06/08/2021

The corona premium

As you are aware, the Belgian government has taken several measures to support the sectors severely affected by the corona crisis. It has been a year since we informed you about the government's decision to introduce consumption vouchers. Employers could grant those consumption vouchers to their employees. These vouchers had to be used in sectors that were hit hard by the crisis.

The government has introduced a new support measure through the Royal Decree of July 21, 2021, namely the corona premium. In this newsletter, we explain the terms and conditions of this premium.

 

What is a corona premium ?

It does not concern a premium paid in cash. The corona premium takes the form of a consumption voucher.

 

Who will be able to grant the corona premium?

Only companies that have achieved good results during the crisis will be able to grant this premium to their employees. The notion of « companies that have achieved good results during the crisis » is not defined in the Royal Decree. Consequently, it will be up to the social partners to define this notion.

If the sector does not require the employer to grant the premium, it is up to the employer to decide whether he wants to grant the premium to his staff.

Additionally, sectors are currently negotiating about the wage norm for the years 2021-2022. It is therefore possible that some sectors decide that a different benefit should be granted because of the final sectoral wage agreements.

Therefore, as a precaution, we advise you to wait for the sectoral agreements first. We expect these agreements in the autumn.

 

How to grant the corona premium?

The granting of the corona premium must be included in a collective labour agreement at sector or company level or, for the companies without trade union delegation, in an individual agreement with the employees.

The corona premium in the form of a consumption voucher can be issued by one of the accredited providers that already issue other types of vouchers, such as meal vouchers (mandatory in the case of electronic vouchers).

 

Where can the premium be used?

It is intended for the corona premium to be used in more places than the consumption voucher that was introduced last year. Its use is therefore not limited to the hospitality sector, cultural sector, sport sector and small businesses. In fact, the corona premium can also be used in wellness centres, driving schools, swimming pools, fitness centres and so on.

A full list of participating traders is available for consultation with the accredited provider who issues the vouchers.

 

From when can the premium be granted and what is its amount?

The corona premium can be granted only once, from 1 August 2021 until 31 December 2021.

The total amount of the corona premium granted by the employer may not exceed 500 EUR per employee.

 

What is the social and fiscal treatment of the corona premium?

In order to increase the net benefit for the employee and to limit the wage cost for the employer at the same time, the premium is exempt from personal income tax and fully deductible for the employer.

However, the corona premium is subject to a special employer's contribution of 16.5% (no employees' contribution) for the purpose of contributing to the financing of social security. In order not to be subject to regular social security contributions, the corona premium must meet the following conditions:

  • As mentioned above, the granting of the premium must be provided for in a CLA concluded at sectoral or company level or in an individual agreement if there is no trade union delegation;
  • The CLA or individual agreement must mention the maximum nominal value of the voucher with a maximum amount of 10 EUR per voucher and with a maximum 500 EUR in total per employee;
  • The voucher must be issued in the employee's name. This condition is deemed to be fulfilled if the granting and the total amount of the vouchers is mentioned on the individual account;
  • The paper voucher clearly states that it is valid until 31 December 2022. The paper consumption voucher indicates also the date on which it was issued. In addition, the paper consumption voucher states that it can only be used in certain places (see above); 
  • The vouchers cannot be exchanged in part or in full for cash.

When the corona premium is granted in the form of an electronic voucher, the following conditions must also be met in order to be exempt from social security contributions:

  • The number of electronic vouchers and their gross amount must be mentioned on the payslip ;
  • Before using the electronic vouchers, the employee can easily check the balance and the validity period of the consumption vouchers;
  • The choice for electronic vouchers must be laid down in a CLA concluded at sectoral or company level or in an individual agreement if there is no trade union delegation;
  • The electronic consumption vouchers can only be issued by an accredited provider.
  • The use of electronic consumption vouchers shall not entail any cost for the employee except in the event of theft or loss under the conditions to be laid down by a CLA concluded at sector or company level, or in the working regulations when the choice for the electronic consumption vouchers is regulated by an individual written agreement. In any case, the cost of the replacement support in case of theft or loss may not exceed the nominal value of a meal voucher if both electronic meal vouchers and electronic consumption vouchers are granted in the company. However, if the company only grants consumption vouchers, the cost of the replacement support may not exceed 5 EUR.
If you wish to grant your employees a corona premium in the form of consumption vouchers, you must therefore ensure that all the conditions are met, so that the voucher can be granted free from social security contributions and taxes. As a precaution, we advise you to wait for the sectoral agreements before introducing the corona premium.


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