Belgium: Reopening the Economy – Belgian Exit Strategy and Guidelines to Reopen Your Company
The Belgian government announced on Friday 24/04/2020 its exit strategy to reopen the Belgian economy and society in May and June. Below we will focus on the details of this strategy which are important for employers.
The exit strategy exists out of different phases. These phases will start on the condition that the statistics regarding COVID-19 are favourable. More specifically, the experts and the government will constantly evaluate the situation, mostly by analysing the intake of COVID-19 patients in hospitals. If this intake number is not low enough, a new phase can be postponed or existing measures can be reversed. None of the dates mentioned below are set in stone.
The different phases are:
Phase 0: before 4 May 2020 – B2B companies can open if they use telework or if they respect the social distancing measures (obligations do not count for companies in essential sectors/services). The Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020 continues to apply.
Phase 1a: as of 4 May 2020 – B2B companies can open, employers and employees need to respect safety measures. The safety measures are based on the generic guide of best practices (see below), which have resulted in sector specific guides, set up by the Joint Committees. Employers have to make sure that the sector specific measures are implemented in their companies. Telework and social distancing remain the standard.
Phase 2: as of 11 May 2020 – Most B2C stores/companies can open. The retail sector will create a guide with rules that need to be respected. Measures will have to be taken with what concerns:
- the organisation of the work
- the reception of clients
- the restriction of entrance to the stores (to prevent overcrowding)
Phase 3: as of 18 May 2020 – B2C stores of contact-professions can open (e.g. hairdressers and beauty parlours). Specific rules will follow.
Phase 4: as of 8 June 2020 – Restaurants and bars can reopen. Specific rules will follow.
Generic Guide to prevent the spread of Covid-19
The Federal government has published a Generic Guide (NL / FR) with best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in companies and at the workplace. The guide was published by the Federal Public Service of Employment, the High Council for Prevention and Protection at Work and the cabinet of the Minister of Work. Based on this guide, the joint committees of the sectors will be able to adapt the measures for the specific work performed in their sectors. Companies will have to implement these measures as much as possible. If their sector did not publish a guide, they can look at the measures included in the Generic Guide. The sectoral guides will be published on the website of FPS Employment.
The Generic Guide includes the following topics:
- Communication of the rules to employees
- Maximal application of social distancing
- Hygiene measures (hand + respiratory)
- Cleaning of the workplace, tools and social facilities (e.g. break room, cafeteria,…)
- Collective protection measures (partition walls, placing of marks, rope/ribbons to separate persons,…)
- Individual protection measures (mouth masks, gloves, protective clothing, glasses,…)
- Mouth masks are especially recommended when social distancing is not possible
- Measures for the commute from home to work
- Measures for the arrival at work
- Measures for inside the locker rooms
- Measures for at the work post / during work, including meetings
- What to do when an employee becomes ill at work
- Measures for sanitary amenities (toilets)
- Measures for during breaks
- Measures for the circulation at work
- Measures for returning to home
- Rules for external persons (visitors, clients, deliveries…)
- Measures for external employees or independent workers or multiple employers at the same location
- Measures for working on location
- Measures for off-site work
- Measures for working from home (telework)
Van Olmen & Wynant attorneys are available to assist you with these and other workplace issues. For more information, visit https://www.vow.be/.
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