Frequently asked questions about the situation in Russia and Ukraine

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia is raging. The chances are real that your work organisation will feel the effects of the conflict or of the actions that the international community has taken in response to it.

We offer you a first overview of the frequently asked questions that you as an employer may be confronted with. We base ourselves on the currently known information and legal possibilities.

Can my employee be absent to help his family in Ukraine?

Yes, there are several possibilities.

The employee can choose to take holidays or overtime. You can also agree with the employee to take a period of unpaid leave. Reducing the employment can also be one of the possibilities (by working part-time, for example).

The employee can also appeal for leave for compelling reasons. A compelling reason is understood to be any unforeseeable event, independent of work, requiring the urgent and necessary intervention of the employee, and this as far as the execution of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible. A compelling reason can be any event that the employer and employee mutually agree is a compelling reason. This also applies to the war conflict that forces the employee to provide assistance.

In all cases, the necessary agreements must be made and put on paper. You can contact Acerta Legal Consult for this by telephone on 016 24 53 24 or by e-mail: info.consult@acerta.be.

My Ukrainian employee, employed in Belgium, is called up by the Ukrainian army. What happens to the employment contract in that case?

If your employee wants to leave for the conflict area, he can:

  • either appeal for leave for compelling reasons. A compelling reason is understood to be any unforeseeable event, independent of work, requiring the urgent and necessary intervention of the employee, and this insofar as the execution of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible. As an employer, you can, in mutual agreement with the employee, consider his intervention in the conflict area as a compelling reason;
  • either take holidays;
  • or take unpaid leave in mutual agreement with you.

If the employee is already in Ukraine when the conflict breaks out and he is called up, he can ask for the employment contract to be suspended because of this military service, but this is not enforceable. You may, but must not, accede to the request to suspend the employment contract on account of military service. If you do not agree to this, other options must be considered (such as unpaid leave).

My Belgian employee has been seconded to a branch in Ukraine and has been injured there, is on the run or is in detention?

If the employee is unfit for work, then the classic rules of absence due to incapacity for work apply. In principle, there is the obligation to report the work disability to the employer (usually based on the agreements and deadlines within the employment regulations).

The work disability certificate must be drawn up in a language understood by the employer and must meet the legal requirements. In principle, you will owe guaranteed salary. Given the conflict situation, it will not always be obvious to establish the work disability and to receive the employee's certificate. You can take these special circumstances into account and show the necessary flexibility with regard to the justified nature of the absence (which can, if necessary, also be proven in other ways).

If employees are covered by a collective hospitalisation policy through the employer, the policy will have to provide information on whether a hospitalisation in Ukraine is covered by the policy conditions.

If the employee is on the run or in detention, leave for compelling reasons may be invoked. Urgent reason means any unforeseeable event, independent from the work, requiring the urgent and necessary intervention of the employee, and this as far as the execution of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible. A compelling reason can be any event that the employer and employee mutually agree is a compelling reason. This also applies to the conflict of wars that forces the employee to provide assistance.

My Belgian employee cannot return to Belgium because he is stuck in Ukraine or Russia?

The employee can choose to take holidays or overtime. You can also agree with the employee to take a period of unpaid leave. Reducing the employment can also be one of the possibilities (by working part-time for example).

The employee can also appeal for leave for compelling reasons. Compelling reason is understood to be any unforeseeable event, independent of work, requiring the urgent and necessary intervention of the employee, and this as far as the execution of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible. A compelling reason can be any event that the employer and employee mutually agree is a compelling reason. This also applies to the war conflict that forces the employee to provide assistance.

In all cases, the necessary agreements must be made and put on paper. You can contact Acerta Legal Consult for this by telephone on 016 24 53 24 or by e-mail: info.consult@acerta.be.

Can I employ a Ukrainian refugee?

Ukrainians who flee the armed conflict and are received in Belgium can - depending on their situation - obtain recognition in Belgium as refugees or as subsidiary protected persons.

Following an unanimous decision by the European Council of Ministers, Ukrainian nationals can file for immediate subsidiary protection. In Belgium, they need to register themselves as from March 7, 2022 at the registration center located at Boulevard de Waterloo, 121 in 1000 Bruxelles. They need to be present in person and be able to provide a Ukrainian ID.

This protection can be granted both to Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine, as to third country nationals or stateless persons benefiting from protection in the Ukraine, as well as their family members.

When conditions for temporary protection are met, these persons receive an attestation, based on which their Belgian communal administration can issue a Belgian temporary residency permit A for a duration of 1 year.

During the validity of this residency permit A, they are exonerated from a Belgian work permit. You can find more information here.

 

My business operations are in trouble because of the war situation. I cannot keep all my employees employed. Can I appeal to temporary unemployment?

The conflict can constitute a force majeure situation. It is about a sudden and unforeseeable event - of a temporary nature - that occurs beyond the control of you and your employee and makes the execution of the employment contract temporarily impossible. 

You can apply temporary unemployment for the days that your employees cannot work. You do not have to pay any wages and your employees receive an allowance for temporary unemployment from the National Employment Office (NEO).

Mind you, at the beginning of March, the NEO communicated that you had to follow a certain procedure for this. They announced that you could only apply for temporary unemployment after making an electronic notification to the NEO via the social security portal. In the comments section, you had to explain the reason for your unemployment (e.g. no more supply of raw materials from Ukraine).

However, on 14 March, the government decided to extend the specific procedure for temporary unemployment due to the coronapandemic until 30 June and to extend it to the lack of work resulting from the situation in Ukraine. Therefore, you no longer need to give prior notice to the NEO. A monthly declaration of the electronic scenario 5 with 'Ukraine' as reason for the force majeure is sufficient. If you are affiliated with Acerta, this declaration will be done automatically based on the days of temporary unemployment that you have passed on to us.

You might consider letting employees, who now temporarily have no work or less work as a result of the conflict, work for another employer. We then speak of 'employee sharing'. This is an existing concept that Acerta has already worked out several times, but may be relevant given the circumstances. Acerta can help you with this. You can contact us by telephone 016 24 53 94 or by e-mail: werknemers.delen@acerta.be.

My employee takes in Ukrainian refugees. Can this have an impact on the benefit he receives from the NEO as a result of time credit or thematic leave?

A benefit for time credit or thematic leave, such as parental leave, is higher for those who live alone or live alone with dependent children. The NEO has ruled that employees who provide temporary shelter to Ukrainian refugees will not be affected by this. This measure is valid for the period from 24 February 2022 to 28 February 2023. 

Your employee will have to file a declaration to apply for the preservation of the family status. The model forms are available on the website of the NEO (in Dutch and French).

Are the admitted refugees to be considered as fiscally dependent of your employee?

No, only children, ascendants and collateral relatives up to the second degree and persons of whom the employee was wholly or mainly dependent as a child can be considered as dependents of the employee.

Therefore, the applicable withholding tax in the wage calculation remains unchanged.

Does your employee lose his reduction in the withholding tax for ‘single person' with dependent children or tax co-parenting if he receives refugees?

No, if your employee benefits from the reduction in withholding tax as a ‘single person' with dependent children or in fiscal co-parenting, the FPS Finance is of the opinion that, given the exceptional and temporary nature of the reception of refugees, there is no intention of forming a family, as a result of which the employee may keep the reduction.

Therefore, the applicable withholding tax in the wage calculation remains unchanged.

Is my employee's notice period suspended during temporary unemployment?

As a general rule, an employee who is dismissed by his employer with a notice period will have his notice period extended due to absence during the notice period.

Temporary unemployment as a result of force majeure does not, in principle, suspend the notice period. This means that the notice period simply continues.

This principle also applies to temporary unemployment as a result of force majeure because of the war in Ukraine. By consequence, the notice period is not suspended by days of temporary unemployment due to force majeure Ukraine.

A proposal of Law has been introduced to suspend the notice period for reasons of temporary unemployment due to force majeure Ukraine for notice periods starting from 1 April 2022.