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New and extended support measures

13 April 2021 Annelies Bries Employers

On 13 April, a law was published in the Belgian official gazette introducing a number of temporary support measures for employers and employees. Some measures were announced in February already, but there are also a number of new support measures. We give you an overview below.

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Extension of existing measures until 30 June 2021

Temporary unemployment

The possibility for workers to take up temporary unemployment when the school, nursery or care centre for persons with disabilities has to close, or when a child has to be quarantined, is extended until 30 June 2021.

Successive fixed-term employment contracts

Employers in the care sector*, education and institutions responsible for contact detection may conclude successive fixed-term employment contracts with workers who are temporarily unemployed.

Voluntary overtime

For the first two quarters of 2021, i.e. until 30 June, workers in the key sectors and essential services can perform up to 220 voluntary overtime hours.

Outsourcing of workers

The possibility to make employees available to users from the healthcare sector* and education, or to users from institutions in charge of contact detection to limit the spread of COVID-19, remains possible until 30 June 2021.

Working during time credit

Employees, who are on time credit or thematic leave with their current employer, can work for an employer in the healthcare sectors*, education or institutions in charge of contact detection. For this purpose, a written employment contract must be concluded with the employer where the worker will work temporarily. The benefit amount that the employee receives from RVA is reduced by a quarter for the duration of the employment contract. This possibility already existed, but is now extended until 30 June 2021.

Student labour

Students can work unlimited in the healthcare sectors* and education. In concrete terms, this means that the hours reported for them in the Dimona declaration will not be deducted from the quota of 475 benefit hours per calendar year. For the time being, this assistance is valid until 30 June, and a further extension is still uncertain.

In principle, no withholding tax is payable on the remunerations for these uncharged student work hours, but the rules for calculating withholding tax still need to be formally adjusted for this purpose. These remunerations will not be taken into account when calculating the student's subsistence means, in order to check whether he can still be supported by his parents.

Working in another sector (while retaining benefits)

Temporary unemployed employees, and employees in an unemployment system with a company allowance, can temporarily resume work with employers in the healthcare sector* and education until 30 June 2021, as well as employers in charge of contact tracing.

These employees can also resume work in the crucial sectors until that date. You can read more about it here.

 
Pension

Pensioners who engage in a professional activity in crucial sectors or essential services may earn unlimited additional income on top of their pension until 30 June 2021.

Pensioners over the age of 65 may combine the pension with a temporary unemployment benefit until 30 June 2021. Temporary unemployment may also be combined with pension until that date for pensioners under the age of 65. For those entitled to a survivor's pension, this can also remain combined with benefits until 30 June 2021, and the neutralisation rule remains in force.

Group insurance and/or hospitalisation insurance

The automatic guarantees regarding hospitalisation, pensions, death benefits and disability will remain in place until 30 June 2021, provided that you have not included any other arrangements in the pension regulations or the pension agreement.

The deferral of the contribution payment has also been extended until 30 June 2021, as has the right to the death cover provided for in the pension regulations if the pension accrual were to be suspended.

Employing asylum seekers

In principle, an asylum seeker can only work on condition that he has still not received a decision from the Commissariat-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons four months after submitting his application for international protection. This waiting period is temporarily suspended.

Asylum seekers who had submitted their application by 8 December 2020 at the latest can thus work for the entire duration of their procedure until 30 June 2021 at the latest. As an employer, you however have to provide accommodation, so that movements can be avoided to the maximum.

New measures

Temporary suspension of time credit

An employee who has reduced or suspended his work benefits under time credit or a thematic leave, may agree with his employer to temporarily suspend that time credit or thematic leave. The suspension must of course be communicated to the RVA. As long as the suspension lasts, temporary unemployment cannot be applied for economic reasons or due to corona force majeure. This measure shall apply until 30 June 2021.

Temporary unemployment for half a day

For workers employed with an employment contract with service cheques and workers whose main task is the transport of students to and from educational establishments, are allowed to apply temporary unemployment in half days. This law relieves the employer of his obligation to pay the employee guaranteed daily wage if he is unable to carry out at least half of his normal schedule due to force majeure.

An example of such a situation is service cheque work that is cancelled by the user because he/she is infected or needs to be quarantined. Please note, there is another royal decree on the way that provides the legal basis for the application of temporary unemployment in hours, which is not normally allowed. Only once this decision is also published, can the relevant employers apply the option effectively. A prior electronic notification to the RVA for the employees concerned will therefore be necessary.

Target group reduction to certain categories of employers

There is target group reduction for employers belonging to the sectors below.

  • The events sector

Employers active in PC 304, or employers whose main activity is one of the listed (artistic) activities under the law, can benefit from a target group reduction for five employees in the second and third quarters of 2021. This is a complete exemption from the basic contributions, which corresponds to approximately 25 percent to be calculated on the gross wage. The employer must reduce the number of days of temporary unemployment, keep workers employed and make a training offer of at least five days per full-time employee.  

  • The travel sector

Employers active as a travel agency or tour operator, and who are insured against insolvency under the Law of 21 November 2017, can benefit from a reduction in basic employer contributions for the second and fourth quarters of 2020, and for the first and second quarter of 2021. Are you active in one of these sectors and an Acerta customer? Then you have already received the necessary instructions from Acerta to make the application. This is necessary before the reduction can be calculated and granted.

  • The hotel sector

Employers active in PC 302, whose main activity is operating a hotel or providing accommodation, can benefit from a target group reduction for five employees per establishment in the second quarter of 2021. This is a complete exemption from the basic contributions, which corresponds to approximately 25 percent to be calculated on the gross wage. The employer must reduce the number of days of temporary unemployment, keep workers employed and make a training offer of at least five days per full-time employee. In addition, the employer must be able to demonstrate a drop in turnover of at least 60 percent, or a decrease of at least 60 percent in the wage load.

Volunteers

Certain volunteers enjoy an increased annual cost ceiling. This increase only applies to volunteers deployed in key sectors for activities carried out in the context of the corona crisis management. This possibility was extended for volunteers deployed in vaccination centres in the period from 15 February 2021 to 31 December 2021.

The use of volunteers in private commercial institutions responsible for care of the elderly and care and housing of the elderly, will also remain possible until 30 June 2021.

Abolition of December withholding tax advance

In order to support companies in the event of possible liquidity problems in December, the Government decided to abolish the December advances in withholding tax. This abolition relates to:

  • the amount that employers must pay on quarterly returns by 15 December at the latest, as an advance on the withholding tax that they will owe for the fourth quarter, and
  • the amount to be paid by large undertakings by 24 December at the latest in respect of the remuneration they have allocated during the first 15 days of December.

Although this measure is taken in the context of combating the consequences of the corona crisis, this measure has a definitive nature. From now on, the withholding tax due will just have to be paid in January of the following year.

 

*The public care sector now includes:

public institutions and services with NACE code 86101, 86102, 86103, 86104, 86109, 86210, 86901, 86903, 86904, 86905, 86906, 86909, 87101, 87109, 87201, 87202, 87203, 87204, 87205, 87209, 87301, 87302, 87303, 87304, 87309, 87901, 87902, 87909, 88101, 88102, 88103, 88104, 88109, 88911, 88912, 88919, 88991, 88992, 88993, 88994, 88996 and 88999. From now on, it will also involve the private and public institutions or services responsible for the operation of vaccination centres in the context of the fight against the coronavirus COVID-19, and for all activities related to the operation of a vaccination centre.

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Geschreven door Annelies Bries

Legal advisor at Acerta

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