Coronavirus: COVID-19 and sector benefits (general)

Author: Leen Lafourt (Legal Expert)
Date:

Perhaps the coronavirus crisis has also forced you to make (part of) your employees temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 (force majeure). However, keep in mind that this decision may have an impact on the amount of certain sector benefits.

In this Infoflash, we will take a closer look at the impact of the period(s) of temporary unemployment COVID-19 on the amount of the end-of-year bonus, the annual premium and the eco vouchers.

Finally, we would also like to draw your attention to the decision of some joint committees to grant extra meal vouchers as a result of this exceptional situation.

Preliminary remarks

The provisions relating to the end-of-year bonus and the annual premium are governed exclusively at sectoral level. As for eco vouchers, there is a general legal framework which has laid down the basic principles (CLA no. 98), but there are a lot of sectoral derogations and particularities.

As the sectoral partners of your joint committee therefore have a great deal of freedom, it is very important that you always check what has been determined in your joint committee. Different modalities and arrangements may be agreed by each sector.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, several joint committees have also decided to conclude new collective labour agreements. As a result, temporary unemployment COVID-19 will (possibly temporarily) be treated as time worked for the calculation of certain benefits.

In order to have the latest and most accurate information, we recommend that you always first consult our sector documentation, which contains a detailed overview of the method of calculating the benefits granted by your sector. You can also subscribe to the sector mailing list via our website. In that case, you will be immediately informed of any changes that are important to your company.

End-of-year bonus

An end-of-year bonus, also called 13th month pay, is often granted at the end of the year on top of the wages for December.

There is no general legal obligation to pay an end-of-year bonus; everything is settled within your joint committee. Some joint committees do not even provide for the granting of an end-of-year bonus (e.g. JC 100) but also the payment date, reference period, method of calculation, periods treated as time worked, ... differ from one sector to another.

There are therefore no general provisions stipulating that the periods of temporary unemployment COVID-19 are treated as time worked for the calculation of the amount of your end-of-year bonus.

In some joint committees, this lack of provisions will lead to a reduction of the amount of the end-of-year bonus of your workers. In other joint committees, there will be no impact because these periods are treated as time worked.

Example 1: JC 302 (Hospitality sector)

The end-of-year bonus is paid by the hospitality sector fund on the basis of the employers’ monthly pre-financing. This contribution is equal to 12 % of the amount on which the social security contributions of the previous month were calculated (108 % of the gross wage bill for manual workers).

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

As the period of temporary unemployment is treated as time worked for the calculation of the end-of-year bonus, there is no impact and the amount of the end-of-year bonus will not decrease.

Example 2: JC 226 (for non-manual workers of international trade, transport and logistics)

Granting of 13th month pay equal to the gross monthly wage of the month in which the bonus is paid.

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

Here, the period of temporary unemployment was initially not treated as time worked for the calculation of the end-of-year bonus, which would result in a reduction of its amount. However, the social partners of this JC wanted to avoid this and concluded on 28 April 2020 a collective labour agreement on the measures resulting from the COVID-19 crisis (source: trade union). For the period from 13 March to 30 June 2020, the days of temporary unemployment due to force majeure will indeed be treated as time worked for the calculation of the end-of-year bonus.

Eco vouchers

An eco voucher is a voucher intended for the purchase of eco-friendly products and services as included in the list appended to the interprofessional CLA no. 98.

The basis for the calculation of the eco vouchers is included in CLA no. 98. This CLA considers the following periods as time worked:

  • the periods of annual leave;
  • maternity leave;
  • days covered by the guaranteed wage due to illness.

In some sectors, periods of suspension of the contract not originally provided for in CLA no. 98 have been included in the periods treated as time worked, while other sectors have limited themselves to taking over the terms of the interprofessional agreement.

Example 1: JC 124 (construction)

Each full-time worker with a full reference period will receive an eco voucher of EUR 100 once a year during the month of May.

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

In this JC, statutory holidays, rest days granted within the framework of a reduction of working hours and days of temporary unemployment have been included in the periods treated as time worked provided for in CLA no. 98.

The amount of the eco vouchers therefore remains the same.

Example 2: JC 200 (Auxiliary Joint Committee for non-manual workers)

Full-time workers with a full reference period will receive eco vouchers of EUR 250 during the course of June. Part-time workers will be granted eco vouchers according to certain bands.

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

JC 200 explicitly refers to the periods treated as time worked in CLA no. 98. As the days of temporary unemployment are not explicitly included in CLA No 98, these days are therefore not treated as time worked and the amount of EUR 250 will be reduced on a pro rata basis.

Annual premium

Several joint committees also provide for the granting of an annual premium when certain conditions are met.

Example 1: JC 100 (Auxiliary Joint Committee for manual workers)

The manual workers receive an annual premium of 31 x the basic hourly wage in effect on 1 December of the year in question.

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

The amount of the annual premium is granted in proportion to the time actually worked and the time treated as such during the calendar year. The social partners did not include temporary unemployment COVID-19 in the list of periods treated as time worked. Consequently, there will be a reduction in the amount of the annual premium for the periods of temporary unemployment COVID-19.

Example 2: JC 201 (independent retailers)

A full-time non-manual worker with a full reference period is entitled to a gross annual premium of EUR 188. For part-time employees, this premium is prorated.

Impact of temporary unemployment COVID-19

The annual premium is calculated in proportion to the actual days worked and the days treated as such during the reference period. Actual days worked and days treated as such are taken to mean days of actual working hours or equivalent in social security terms (as in the legislation on annual leave).

Here again, therefore, there will be no impact and the amount of the annual premium will not be reduced on the basis of the periods of temporary unemployment COVID-19.

Meal vouchers

As a result of the coronavirus crisis, some sectors have taken additional measures. This is for example the case in JC 120 for the textile industry.

On the basis of the recently concluded CLA of 7 April 2020 containing sectoral measures in the context of the coronavirus crisis (reg. no. 158.546), the employer's contribution to the meal vouchers will be increased by EUR 2 for the period from 13 March 2020 to 14 May 2020.

Minimum provisions

However, the above sectoral provisions are only minimum provisions. This implies that you can deviate from this to the benefit of your worker and still treat the period of temporary unemployment as time actually worked for the calculation of the amount of the eco vouchers, the annual premium and the end-of year bonus.

Partena Professional can help you with this. Feel free to contact your payroll consultant for more information.

Source:

  • CLA of 9 June 2016 relating to eco vouchers (reg. no. 134.425), in force since 1 July 2016 for an indefinite period (JC 200);
  • CLA no. 98 of 20 February 2009 relating to eco vouchers;
  • National CLA of 7 April 2020 containing sectoral measures in the context of the coronavirus crisis (reg. no. 158.546), in force from 13 March 2020 to 30 juni 2020 (JC 120);
  • CLA of 20 October 2017 (reg. no. 142.983), in force from 1 December 2017 for an indefinite period (JC 100);
  • CLA of 4 September 2017 (reg. no. 142.096), in force from 1 August 2017 for an indefinite period  (JC 201).

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