09/11/2020

COVID-19: temporary unemployment for employees in Belgium

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Belgian government has taken different measures over the past months.

From 13.03.2020 until 31.08.2020, a very simple form of temporary unemployment due to force majeure “corona” (hereinafter: “corona unemployment) was introduced. On 1 September, access to this regime was limited to severely impacted companies and sectors as the corona numbers and therefore the economy improved. Other employers had to use economic unemployment during that period.

When the government announced the second lockdown, it was decided to re-introduce corona unemployment as a general support measure for all companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis. There will be no longer a distinction between “severely impacted company”, “severely impacted sector” and other companies.

Corona unemployment is applicable again as from 01.10.2020 until 31.03.2021.

In this newsletter, we summarize once more the conditions and procedure of corona unemployment.

Complete or partial unemployment

If your company is facing the direct impact of the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. less work, closed store, etc…) you can make use of corona unemployment. If your employee has to go in quarantine (but is not ill), the school/day-care of the child of your employee closes (“quarantine leave”) or your employee has to stay home and take care of his child who is quarantined, corona unemployment can also be applied for.

Reminder: it is possible to suspend the employment contract either fully (the employee does no longer work) or partially (the employee works one or more days per week). In case the employee is partially unemployed, the employer determines how many days the employees can continue to work. The employees do not need to approve but obviously, they need to be informed upfront.

Procedure

If you wish to apply corona unemployment as an employer, you should take the following steps:

  • Inform your employees in writing prior to the start of corona unemployment about (see our newsletter of 16.07.2020):
    • the period of corona unemployment;
    • the number of days during which the employee will be temporarily unemployed and in the event of partial corona unemployment, the number of days the employee is expected to work.
  • Inform your Payroll Business Partner which days your employees will work and which days they are unemployed.

Pro-Pay takes care of the required electronic registration of these unemployment days, which allows the Unemployment Office (RVA/ONEM) to determine the unemployment allowance for the employee.

Unemployment allowance

The employee who is temporarily unemployed needs to contact his labour union (in case he/she is a member) or the “Auxiliary office for unemployment allowances” in order to open a file and be able to receive unemployment benefits. Employees who already received allowances in the framework of corona unemployment earlier this year, do not have to open a new file.

The unemployment allowance amounts to 70% of the gross monthly salary. The monthly salary being limited however to 2.754,76 EUR. On top of that, the unemployment office pays 5,63 EUR per day of unemployment. In some sectors of industry there is an additional obligation to pay a supplement on top of this unemployment allowance.

The employees who are partially unemployed continue to receive their salary for the days they work.

Holidays 2020

As indicated in our newsletter of 15.09.2020, employees must have taken their 2020 holidays by 31.12.2020 at the latest (subject to the possibility of a small number of holidays that can be carried over to next year within certain limits).

The application of temporary unemployment does not change this: you still have to ensure that employees take all their holidays this year. The Unemployment Office will not grant temporary unemployment allowances for the statutory holidays that have not been taken by the end of December. To date, there has been no legislative initiative that would allow the transfer of legal holidays to next year.



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