Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Belgian population and the Belgian companies are confronted with various precautionary measures implemented by the Belgian Government. These measures will have a huge financial impact on the Belgian companies. Those measures and the general health concerns are now affecting most in Belgium. On Friday 20th March, the Belgian government decided to drastically simplify the mechanism of temporary unemployment benefits to allow companies to suspend the employment of their workers during this crisis, while the latter receive unemployment benefits.
The normal regime of temporary unemployment
Normally there are two distinct regimes of temporary unemployment, one regime for force majeure and one for a (temporary) lack of work due to economic circumstances. Both regimes have their own administrative formalities and some form of motivated request had be introduced to benefit from either regime. Moreover, a distinction between blue-collar workers and white-collar workers needs to be made within the temporary unemployment regime in relation to a (temporary) lack of work due to economic circumstances.
The new simplified regime of temporary unemployment
On Friday 20 March 2020, the Belgian federal government has decided that only one simplified regime of temporary unemployment will be applicable until 30 June 2020, provided that the precautionary measures are still in place. From now on, all demands for temporary unemployment will be considered as demands for the temporary unemployment regime for force majeure.
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.
In addition, many administrative formalities that would normally have to be fulfilled in the framework of that unemployment scheme are now scrapped.
The administrative formalities for the employers
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/).
The obligation to submit a file with additional information (e.g. an exact description of the force majeure) to the local office of the RVA/ONEM as soon as possible after the electronic application is temporarily suspended. Moreover, the employer does no longer have the obligation to supply the specific control card for temporary unemployment, the C3.2A, to his employees.
The administrative formalities for the employees
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.
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.
A full day
A temporary unemployment benefit must be taken for the whole day. It is thus not possible to work in the morning and to be unemployed in the afternoon (or vice versa).
All employees can qualify
Finally, it is very important to note that all employees can qualify for temporary unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus outbreak, irrespective of their employment. In the normal temporary unemployment regime relating to a (temporary) lack of work due to economic circumstances, employees must have worked a certain number of days during a certain period before they can be entitled to temporary unemployment benefits.