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

Factsheet for measure BE-2020-36/1126 Updated – measures in Belgium

Extension of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for specific sectors and companies in trouble

Verruiming van de tijdelijke werkloosheid wegens overmacht voor specifieke sectoren en bedrijven in problemen

Country Belgium , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 31 August 2020 – 31 March 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Employment protection and retention
– Income support for people in employment (e.g., short-time work)
Author Dries Van Herreweghe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Eurofound
Measure added 15 September 2020 (updated 20 June 2022)

Background information

The measure was originally introduced due to the strong increase in requests for temporary unemployment for the national economy as way to alleviate pressure on the institutions that were tasked with organizing and distributing unemployment benefits, both the National Employment Office (NEO) and the trade unions (that also play an important role in paying out the unemployment benefits). The use of temporary unemployment means that the employers no longer have to pay the wages of their employees (the cost is transferred to the government through the unemployment benefit), thereby enabling them to reduce their costs and enhances their ability to better cope with the period of inactivity of the business.

The measures makes the procedure shorter and more simplified for employees in order to make sure that they receive their unemployment benefit as fast as possible.

Content of measure

The system will be extended further as well as adapted (starting September 2020). From that date, two systems will apply (one for companies or sectors that are considered to be very badly hit and one for companies that are less impacted but still require the measure):

  1. Companies that are 'particularly badly' affected by the corona crisis can continue to use the system of temporary unemployment due to force majeure by Corona until the end of this year. They must demonstrate that in the second quarter (April-June 2020), 20% of the total number of working days declared were days of temporary unemployment (force majeure due to Corona or economic unemployment).
  2. There are also sectors that have been recognised as 'particularly hard hit' . The employer should do nothing for the taxi sector, the audiovisual sector, the hotel industry, entertainment companies, the socio-cultural sector, the tourist attractions sector. These are automatically recognised.
  3. For a number of sectors, the employer must file a declaration with the national unemployment offices and it only applies to certain activities (i.e. not automatically to all employees of the joint committee).
  4. All other companies can make use of the classic systems of temporary unemployment that already existed before the corona crisis: 'temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure' and 'temporary unemployment for economic reasons' . Each system has its own criteria and formalities which may also deviate from the arrangements for the corona crisis. For this group the 'normal' rules become applicable again.

Updates

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

15 March 2022

The government decided on 15 March that a system of temporary unemployment due to force majeure because of the war in Ukraine will be introduced in the period from 1 April 2022 to 30 June 2022, with the same modalities as the temporary unemployment on grounds of force majeure due to COVID-19 which expires on 31 March 2022.

27 September 2021

The federal core cabinet decided on September 24 to extend the simplified procedure "Temporary unemployment due to force majeure" for all sectors by one quarter until 31 December 2021.

10 June 2021

Simplified temporary unemployment procedure has been extended until 30 September 2021.Previously it was announced that this procedure would end on 30 June 2021.

01 October 2020

Temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 already equated with working until 30 June 2020 for the purposes of determining holiday entitlements. On 24 September 2020, a royal decree was published stating that the period of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 was from 1 July 2020 to 31 August 2020. This will also be counted as time worked for the purpose of determining holiday entitlements in 2021.

Use of measure

Data is not yet available; as the measure (extension) is still very recent.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
Sector specific set of companies
Other businesses
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Trade unions
Employers' organisations
Company / Companies
National funds

Social partners

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

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative
Form Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies

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

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

The social partners are involved in the measure, as the trade unions have a big responsibility in paying out unemployment benefits. On the other hand the sectoral joint committees monitor and discuss the measures further.

Views and reactions

No public views stated at the time of writing specifically for the extension/adaption.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      H - Transportation And Storage H49 Land transport and transport via pipelines
      I - Accommodation And Food Service Activities I55 Accommodation
      J - Information And Communication J59 Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities
      R - Arts, Entertainment And Recreation R90 Creative, arts and entertainment activities
      R91 Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities
      R93 Sports activities and amusement and recreation activities

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Extension of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for specific sectors and companies in trouble, measure BE-2020-36/1126 (measures in Belgium), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/BE-2020-36_1126.html

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