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What does the Group of Ten’s social agreement involve?

17 March 2023 Employers
Ellen Van Grunderbeek

The Group of Ten reached an agreement on 15 March 2023 on several files such as end-of-career schemes, overtime and tax-advantaged 'relance' overtime and supplementary pensions.

In the next step, this agreement will be presented to the government and its members. Here we provide you with the most important outlines.

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'Relance' overtime and tax-advantaged overtime

'Relance' overtime

The social agreement provides for an extension of the option of a maximum of 220 voluntary overtime hours per calendar year, per employee. Specifically, that maximum is 100 of the basic quota of ordinary voluntary overtime – so 20 less than in normal circumstances – and 120 additional voluntary overtime hours on top of that, known as 'relance' overtime. Unlike voluntary overtime within the context of the basic quota, these 'relance' overtime hours are free of supplementary-wage surcharge, social security contributions and withholding tax.          
Moreover, the basic quota does not have to be used up before you can use the 'relance' overtime system. This means employer and employee can perfectly easily agree to perform voluntary 'relance' overtime right away.

The option of having 120 'relance' overtime hours already existed formerly as a temporary measure that expired on 31 December 2022. An extension of this measure would now be provided until 30 June 2025.

Tax-advantaged overtime

When employees perform overtime for which a statutory overtime bonus applies, both the employees and their employer enjoy a tax benefit. By default, this tax benefit applies to the first 130 overtime hours per calendar year. This number was already temporarily increased in the past to 180 overtime hours per calendar year, although the measure would expire on 30 June 2023. An extension of the measure would now be provided until 30 June 2025. There is no change on the increased quota of 360 hours for the hospitality sector.

Economic unemployment for office workers

A company recognised as a company in difficulty is permitted to temporarily lay off office workers for economic reasons if this is provided for in a sectoral collective agreement, a company collective agreement or a business plan. CLA No 159 of the National Labour Council (valid until 30 June 2023) provides a supplementary safety net for struggling companies that cannot rely on a collective labour agreement or a business plan. CLA No 159 also provides that the employer must pay a surcharge of €5.63 per day of unemployment, on top of the temporary unemployment benefit.

The social partners agreed to extend CLA No 159 until 30 June 2025. The allowance of €5.63 per day will be indexed on the date the new collective agreement comes into force, as well as on 1 January 2024 and 1 January 2025.

Supplementary pensions

The social partners ask the government not to implement any changes in the fiscal/parafiscal treatment of career contributions and the payment of supplementary pension benefits at retirement age until 2028, in order to enable the harmonisation of supplementary pension schemes between manual and office workers by 2030, and to allow further broadening and deepening in the second pension pillar.

A solution is also being elaborated for the special NIHDI and solidarity contribution on supplementary pensions, and for administrative follow-up for employees with low reserves acquired, or with short-term contracts.

Extension of end-of-career systems

Unemployment schemes with single payment

The general SWT scheme (62 years) and the special schemes – long career and physically-demanding professions at 60 years on the one hand, and medical reason at 58 years on the other – will be extended under the same age and career conditions until 30 June 2025. The rules regarding the adjusted availability of SWTs are also extended unchanged until December 2026.

It was also decided that SWT allowances will be indexed on the condition that the special employer’s contribution on the company payment will be applied only to new SWT schemes.

End-of-career job

Employees can take an end-of-career job to reduce their career by 1/2 or 1/5 from the age of 55. They can only obtain benefits for this from the age of 60. In addition, there are certain special forms of end-of-career jobs possible employers as early as from the age of 50. These are employees who have had a physically demanding profession or long career, or work in a company in difficulty or restructuring. The Group of Ten has now decided that the existing scheme will continue until 30 June 2025, which will allow these special runways with benefits to remain possible from the age of 55, for both 1/2 and 1/5 end-of-career jobs.

In addition, there would be a specific end-of-career job scheme for target group employees of sheltered workshops, social workplaces and the customisation companies. It would become possible for them to enter a special end-of-career job already with benefits from the age of 55, due to exercising a long career of 25 years instead of the usual 35.

Further increase of guaranteed average minimum monthly income (GAMMI)

The social agreement reaffirms the agreement that the GMMMI will be increased by 35 euros gross each time from 1 April 2024 and from 1 April 2026. Even from 1 April 2028, the social partners see an increase as possible provided a number of preconditions are met.  

Other decisions

Finally, the following measures were also taken:

  • retaining the €1,800 penalty for not offering outplacement assistance;
  • the extension of the innovation premium;
  • the funding and sustainability of the third-payer public transport to work scheme.  

Late last year, the government decided that the wage margin is 0%. However, companies will be able to grant a purchasing-power premium if they made high or exceptional profits in 2022. Find out more here.

Acerta will of course continue to follow this social agreement closely and communicate on it, so that you can make the right decisions for your company and your people with full knowledge of the facts, and without losing any time.

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Written by Ellen Van Grunderbeek

Legal advisor at Acerta

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