Belgian labor law for sex workers: what and how?

On 3 May 2024 at 0.29 a.m., the Belgian parliament approved the labor law for sex workers under contract. There were 93 votes in favor, 33 abstentions and zero votes against. This victory marks the end of two years of intense lobbying, which we have carried out hand in hand with our partners Violett and Espace P.

Self-employed sex work was already possible in Belgium. Thanks to this law, sex workers will also be able to work under an employment contract, thus gaining access to social security: pension, unemployment, health insurance, family benefits, annual vacation, maternity leave,... At the same time, the law ensures that sex workers in the workplace are protected against job-related risks and conditions are imposed on employers.

Historic step

This law is a historic step in the battle for sex workers' rights. Countries that recognized sex work before Belgium (Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand) never worked out a specific legal framework for labor. However, this is necessary for a good balance and a respectful, fair relationship between sex worker and employer. This is exactly what this law does.

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What does the new law say?

Sex workers gain additional worker’s rights and the employer must meet certain obligations. Please note that this labor law applies only to those who sign an employment contract for sex work, and not to self-employed people who work as a freelancer in a house or on a self-employed basis as an escort. It also only covers physical sexual contact. Porn, striptease and webcam are therefore not covered by this law.

It will be impossible to engage in sex work under contract as a student. Nor will it be possible to engage in sex work under an interim contract or as a flexi-jobber.

Any legal form of business will be possible as an employer except a one-person business. One-person busines- ses are possible in sex work, but will not be allowed to hire staff.

What additional protections will a sex worker have? 

  1.  Sex workers have five freedoms:

  • Every sex worker has the right to refuse a client.
  • Every sex worker has the right to refuse a sexual act.
  • Every sex worker has the right to interrupt a sexual act at any time.
  • Any sex worker has the right to perform a sexual act in the manner they wish.
  • If there are dangers to the sex worker's safety, the sex worker may refuse to sit behind a window or advertise.

If a sex worker invokes any of these rights, the sex worker is protected from dismissal or other adverse action by the employer. If a sex worker exercises the right to refuse more than ten times in a six-month period, the sex worker or the employer may seek the intervention of a governmental mediation service. That service will assess if there is anything wrong with the working conditions, if there is a problem in the employer-employee relationship. The service can also offer professional reorientation possibilities.

2. Sex workers may decide to end their contract at any time, without compensation or without the sex worker being required to perform a notice period.

3. When sex workers voluntarily end their contracts, they do not lose their right to unemployment.


What obligations for employers?

The employer must apply for recognition and is eligible if:

  1. They have a registered office or branch office in Belgium.

  2. They have not previously been convicted of:

  • Voyeurism.
  • Non-consensual distribution of sexually oriented images and recordings (revenge porn).
  • Defilement sexual integrity (sexual assault) and rape.
  • Prostitution of minors.
  • Murder, assault, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • Abuse of prostitution and human trafficking.
  • Kidnapping and theft.
  • Extortion and fraud.

These are the most important crimes. Click here for a complete list. Managers or supervisory staff employed by the employer may also not have been convicted of crimes on this list.

After recognition:

  1. During sexual services, a reference person (internal or external) is always available to ensure that the sex work is organized in a safe way.

  2. Each room where sexual services take place is equipped with an alarm button. If services take place outside the establishment, the employer provides the sex worker with a mobile alarm button. The alarm button immediately connects to the reference person.

  3. Unions, sex worker support organizations and the professional organization of sex workers have access to the workplace at all times. Sex workers are not obliged to respond to the organizations' offer.

President of the Parliament Éliane Tillieux at the moment of the vote.
President of the Parliament Éliane Tillieux at the moment of the vote.

What remains to be decided?

This law is the basis that applies to the entire sex sector. Within the law, there are three things that still need to be decided. This will be done through a Royal Decree. We are expecting three Royal Decrees:

  • A Royal Decree on the practicalities of the recognition procedure.
  • A Royal Decree on the minimum dimensions of rooms, the maximum number of sex workers per room and the minimum hygiene in the workplace.
  • A Royal Decree on the mediation service that will intervene when a sex worker frequently exercises the right to refuse a client, sexual act,....

What about anonymity?

Many sex workers fear a loss of their anonymity or fear losing their chances for another future job if their contract mentions sex work. As plans stand, sex workers' anonymity will be guaranteed. Sex workers will be able to work under hotel-restaurant-cafe (horeca) contracts that do not mention sex work.

The future risks

This law is a huge step forward, ending legal discrimination against sex workers by allowing a full-fledged contract. But there are risks involved.

The new rules are aimed at giving sex workers full social protection and eliminating rogue employers or exploiters. But the clarity of the new regulations can also be instrumentalized to reduce or eliminate sex work. We already see certain municipalities hiding behind the words “safety” and “hygiene” to promulgate very strict local regulations that make sex work almost impossible on their territory.

Also: how will sex workers without work status or without legal residence be dealt with in the future? This is not clear at this time, because it has not yet been decided how the new law will be applied. UTSOPI is already in dialogue with experts, the social inspection and city councils to weigh in on the new policy.

We need to make sure that the new laws benefit all sex workers and do not turn into a chase of the most vulnerable. This is our task for the near future. To be able to do this, we need to become an even stronger organization. We need the support and help of more members, more sex workers and more allies to meet that challenge.

Are you a sex worker, client or employer and you still have questions? If so, let us know at

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