The Belgian Government has approved several new socio-economic measures, which give employers and employees some flexibility to cope with the coronavirus crisis.
The measures still have to be published in the State Gazette but, in principle, they will apply from 1 April until 30 June 2020. Most of the measures only apply to essential sectors as defined by the Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020.
We will update this overview as soon as more details are known. It is recommended to wait to apply these measures until the rules are officially published.
- 220 voluntary overtime hours
From 1 April until 30 June 2020, employees in the essential sectors are allowed to perform 220 voluntary overtime hours. These hours will not be subject to social security contributions or taxes. Employers will not have to pay overtime (only the normal wage), nor grant compensatory rest.
- Hiring out of employees made easier
In essential sectors, it has been made easier for employers to hire out their employees to other employers until 30 June 2020. The conditions are that (1) there is a (simple) written agreement between employer, user and employee; (2) the employee receives at least the wage and working conditions of employees of the user company (who perform the same job); (3) the employee was employed by the original employer before 10 April 2020. This allows employers to shift their employees to where they are needed the most. For now, it is not clear whether it is also allowable to hire out employees from the non-essential sectors to an employer in an essential sector.
- Consecutive short-term employment contracts
In essential sectors, it is permissible to employ persons with consecutive short-term contracts, without running the risk that these will be qualified as an employment contract of indefinite term. These contracts will have to constitute the minimum out of 7 days. This measure is only applicable on the date on which the measure appears in the State Gazette.
- Students are allowed to work more
All hours performed by students until 30 June 2020 will be neutral to the normal maximum of 475 hours per student per year. This means that students will be able to work more hours under the beneficial student employment system (a solidarity contribution of 8,13% in total). This measure is applicable for all employers (not only the essential sectors).
- Temporarily unemployed persons can work in agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors
The government introduces a possibility for workers who are in a system of temporary unemployment to work temporarily in a flexible way, and without loss of income, in the agricultural (Joint Committee no. 144), horticultural (Joint Committee no. 145) and forestry sectors (Joint Committee no. 146) or by way of temporary agency work in these sectors. These employees will receive, for a full working day, the normal wage for the job performed and 75% of the temporary unemployment benefits.
- Time credit – Possibility to work more for own employer in essential sector
The employee of an employer in an essential sector can choose to temporarily suspend his/her time credit or career break to return to full-time work in April, May (and possibly June). The time credit automatically recovers its former status at the end of temporary employment; the period of the temporary employment is not taken into account for the calculation of the period of the time credit; and there is no entitlement to a benefit during the suspension of the time credit.
- Time credit – Possibility to work for other employer in essential sector
An employee can also choose to temporarily suspend his/her time credit or career break to work for another employer in an essential sector in April, May (and possibly June). In this case, the employee will continue to receive 75% of his time credit benefit, while he also receives the wage from the other employer. This option requires a written temporary employment agreement with the employer in the essential sector, which will automatically conclude at the end of this measure.
- Freeze of the degressivity of unemployment benefits
There is a freeze of the degressivity (structural decrease) of unemployment benefits for 3 months. Normally, the longer a person is unemployed the lower his unemployment benefit will be, in order to encourage them to find work. However, as it is very difficult to find a new job during the current lockdown, a period of 3 months will not be taken into account, which will give unemployed persons the right to enjoy the higher unemployment benefits for a longer period of time.
- Activation of asylum seekers
All employers (not only in essential sectors) will be able to employ asylum seekers, who have submitted a request for international protection at the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons before 18 March 2020. The employer has to provide accommodations for the asylum seekers.
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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