Coronavirus: impact on the employment contract

Author: Catherine Mairy (Legal Expert)
Date:

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, many companies are no longer able to function normally.

Different situations may occur.

Temporary unemployment due to force majeure

The employer may invoke temporary unemployment due to force majeure:

  • if supplies are no longer assured;
  • if the employee is stranded abroad due to a flight/train cancellation or due to a quarantine measure;
  • if the employee is placed in quarantine in Belgium following his return from a risk area.

The formalities to be completed are described on the website of the National Employment Office (NEO).

If the NEO recognises the temporary unemployment due to force majeure, the employees concerned (manual and non-manual workers) will benefit from temporary unemployment benefits amounting to 70 % of the limited gross wage (percentage applicable until 30 June 2020).

Temporary unemployment due to lack of work for economic reasons

The employer may invoke temporary unemployment due to lack of work for economic reasons in case of a decrease of the number of customers, production, turnover, orders, etc.

The conditions and formalities to be complied with are described on the website of the NEO; they vary depending on whether the employees concerned have the status of manual worker or non-manual worker (in the latter case, the company must be (recognised as being) in difficulty.

The provisions laid down, where appropriate, by the activity sector regarding temporary unemployment for economic reasons must also be complied with.

If these conditions and formalities are complied with, the employees concerned (manual and non-manual workers) will benefit from temporary unemployment benefits amounting to 70 % of their limited gross wage (percentage applicable until 30 June 2020).

Important note! Pending, where applicable, the completion of the procedure for recognition as a company in difficulty, the company may also invoke temporary unemployment due to force majeure.

Other working arrangements

If the employee returns from a risk area or has been in contact with a person returning from a risk area, the employer may, if that employee does not appear to be infected by the coronavirus, propose to him to temporarily organise the work differently:

  • teleworking;
  • other premises;
  • etc.

To the extent that such a proposal is aimed at ensuring the safety and health of the employees in the workplace, it would, in our opinion, be difficult for the employee concerned to refuse it.

If the employer is unable to provide alternative working arrangements and 'forces' the employee to stay at home for health reasons, he will have to pay the employee the normal wage, unless the employee agrees to take days off.

Important note! In such cases, the employer should proceed with caution or he runs the risk of being reproached for an act of implicit dismissal.

The other precautionary measures are described on the website of the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue.

Guaranteed wage

If the employee is infected with the coronavirus, the employer must pay him the guaranteed wage provided that he has fulfilled his obligations regarding incapacity for work (notification, submit a medical certificate).

 

More information about the impact of the coronavirus?

Please refer to our infoflashes  of  11 March 2020 and 12 March 2020

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