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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case BE-2020-13/861 Updated – measures in Belgium

Creating incentives for unemployed to work in horticulture and other essential services and flexibilisation of successive fixed-term contracts

Behouden van arbeidscapaciteit in horticulturele en kritieke sectoren

Country Belgium , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 27 March 2020 – 31 August 2020
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Ensuring business continuity and support for essential services
– Smoothing frictions or reallocation of workers
Author Dries Van Herreweghe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Eurofound
Case created 20 May 2020 (updated 15 September 2020)

Background information

In the entire country there are exceptional rules and relaxation of existing regulations to allow additional earnings in the horticultural and forest sector. That sector is in high need of additional seasonal workers, yet there is a shortage, because of the closing of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a reduced inflow of foreign seasonal workers.

The Special Powers Decree No. 14 of 27 April 2020 provides that during the period from 1 April 2020, employers in critical sectors may conclude successive fixed-term employment contracts.

Content of measure

Workers on temporary unemployment benefits can work in the horticultural and forest sector and maintain 75% of their benefits in combination with that wage.

Several short, consecutive temporary contracts would normally automatically be transformed into open-ended contracts. In order to avoid this, there is a relaxation in the rules governing these contracts because of the crisis in critical sectors.

Employers in critical sectors may conclude successive fixed-term employment contracts for a minimum period of seven days, without being requested to utilize an employment contract of indefinite duration. Normally these successive fixed-term contracts would be changed automatically into a contract of indefinite duration.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

09 June 2020

The measure has been extended until the 31 August.

09 May 2020

On the ministerial council of the 9 May it was decided that people that receive a living wage (social assistance) are allowed to earn an additional income in the horticultural sector without a decrease in the social assistance. Normally they were only allowed to earn an additional €200 per month before their benefits would be reduced.

The regulations for students were adapted as well in order to cope with the exceptional circumstances. Normally the number of hours they are allowed to earn an additional living is limited to €475. In the crisis, several exemptions apply, that exclude a number of hours from this €475 limit. Students are therefore allowed to work more hours in the horticultural sector.

Seasonal workers that are working in the sector are also allowed to work for more days (130 days in gardening/landscaping and 60 in the agricultural sector).

From the 1 April the temporary unemployed, early pensioners, people in time credit systems as well as in career break were allowed to earn an additional income in the horticultural sector while keeping 75% of their benefits.

Use of measure

It is unclear (and probably too soon) to estimate the extent of the measures. The list of critical sector is however quite long, so in theory the possibility to create successive contracts applies to quite a large group.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
Unemployed
Seasonal workers
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

It is Unknown the degree of involvement of the social partners. But it is to be expected that they were at least informed.

Views and reactions

It is Unknown the degree of involvement of the social partners. But it is to be expected that they were at least informed.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      A - Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing A1 Crop and animal production, hunting and related service activities
      A2 Forestry and logging

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Creating incentives for unemployed to work in horticulture and other essential services and flexibilisation of successive fixed-term contracts, case BE-2020-13/861 (measures in Belgium), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.