Coronacrisis: support measure for the travel sector

Author: Els Poelman (Legal Expert)
Date:

The support measure for the travel sector has been voted in the Chamber and will soon be implemented by the National Social Security Office (NSSO). It consists of a partly retroactive reduction in the employer’s contributions over four quarters.   

A double measure

The reduction in the employer’s contributions runs over four quarters and consists of two measures:

1.

A refund of the net employer’s contributions of the 2nd quarter 2020, the 4th quarter 2020 and the 1st quarter 2021

The ‘net employer’s contributions’ are the basic employer contribution (25.00% in the profit sector), less the structural reduction and any target group reductions applied. The NSSO will allocate the net employer contributions for the exempted quarters to the employer accounts of the 1st and 2nd quarter 2021.

2.

A specific target group reduction in the 2nd quarter 2021

This reduction results in the employer's contributions amounting to 25.00% (= the basic contribution) being exempted.

The scope, additional conditions and declaration obligation are identical for both measures.

Which employers?

This concerns employers in the travel sector who simultaneously meet the following conditions:  

  • Their main activity is 'travel agency activities' (NACE code 79110) or 'tour operator activities' (NACE code 79120)
  • During the 2nd quarter 2020 up to and including the 2nd quarter 2021, the company is insured against insolvency in accordance with the law of 21.11.2017 in Belgium or in another European country.

The company had to be active under one or both of the selected NACE codes on 1 April 2021 and also before that date. Travel agencies or organizations that only started on 1 April 2021 are therefore not concerned: they are not entitled to a target group reduction in the 2nd quarter 2021.

Additional conditions

To qualify for both measures, the employer must simultaneously meet four additional conditions:

  1. Undertake to keep all employees continuously employed between 1 April and 30 June 2021, except if the employee resigns or is dismissed for serious misconduct.

Furthermore, the employment volume in the 2nd quarter 2021 may not be lower than in the 1st quarter 2021, and the NSSO will monitor this based on the work codes present in the dmfa of both quarters (see also below).

  1. Make a specific and individual training offer to all employees, both those in temporary unemployment and those employed. The offer must correspond to at least 20% of the contractual working time in the 1st and 2nd quarters 2021, and the training courses must have been actually followed by 31 December 2021.
  2. Do not implement any of the following actions in 2021:
  • payment of dividends to shareholders
  • payment of bonuses to members of the Board of Directors and the company's management
  • purchase of own shares.
  1. Inform the works council (in the absence thereof, in decreasing order, the trade union delegation or the employees themselves) about the application of the measures in the company and the conditions to be complied with, in particular with regard to the training offer. The regulations also refer to consultation with the employees (and employees’ representatives): in practice this concerns the organisation of the training.

Monitoring of additional conditions and consequences

Compliance with the conditions is a commitment in the online application - for the first condition (staff retention), it is even a formal commitment.  

The NSSO will automatically monitor if the employment volume remains steady (part of condition 1) and this monitoring will be absolute: the global employment volume of the 2nd quarter 2021 (µglob in the dmfa of 2/2021) cannot be lower than the global employment volume of the 1st quarter 2021 (µglob in the dmfa of 1/2021). The comparison will take place when the dmfa of the 2nd quarter 2021 are stable, probably not until November 2021.

The rest of the additional conditions cannot be monitored automatically. The NSSO can/will conduct ad hoc monitoring a posteriori, possibly based on data mining.

If at least one of the four additional conditions is not complied with, the right to both measures lapses for the entire period of application, possibly retroactively.

In this context, we are already warning about the monitoring of the employment volume that the NSSO will automatically conduct in the autumn of 2021. If it appears that the employment volume in the 2nd quarter is lower than in the 1st quarter, the right to the entire reduction lapses and the NSSO will:

  • cancel the exemption 2/2020, 4/2020 and 1/2021 in the employer account
  • cancel the target group reduction 2/2021 in the dmfa.

Mandatory online application

Employers wishing to obtain the reduction must submit an application via the secure application on the NSSO portal site. An application approved by the NSSO is an absolute condition to obtain the reductions:

online application travel sector

The NSSO checks whether the applicant falls under the scope of application and responds by sending a message in his e-box or a letter if the e-box is not active.

Insurability in accordance with the law of 21.11.2017 will be verified with a list of the FPS Economy, in case of insurance taken out in Belgium. Employers insured in another European country must upload the proof of insurability in the online workflow.

The answer of the NSSO will consist of:

  • a confirmation of receipt
  • a summary of the application
  • approval or not of the application of the two measures (approval is always subject to subsequent monitoring of the additional conditions).

The application must be submitted by 30 June 2021, but applications up to and including 15 April 2021 will be given priority and will result in a first refund in the second half of April. See the overview below.

Refund of net employer’s contributions - timing

The refund of the net employer’s contributions will be settled as follows:

  • refund 2nd and 4th quarter 2020:

- offset against the existing debt of the 1st quarter 2021 if the application is approved by 15 April 2021

- offset against the existing debt of the 2nd quarter 2021 if the application is submitted from 16 April 2021 onwards

  • refund 1st quarter 2021: set off against the existing debt of the 2nd quarter 2021 in all cases.

If the existing debt for the quarter of settlement is insufficient, the balance will be set off against any other debts to the NSSO. Under certain conditions, the employer may request that the balance be paid into his account.

The NSSO will organise the refund in two phases:

  • for applications approved up to and including 15 April 2021, the refund for the two 2020 quarters is already calculated in April, and already deducted from the debt of the 1st quarter 2021;
  • all the rest will be calculated at the beginning of July and charged to the debt of the 2nd quarter 2021. For applications submitted from 16 April 2021 onwards, the refund for the two quarters of 2020 will also be calculated in July, and set off against the debt of the 2nd quarter 2021.

The NSSO will transfer the result of each calculation to the employer's e-box or will send it by letter if the e-box is not active.

Date approved application

Refund

employer’s contributions for

Calculation of amount of refund by NSSO

Set-off of amount of refund against existing debt of

by 15 April 2021

2/2020, 4/2020

2nd half of April 2021

1/2021

 

1/2021

beginning July 2021

2/2021

16 April 2021 to 30 June 2021

2/2020, 4/2020

1/2021

beginning July 2021

 

2/2021

 

 

 

Source:

  • Draft law on temporary aid measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amendment no. 12 et seq., Chamber doc. 1851/002
  • Instruction of the NSSO

 

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