This lexicon explains certain concepts from the toolkit and further clarifies the difference (or lack thereof) between certain concepts.


Breastfeeding leave – lactation leave – prophylactic leave

An employee who is breastfeeding her child can go on breastfeeding leave. Breastfeeding leave follows straight on from pregnancy leave and is a period in which the employee is not working, so she can breastfeed her baby. There are two kinds of breastfeeding leave.

Breastfeeding mothers who are exposed to occupational risks are eligible for paid breastfeeding leave as part of maternity protection. Prophylactic breastfeeding leave or lactation leave is possible for up to 5 months after the birth. For prophylactic leave, the employee does not receive any wages from you, as the employer, but instead receives a replacement income from the health insurance fund.

Has no occupational risk been established by the occupational doctor, but the mother still wants to take breastfeeding leave? Then the decision is down to you as the employer. This would not then be the employee's right, but rather a favour you are doing her. See checklist 4 for this, where the various options are summarised.

Breastfeeding leave should not be confused with breastfeeding breaks. Every employee is entitled to breastfeeding breaks when she returns from pregnancy leave. She may take these for up to 9 months after the birth. If she works at least 7.5 hours per day, she is entitled to 2 breastfeeding breaks of half an hour each.


Circumstantial leave or ‘short leave’

An employee may take leave for certain reasons (family events, meeting civil duties or appearing in court). This is known as circumstantial leave or ‘short leave’. The precise events for which leave can be taken are laid down in law and must be respected. You can find a list of these on the FPS ELSD's website.

As the employer, you pay the employee's wages for that day, or short period.


Informal care

An informal carer is someone who:

  • Provides care for someone who needs support due to an illness, disability or advanced age
  • Has an affective relationship with the person being cared for. This means informal carers do not have to be relatives. For example, someone might care for a neighbour, partner, child, parent, friend and so on.
  • Provides help and care to the person requesting it on a frequent basis.

Informal care is not a profession; it is not organised by a company and is also not voluntary work. Informal care is generally something that happens to people. The informal carer often does not know when or where the care will end either. It is difficult to predict. This means it is not always easy to combine informal care with work, and flexibility from you as the employer can be a welcome support.


Leave for urgent reasons, family leave or social leave.

This concerns the same ‘collection’ of leave days – the concepts are synonymous with one another.

An employee may take leave for urgent reasons. These urgent reasons are defined as:

“An unforeseeable event, unrelated to work, that demands his/her urgent and necessary intervention.”


  • illness, accident or hospitalisation or a person living with the employee;
  • damage to the employee's home from fire or a natural disaster;
  • a summons to appear in person in court, where the employee is a party to the dispute;
  • any other event that the employee and employer mutually agree to consider an urgent reason.

The leave for urgent reasons may not amount to more than 10 working days per year. The employee will not be paid for this day.


Paternity leave – co-maternity leave – birth leave

Paternity leave, co-maternity leave and birth leave are synonymous. Fathers and co-parents are entitled to this leave just after the birth of their child. Birth leave is a broader term than paternity leave, given that co-parents are also entitled to this leave. Legally, the following people are eligible for birth leave:

  • Either the father
  • Or the co-parent (such as the married or cohabiting (legally, or in a permanent and affective manner for three years) partner of the mother)

Birth leave runs for 15 days. Your employee can take these days at once or spread them out for the 4 months after the birth.


Pregnancy leave – maternity rest – postnatal leave

Pregnancy leave, maternity rest and postnatal leave are synonyms – all three refer to the same thing.

Maternity leave is the leave to which an employee is entitled in the period before and after she gives birth. As a general rule, it lasts for fifteen weeks and is divided up into ‘prenatal leave’ and ‘postnatal leave’.

Prenatal leave, also known as pregnancy leave, is the leave the expecting mother takes prior to the birth and lasts for a minimum of one week and a maximum of six. The period of rest beginning from the day of the birth, the postnatal rest or postnatal leave, lasts for a minimum of nine weeks and a maximum of 14.

If your employee is expecting a multiple birth, then prenatal leave can last for a maximum of eight weeks and postnatal leave for a minimum of nine and a maximum of 16 weeks.


Risk analysis

As an employer, you must guarantee the health, safety and welfare of your employees. You can use a dynamic risk management system to do so.

One of the core elements of this system is the risk analysis and the preventative measures arising from it. The risk analysis involves you as the employer being systematically and permanently alert to dangers and risk factors. You analyse practical working processes and situations with the aim of identifying risks and setting out preventative measures. These are developed into a universal prevention plan.

Your internal and external service for prevention and protection at work can support you with advice on this risk analysis.

A risk analysis is required in the context of pregnancy, among other things. It is important that the analysis contains specific measures for pregnant employees, such as a summary of the dangerous working conditions to which they may be exposed (these include chemical substances, lifting heavy objects and so on) and how to handle these.


Thematic leave

In order to better align work and private life or to care for a sick or terminally ill family member, your employees are entitled to thematic leave. There are three different kinds of thematic leave:

  • Parental leave
  • Palliative leave
  • Medical support leave

Checklists 7 and 8 deal with these three systems of leave.