There are two forms of temporary unemployment, the temporary unemployment due to force majeure and the temporary unemployment due to economic reasons. Which of these two forms is the one applicable to the coronavirus outbreak?
The temporary unemployment due to force majeure is applicable to the coronavirus outbreak. This means that only the conditions of application of this temporary unemployment need to be met. The examples provided by the administration related to “force majeure” have also been broadened vastly to include “companies which (partially) close because they do not have teleworking tasks for (all) their workers and who cannot respect the social distancing measures in the exercise of work and in the transport which they organize (for example, construction companies).” Are also included Belgian companies that have to stop their production process and can thus no longer employ their employees because some of their suppliers do not supply any more.
Can all employees qualify for temporary unemployment?
Yes, all employees can qualify for temporary unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus outbreak, irrespective of their employment.
Does the employer have the obligation to take other measures before he can make use of the temporary unemployment regime?
No. In case of temporary unemployment due to force majeure, the employer does not need to take other measures before he can apply for the temporary unemployment. The employees do not need to first take up their vacation days before they can be entitled to the temporary unemployment benefits. Moreover, the employees do not have to take up their overtime before they can be entitled to the temporary unemployment benefits.
What does the employer have to do to apply for temporary unemployment benefits?
The employer who wants to rely on temporary unemployment benefits must submit an electronic application, called the ASR 5/DRS 5, to the local office of the RVA/ONEM. As to the reason for the temporary unemployment benefits, the employer only has to mention “Coronavirus”. This declaration can be introduced via the website of the social security administration (http://www.socialsecurity.be/).
What does the employee have to do to apply for temporary unemployment benefits?
The employee who wants to receive temporary unemployment benefits must inform his trade union or the HVW/CAPAC, the Auxiliary Unemployment Benefits Service. This can be done through the simplified C3.2A Corona form.
What is the amount of the temporary unemployment benefit?
The amount of the temporary unemployment benefit is increased to 70 % (instead of 65 %) of the last monthly salary (with a maximum of 2754.76 EUR). On top of this monthly temporary unemployment benefit, the employee will receive a supplement of 5.63 EUR a day. This supplement will be paid by the RVA/ONEM. A professional withholding tax of 26.75 % will be applied to the unemployment benefit.
What about the amount of 1450 EUR a month that the temporary unemployment benefit would have according to media reports?
The federal minister of work has declared that temporarily unemployed persons would receive a temporary unemployment benefit of 1450 EUR a month. However, this amount would have to be considered an advance payment. This means that the exact amount of the temporary unemployment benefit would be calculated later on. In case the unemployed employee would have been entitled to a higher temporary unemployment benefit, the shortfall would be paid out through an additional payment. In case the unemployed employee would have been entitled to a lower temporary unemployment benefit, the excess amount would be recovered later on. However, the trade unions have already indicated that they will always try to calculate and pay the right amount of temporary unemployment benefit, so that no excess amounts will have to be recovered.
Can the employer pay a supplement on top of the temporary unemployment benefit while the employee does not run the risk of losing his unemployment benefit?
In principle, an employee who receives an unemployment benefit cannot combine this benefit with a salary. However, we have received a written confirmation of the RVA/ONEM that a supplement paid by the employer on top of a temporary unemployment benefit can be combined with a temporary unemployment benefit, provided that no social security contributions are due on the supplement (see below).
When an employer pays a supplement on top of the temporary unemployment benefit, is he obliged to pay social security contributions on this supplement?
No. No social security contributions are due on this supplement. They have to be regarded as a complement to a social security benefit. They are thus no remuneration within the framework of the Remuneration Protection Act of 12 April 1965 and are consequently no remuneration for the social security contributions. There is however one condition that needs to be met in this regard: the net total of the temporary unemployment benefit and the supplement cannot be higher than the net amount of the salary that the employee received while working.
Can an employer employ employees who are temporarily unemployed, for example during certain days?
An employer can employ employees who are temporarily unemployed. However, this employment cannot take place on a day for which a temporary unemployment benefit is paid out. A temporary unemployment benefit can only be taken for a whole day. In other words, it is not possible to work in the morning and to be temporarily unemployed in the afternoon (vice versa).
Can a temporarily unemployed employee work for another employer during a period of temporary unemployment?
Yes. A temporarily unemployed person can always work for another employer while he is temporarily unemployed with his first employer. However, this new employment activity must be declared before the start of the activity or as soon as possible to your payment institution (the trade union or the HVW/CAPAC, the Auxiliary Unemployment Benefit Service). The employer must also declare the employee concerned through a DIMONA application. The income of the new professional activities cannot be cumulated with the unemployment benefit. If necessary, the National employment office RVA/ONEM (= NEO) will reclaim the overpayments. These principles also apply when the temporarily unemployed person is about to perform a flexi-job.
Can a temporarily unemployed employee do volunteer work?
Normally, unemployed persons, including temporarily unemployed persons, have to declare their volunteer work to the RVA/ONEM and cannot exceed certain income limits. People who perform volunteer work can receive a reimbursement for the costs they actually made costs or an amount of maximum 34.71 EUR a day with a total maximum of 1388.40 EUR a year.Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the government has relaxed the rules of unemployment and volunteer work until 30 June 2020. There is an exemption for the temporary unemployed person: they do not have to declare the voluntary work they perform for a private person or a charity. There is no relaxation as to the income limits; they still need to be observed.Please note that volunteers still need to respect the general and specific rules that have been taken to contain the coronavirus outbreak. For example, they still have to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meter from other persons (the social distancing rule).
Can a temporarily unemployed employee continue his complementary activity?
Normally, under the general rules for temporary unemployment, a temporary unemployed employee can continue to perform his existing complementary activity (“bijberoep”/”activité accessoire”). The person concerned must declare this activity to the RVA/ONEM and must fulfill certain conditions. Moreover, he cannot exceed certain income limits.However, the government has relaxed these rules until 30 June 2020 for persons who already exercised a complementary activity before they became temporarily unemployed. In this particular case, the complementary activity does not need to be declared to the RVA/ONEM and certain conditions concerning the time of day and the kind of the activity do not need to be fulfilled. Moreover, the income of the complementary activity will not influence the temporary unemployment benefits. This means that you can receive unemployment benefits for the full amount and that your income of the complementary activity will not be deducted from the temporarily unemployment benefits.Please note that this relaxation of the rules only applies for a complementary activity that exists before the person concerned becomes temporarily unemployed.
What happens when a temporarily unemployed employee becomes sick?
The temporarily unemployed employee who becomes sick during the temporary unemployment is no longer entitled to temporary unemployment benefits. He will receive a sickness benefit from the sickness fund instead. The employer must also be informed of the sickness. In case the temporary unemployment ends and the employee is still stick at that time, he will be entitled to the guaranteed salary due by the employer.
Can self-employed persons be entitled to temporary unemployment benefits?
No, self-employed persons cannot be entitled to temporary unemployment benefits. Only employees are eligible for temporary unemployment benefits.
Can frontier workers benefit from temporary unemployment in Belgium?
Frontier workers who live in another country (for example, France, Germany, the Netherlands or the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), but work in Belgium can be entitled to unemployment benefits for temporary unemployment in Belgium.However, please note that it is still possible for frontier workers to cross the borders and to go to their work place. To that end, they need to possess a specific vignette (sticker). It must thus be shown that there is a valid reason for the frontier worker to be entitled to a temporary unemployment benefit, e.g. because his workload is severely diminished or because the company where the frontier worker works is closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. If the borders would close, this would also constitute a sufficient reason to apply for temporary unemployment due to force majeure.Please note that frontier workers who work abroad, but live in Belgium cannot benefit from the temporary unemployment in the Belgian social security scheme, since they are subject to the social security scheme of the work state.
Can employees who have a foreign employment contract benefit from temporary unemployment benefits in Belgium?
No. In order to be able to benefit from temporary unemployment, the employee must have a Belgian employment contract. For example: a person who lives in Belgium, but has an Russian employment contract with a Russian employer and is now stuck at home in Belgium and cannot perform his work for the Russian employer has no right to Belgian temporary unemployment benefits.
Can employees who are subject to a foreign social security scheme benefit from temporary unemployment benefits in Belgium?
No. The principle is the following: the state where you pay the social security contributions is also competent for the payment of the benefits. If you do not fall under the Belgian social security scheme, then Belgium is not the competent state to pay unemployment benefits. For example: a person who is seconded from Spain to Belgium remains, during his secondment, subject to the Spanish social security scheme. He will not be entitled to Belgian unemployment benefits if he now cannot work due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Can employees who work abroad and who are covered by the Belgian Overseas Social Security scheme be entitled to Belgian unemployment benefits?
No. Only persons who are covered by the general Belgian social security scheme for employees can be entitled to unemployment benefits and thus to temporary unemployment benefits. The Belgian Overseas Social Security scheme is a distinct social security regime that exists besides the general Belgian social security scheme for employees. The Belgian Overseas Social Security scheme does not provide unemployment benefits.
Can Belgian temporary unemployment benefits be paid to employees who are subject to Belgian social security and who live abroad?
Normally not. Employees who want to receive unemployment benefits must have their domicile in Belgium. Moreover, they must have their effective residence in Belgium. However, we have received an oral confirmation from the RVA/ONEM that this condition can be waived in practice and that temporary unemployment benefits can be paid to e.g. employees who are seconded from Belgium and are thus still subject to Belgian social security.
Can foreign employees whose Single Permit has been refused receive temporary unemployment benefits?
No. Foreign employees who may be subject to Belgian social security can only obtain unemployment benefits when they have the legal right to live and work in Belgium. Foreign employees whose Single Permit has been refused are thus not entitled to temporary unemployment benefits.
What are the consequences of the temporary unemployment benefit for the Belgian State pension (legal pension)?
The period covered by temporary unemployment benefits is an assimilated period for the purposes of the Belgian State pension (legal pension). This means that this period will count for both the career taken into account for the right to a State pension and the calculation of the State pension. For the calculation of the State pension, account will be taken of the last salary that was paid before the period covered by temporary unemployment benefits started.
What are the consequences of the temporary unemployment benefit for the supplementary pension?
The period covered by temporary unemployment benefits will not be taken into account for supplementary pensions. Normal supplementary pension plans only take account of periods of actual employment. So called social supplementary pension plans do allow the build-up of pension rights in relation of period during which no work is done (e.g. during sickness and disability, pregnancy, time credit etc.). However, generally periods of unemployment are not taken into consideration by the so called social supplementary pension plans.