The ‘Corona procedure’: temporary unemployment due to force majeure (update June 8, 2020)

Since the Coronavirus crisis, many companies have been struggling with temporary unemployment. The social partners reached a collective labour agreement in order to simplify access to temporary unemployment due to economic effects. The simplified procedure for temporary unemployment provides clarity for employers and employees.

Temporary unemployment due to force majeure

An employer wishing to call upon temporary unemployment because of the Coronavirus crisis can make use of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for all their staff (including temporary staff). In this ‘Corona procedure’, it does not matter whether this is the result of a mandatory, complete or only partial closure. No distinction will be drawn between blue and white-collar employees. Thanks to this new regulation, the ambiguity between the two systems of temporary unemployment – force majeure and economic effects – is eliminated.

Caring for a sick family member

Employees who are absent to care for a sick family member do not need to request family support leave. They are entitled to temporary unemployment benefit. The attending doctor will issue a specific certificate for this.

Simplified procedure for temporary unemployment

For the time being, until 30 June 2020 inclusive, the employer will not need to send any further notifications of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to the NEO’s authorised unemployment office. The temporary unemployment will be automatically accepted if the employer states ‘force majeure’ for temporary unemployment when submitting the monthly declaration of hours.

Supplement to the NEO temporary unemployment benefit

The employee will have an automatic and immediate entitlement to temporary unemployment benefit equal to 70% of their average wage. However, the ceiling on this is 2,754.76 euros per month. The NEO itself will pay a further amount of 5.63 euros per day for unemployment. This amounts to an increase of around 150 euros per month. This increase will provisionally apply until June 30, 2020. 26.75% withholding tax will be deducted from this unemployment benefit, but not from any social security contributions. This is also the case if the employer decides to grant a further supplement. The only condition imposed for this by the NSSO is that the sum of the benefit that the employee will receive and the net supplement do not together amount to more than if they were working.

Fixed sum of 1,450 euros per month

A great many employees will be calling upon the NSSO and the temporary unemployment system for the first time. In order to prevent delays arising from the calculation of the actual amount, the NSSO will provisionally pay out a fixed sum of 1,450 euros. The NSSO may then pay out a further balancing amount.

Extra-legal benefits, pension and holidays

Meal vouchers are not granted during the period of temporary unemployment. If they expire in the months of March through June 2020, their validity would be extended by 6 months from their expiry date. For sports and culture vouchers, all of which have a fixed expiry date on September 30, there is an extension until December 31, 2020.

For the entitlement to a company car, mobile phone or hospitalisation insurance, the applicable policy will be reviewed. Where nothing had been agreed, these benefits will continue to apply. The sectoral CLA will apply for the implementation of the end-of-year premium.

Additionally, the periods of temporary unemployment will be equated for the calculation of the pension. During this period, then, further pension entitlements will accrue. The same rationale will apply for the accrual of legal holiday days for the next year.

Would you like to know more about the prevention measures and labour law consequences of the coronavirus? Surf to the website of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (only in Dutch, French and German). The National Employment Office Belgium also collected a lot of useful information about temporary unemployment as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 via this link (only available in Dutch and French).

Specific questions on the labour law consequences of COVID-19 for your company? Please contact us for tailored advice using the contact page. We are doing our level best – even in this exceptional period – to answer all questions within 24 hours.

 

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