What Is a Cafeteria Plan?

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The cafeteria plan is a fairly recent invention and concerns a company’s remuneration policy. The plan allows workers to select their own wage package, putting together their own pay ‘menu’, hence the name ‘cafeteria’.

Employees can make their choice based on what they need. For instance, one employee might prefer to receive money or extra holiday as compensation, while another might attach more importance to retirement savings. The system relieves social and fiscal pressures. Employers must consider individual expectations while adhering to a uniform remuneration policy adapted to the company.

Here are some important things to know about the cafeteria plan.

Current situation in Belgium

As yet, there is no legal framework for the cafeteria plan in Belgium, so the system is legally blocked. Companies must navigate through the existing regulations in order to implement flexible remuneration. To introduce the cafeteria plan legally, the related terminology must be clarified and a legal framework put in place. However, the system is not as popular as anticipated.


The employer may find that a cafeteria plan offers more interesting benefits than they first thought. Gym membership, childcare, a home service... there are many and varied advantages that can fit into your cafeteria plan perfectly, although not all are legally accepted.

Overview of risk coverage

  •         Risk coverage (pension, death, disability, hospitalisation, etc.);
  •         Level of guarantees;
  •         Investment schemes.

When implementing a cafeteria plan, particular attention must be paid to the accessibility of the guarantees offered to each worker. Each worker must have the same options within the same category.

Who is the plan aimed at?

According to a study by Securex, 17% of Belgian workers can already benefit from a cafeteria plan, while 71% of all workers state that they would like to exchange part of their salary for other benefits.

Cafeteria plans are traditionally implemented in large companies. Take banks as an example. Some forms of cafeteria plan have existed since the 1970s, and many large companies have been offering flexible remuneration for a while already. However, SMEs can also opt for a cafeteria plan: the only condition is to have a basic wage policy.

What about your employer?


In practice, any employer can implement a cafeteria plan. However, while this solution may seem perfect, it has had little success in Belgium. Employers are reluctant to use it due to the increased amount of administration it entails. Also, to continue the meal metaphor, serving the same meal to everyone is simpler for the chef, even if it does not necessarily please everyone equally.

Fortunately, improvements have been recently made to remuneration schemes and these might encourage employers to make use of this beneficial payment plan. New software has come onto the market to facilitate the implementation of the cafeteria plan on a company level. Also, tasks related to the management of more complex plans can be outsourced to specialised agents.  


The cafeteria plan offers the employer a wage package at the standard market rate and at no additional cost. Your employees will appreciate the fact that their needs are being considered, and this will help to retain them and increase their productivity. You can also attract new talent and optimise your salary cost.

The employee, then, receives a salary package tailored to their needs and which can potentially evolve over time and, above all, the freedom to choose what suits them best.



Alban Gaffori

Written by Alban Gaffori

Alban is a notorious multi-tasker and a pioneer in using digital technologies to reinvent today’s recruitment. Big believer in Smart Recruiting® as a tool to match top talent with the right employers. Privately a fan of mountain biking and hiking, he loves to travel to the four corners of the world.