Coronavirus: measures relating to career breaks

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

In order to increase the workforce in the vital sectors, employees may, under certain conditions, temporarily suspend their career break or go and work for another employer during a career break period.

Which employees are concerned?

The employees concerned are those who have completely suspended or reduced their working time (to a half-time job, by 1/5 or 1/10) within the framework of time credit or thematic leave (hereinafter referred to as 'career break').

Which sectors are concerned?

Suspension of the career break is only authorised for employees who are employed by an employer in a vital sector.

The possibility of working during a career break period only applies to employment with another employer who also belongs to a vital sector.

The vital sectors are as follows:

  • JC No. 144 (agriculture), in so far as the employee is employed exclusively on the employer's own land,
  • JC No. 145 (horticulture), excluding the sector of planting and upkeep of parks and gardens,
  • JC No. 146 (forestry) and
  • JC No. 322 (temporary agency sector and accredited undertakings providing community-based work or services, in so far as the temporary agency worker is employed by a user in one of the sectors mentioned above).

 

This list of vital sectors could be extended by Royal Decree.

What is possible in practice?

There are two possibilities for an employee taking a career break:

  • either the employee who is employed by an employer in a vital sector agrees with him to temporarily suspend his career break,
  • or the employee is temporarily employed, during his career break, by another employer in a vital sector.

Suspension of the career break with an employer in a vital sector

An employee who is employed by an employer in a vital sector may agree with him to temporarily suspend his career break.

At the end of that temporary suspension, the career break will be continued for the remainder of the period under the original conditions.

During the period of suspension of the career break, the employee does not receive any career break benefits payable by the National Employment Office (ONEm/RVA).

Temporary suspension of the career break is only possible until 31 May 2020. However, a Royal Decree may extend this possibility until 30 June 2020.

Temporary employment with another employer in a vital sector during the career break

During his career break, the employee may be temporarily employed by another employer in a vital sector.

The parties (the employee and the other employer in a vital sector) must conclude a written fixed-term contract. The end date of that contract cannot be later than 31 May 2020, the planned end date of this measure. However, a Royal Decree may decide to extend this measure until 30 June 2020. In that case, the end date for fixed-term contracts concluded under this measure cannot be later than 30 June 2020.

The employee retains his career break benefit at the expense of the ONEm/RVA. However, the amount of the career break benefit is reduced by 1/4 for the duration of the employment contract.

What are the formalities vis-à-vis the ONEm/RVA?

The employee must inform the ONEm/RVA in writing of the temporary suspension of the career break or the temporary employment with another employer in a vital sector. This is done using a form that can be downloaded from the ONEm/RVA website.

The ONEm/RVA will then send the employee a letter confirming that the notification of the suspension of his career break or employment with another employer in a vital sector has been taken note of.

More info? https://www.onem.be/fr/documentation/feuille-info/t3

Source: Special Powers Decree No. 14 of  27 April 2020 implementing Article 5, § 1, 5°, of the Act of 27 March 2020 authorising the King to take measures in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 (II) to safeguard a smooth work organisation in the critical sectors, Belgian Official Gazette, 28 April 2020 - 2nd edition; https://www.onem.be/fr/nouveau/mesures-pour-les-travailleurs-en-interruption-de-carriere-la-suite-de-la-pandemie-de-coronavirus.

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