At the end of August and September, most of the corona measures taken by the Wilmès government to help companies and workers through the (so far) most difficult period of the corona crisis, came to an end. In the meantime, the social partners in the National Labour Council have concluded an agreement calling for the extension of some of the measures.
The most important measure, of course, is the general application of the corona force majeure system of temporary unemployment, which allowed employers to very easily put their employees on temporary unemployment. As previously announced, since 31 August 2020, this system is now only accessible until 31 December 2020, to companies that can prove that they have lost 20% of their turnover, or companies that are part of sectors that appear on a list of sectors that have been hard hit by the crisis. This list was published in the Belgian Official Gazette with the Royal Decree of 10 September 2020. These sectors include, amongst others, the aviation sector, the events sector and the hotel and catering industry. The other companies can make use of temporary unemployment for economic reasons, for which some temporary adjustments have been made, until 31 December 2020.
In addition, several other measures have either ceased to apply or will soon cease to apply (unless further action is taken):
– 30 June 2020: possibility for 220 overtime hours in essential sectors
– 30 June 2020: use of short successive fixed-term employment contracts without an employment contract of indefinite duration
– 30 June 2020: no maximum number of hours for student work (under favourable parafiscal status)
– 30 June 2020: freeze on degressivity of unemployment benefits
– 30 June 2020: possibility of employing asylum seekers
– 30 June 2020: temporary unemployment from 1 February to 30 June 2020 will be assimilated to days worked to build up annual leave
– 31 August 2020: the possibility of temporarily employing unemployed people (and SWT and time credit workers) in vital sectors (agriculture, horticulture and forestry).
– 30 September 2020: corona parental leave
– 31 December 2020: issue of consumption vouchers (of max. 300 euro)
The following measures will continue to apply to holdings recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring:
– 31 December 2020: introduction of a four-day week. This can be for a maximum of 1 year as long as the firm remains recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring and must start no later than 31 December 2020. The scheme can therefore last until 31 December 2021 at the latest.
– 31 December 2020: corona time credit. This can be for a maximum of 6 months as long as the company remains recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring and must start no later than 31 December 2020. The time credit can therefore last until 30 June 2021 at the latest.
– 31 December 2020: corona career reduction. This can be for a maximum of 6 months as long as the company remains recognised as being in difficulty or undergoing restructuring and it must start no later than 31 December 2020. The career reduction can therefore last until 30 June 2021 at the latest.
In the meantime, the social partners agreed in the National Labour Council (without, for the time being, casting their agreement in an official document) to retroactively extend collective bargaining agreement no. 147/147bis from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2021. If employers want to put their white-collar workers into temporary unemployment, they must provide a collective bargaining agreement or business plan for this purpose. CBA no. 147/157bis can be used to replace such a company collective bargaining agreement.
In addition, the social partners ask the government to extend the assimilation of temporary unemployment due to force majeure with days worked for the calculation of the annual leave, for as long as the system of force majeure is in force because of corona, on the condition that there is compensation for the employers. The social partners also want an extension of the freeze on the degressivity of unemployment benefits until 31 December 2020. Finally, through an adaptation to collective bargaining agreement No. 103, provision will be made for the neutralisation of corona parental leave, corona time credit and corona career reduction in order to easily re-join the ordinary time credit and end-of-career systems. The social partners have submitted their agreement to the government. In any case, Employment Minister Nathalie Muylle has already said in the Chamber of Representatives, that corona parental leave can no longer be extended.
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