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Federal aid measures: expanded and extended

15 February 2021 Nele Mertens Employers

On Friday 12 February, the federal government decided on the support measures for employers and employees. In this blog, we provide you with an overview of the extended and new support measures that are interesting for the employer. Keep in mind that these extended and new measures have not yet been officially published.

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Extension of existing measures

Temporary unemployment

The relaxed regulation of temporary unemployment due to force majeure that can be applied by all employers will be extended until 30 June.

In addition, an additional relaxation is provided for the service voucher companies and school transport sectors. Temporary unemployment in half-days will also be possible for employees carrying out these activities, from a date to be determined. This is an exception to the general rule that you cannot combine temporary unemployment with benefits or holidays, and therefore have to apply this for full working days. Exactly which employees are covered by 'school transport' is not yet clear.

For your employee, the possibility to include temporary unemployment when the school or nursery has to close, or when his child has to be quarantined is also extended until 30 June.

Your employees will be left with more of their benefit as the reduced rate of 15 percent withholding tax will also be retained until 30 June.

Employees who are  sick, receive an increased benefit until 30 June, so that the level of sickness benefits and temporary unemployment is similar.

 Artists also have the relaxed opportunity to access unemployment, extended to 30 June.

Voluntary overtime

For the first two quarters of 2021, i.e. until 30 June, employees in the healthcare sector, the crucial sectors and essential services can perform up to 220 voluntary overtime hours. As soon as more is known about the concrete implementation of this measure, it will be communicated.

Working (while retaining benefits) in another sector

It will still be possible for employees to work for a while for an employer in the healthcare sector or in education. Either through a secondment by your own employer or through the conclusion of consecutive fixed-term contracts of at least 7 days for those who are temporarily unemployed at their own employer. In the latter case, there is a right to pay for the benefits and the employee retains 75 percent of his benefit for the days of temporary unemployment.

Those who have been temporarily unemployed with their own employer, can also work in agriculture and horticulture while retaining 75 percent of their benefit. Anyone who receives a living wage from the OCMW will also be able to work as a seasonal worker in agriculture and horticulture. The amount under which a cumulation between living wage and income from work is possible, will therefore remain increased until 30 June.

Student labour

It was previously decided that the hours worked by students in the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 would not count towards the quota of 475 beneficial hours. This will be the case for the whole of 2021. However, the possibility to work as a student without limited benefit applies only to employers from the healthcare sector and education.

For students who receive a scholarship, the wage limit is raised under which a cumulation with wages is possible.

Volunteers

Normally, only non-profit organisations can engage volunteers. The exception to this, which also allows commercial hospitals to call on volunteers, is once again extended.

The same applies to the COVID-19 compensation fund, which provides for intervention for persons who contract the disease as a result of a voluntary activity.

Pension

Finally, the possibility to benefit from a temporary unemployment benefit, while you already receive a pension, is also extended. 

The accrual of pension rights in the second pillar remains possible for temporarily unemployed workers.

New measures

Withholding tax

The advances on withholding tax that you normally have to pay in December 2021, will be abolished and settled in January 2022.

Events and culture sector

Since March 2020, organisations from these sectors have had to keep their doors closed. In order to guarantee them the necessary funds to enable a restart, there is a reduction in employer's social security contributions. More details about this new measure are not yet known. As soon as more is known, the NSSO will communicate about this through its administrative instructions.

Support for temporary unemployed people

People who are temporarily unemployed will receive more offers to receive training during the period of temporary unemployment. The data of the temporarily unemployed will be provided to the regional employment services – VDAB, Actiris, Forem, ADG – upon which they will make an offer, tailored to the profile of the person concerned.

In sectors still closed on 1 March 2021, temporary unemployed people will receive an additional premium of up to EUR 780 gross. It concerns all those who receive a wage below a certain limit and have been temporarily unemployed for more than 52 days since the start of the pandemic. The premium will be calculated on the basis of the number of days of temporary unemployment in January, February and March.  

Port workers and sea fishermen will still be entitled to the once-off premium granted by the RVA to long-term temporary unemployed people in December 2020.

Teleworking

Currently, as an employer, you can award up to 129.48 euros per month to all those who work from home, free of social security contributions and taxes. That maximum amount will be increased for three months (April – June 2021) to 144.31 euros.

Using time credit flexibly

There will be relaxed rules to stop a current time credit to get back to work. At the end of the worked period, the time credit can then be resumed.

Do you have any questions about these measures?

Our experts are ready to inform, advise and support you.

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Nele Mertens

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Juridisch adviseur

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