Logo L&E Global
Belgium

Belgium: New Measures for Employers to Cope with COVID-19: Working Time Reduction, Temporary Unemployment and the Consumption Check

The Government has introduced several new measures which employers can use to cope with the corona crisis. Most of these measures were introduced by the Royal Decrees n° 45 and n° 46 of 26 June 2020. Not all of them are truly new measures, but rather expansions and/or prolongations of measures which were introduced earlier. Some of these measures are restricted to companies which are recognised to be in difficulties or in restructuring (see B). Below you can find an overview.

A. For all companies:

  1. Prolongation of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19

The government has prolonged this flexible system of temporary unemployment until 31 August 2020. For some sectors which are severely hit by the crisis, it will be prolonged until 31 December 2020. The list of these sectors is not yet official as the Minister of Employment wants to investigate which sectors still make use of the system through July, in order to identify the sectors which need the flexible system the most. It is very likely that the entertainment sector and the hospitality sector will be included in this list.

For the other sectors, there will be a transition period until the end of the year. During this transition period, the employers will not be able to put their employees on the system of temporary unemployment due to force majeure because of COVID-19, but they can resort to the traditional temporary unemployment for economic reasons. However, the conditions and modalities for this system will be relaxed, e.g. the maximum period for economic unemployment will become longer.

  1. Prolongation of Corona parental leave

The system of corona parental leave is prolonged until 30 September 2020. Under this system a parent of a child of less than 12 years or of a disabled child until 21 years old, can reduce their working time by 1/5 or 1/2 (if the employer permits it). The parent will receive an allowance of the National Employment Office (125% of the normal allowance). As of 1 July 2020, single parents and parents of disabled children also can take a full-time corona parental leave with an allowance of 150% of the normal allowance for parental leave.

More information can be found here.

  1. Consumption cheque of 300 euros

An employer can grant a cheque to his employees of 300 euros which can be spent on restaurants, bars, hotels, cultural activities, or sports in Belgium before the end of the year. The cheque is exempt from social security contributions and taxes (therefore it is 100% net). These 300 euros will also be excluded from the maximum wage development. Belgian wages can only (on average per company) rise within a certain percentage per year. The general wage norm for 2020 is 1,1%.

  1. Temporary secondment of workers in vital sectors

Since 1 April 2020, it was possible to second workers during a period of their time credit / career break / temporary unemployment to an employer in a vital sector (agriculture, horticulture and forestry). This possibility has been prolonged until 31 August 2020.

B. For companies which are recognised to be in difficulties or in restructuring

  1. Collective reduction of working time

As of 1 July 2020, companies which are recognised as being in difficulties or in restructuring can introduce (temporarily) a collective reduction of working time by 1/5 or 1/2 during a maximum period of one year (as long as they continue to be recognised for enduring difficulties). The reduction of working time could take the form of a 4-day week. Such a collective working time reduction can be introduced by a collective bargaining agreement or by an amendment of the internal work rules. The loss in remuneration has to be partially compensated by the employer (and minimum wage limits have to be respected) but the employer will receive a lump sum reduction of the social security contributions.

More information can be found here.

  1. Corona time-credit

As of 1 July 2020, an employer can ask an employee to reduce his working time by 1/5 or 1/2 during a minimum of 1 month and a maximum 6 months. The initiative comes from the employer, but the employee needs to give his consent. During this corona time-credit, the employee will receive an interruption allowance, which will be the same as for a normal time-credit. The time-credit must be taken within the timeframe during which the company is recognised as being in difficulties or in restructuring.

More information can be found here.

  1. Corona end-of-career system

As of 1 July 2020, an employee over 55 years old with a professional career of longer than 25 years can initiate an end-of-career system, during which he reduces his working time by 1/5 or 1/2. The employee needs to have a seniority of at least 24 months within the company. The end-of-career system, which is a sort of time-credit system, is normally only possible as of 60 years old. The working time reduction must be taken within the timeframe during which the company is recognised as being in difficulties or in restructuring. There is no other maximum duration, but 1 month is the minimum. The allowance is similar to the normal end-of-career system.

More information can be found here.

 


Van Olmen & Wynant attorneys are available to assist you with these and other workplace issues. For more information, visit https://www.vow.be/.

For more information please contact Joseph Granato, Communications Manager at L&E Global at joseph.granato@leglobal.org.