

Exemption from surcharge

You can only submit your application for exemption from surcharge after you have paid all contributions and costs. There are two situations in which you can submit an application without having already paid all the contributions and costs.

  • If you have been given a payment plan. You will then pay only the contributions and costs. After your last payment, the RSVZ will make a decision regarding surcharges.
  • If you have been issued with an injunction or a summons.
  • Important: you can only receive a remission for the surcharge from the RSVZ for the summons or the injunction. You will still have to pay the interest charged after that.

2. Setting up a payment plan

If it is no longer possible to request a remission (of debts or interest), you can still agree a payment plan with the social insurance fund.

3. You filed a complaint with TSW, RSZ or the RSVZ and your status was changed from self-employed to employee.

Find an explanation of this procedure here and here. If your status is changed, you will be exempt from paying social security contributions. Since you are regarded as an employee, you should never have had to pay them. You may be able to claim back social security contributions already paid. You will have to be able to prove that you paid them. The money will always be paid back into the account from which the contributions were paid.

If all previous investigations indicate that you are an employee, and not a self-employed person, the RSZ may still decide not to convert your status. They will only adjust your status if they are able to claim back the social contributions owed from the employer. If the employer has gone bankrupt in the meantime or has disappeared, your status will not be converted and you will therefore have to pay contributions. The only thing you can do at this point is take your case to court and ask to have your status changed.

If you wish to change your status, you should also attempt to request an exemption from contributions as discussed above. Be aware that by requesting this, you are admitting that you have worked as a self-employed person. The two procedures contradict each other. However, we advise you to follow both procedures. If you request the exemption, add a letter explaining that you are also following the procedure to have your status changed but that given the statute of limitations, you are also requesting an exemption. If the procedure to convert your status is unsuccessful, there is a significant chance that you will be unable to obtain an exemption because the deadline for application has expired.