New temporary measures for career breaks

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

In order to increase the number of workers in the care and education sector or at employers operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing (to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus), employees have the possibility, under certain conditions, to temporarily suspend their career break or to work for another employer during a period of career break.

This temporary measure, laid down in the Act of 20 December 2020 on temporary support measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, applies retroactively to 1 October 2020.

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?

The suspension of the career break is only allowed for employees who are employed by an employer belonging to the care and education sector or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The possibility to work during a career break is only available for employment by another employer belonging to the care and education sector or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

More specifically, the care sectors are as follows: (public and private) services of care, reception and assistance to persons, the elderly, minors, disabled persons and vulnerable persons, including victims of intra-family violence. As far as the private sector is concerned, these services or organisations specifically belong to the following joint committees:

  • JC no. 318 (Joint Committee for the home help and elderly caregiver services);
  • JC no. 319 (Joint Committee for the educational and housing institutions and services);
  • JC no. 330 (Joint committee for healthcare facilities and services);
  • JC no. 331 (Joint committee for the Flemish welfare and health sector);
  • JC no. 332 (Joint Committee for the French-speaking, German-speaking and bi-communal welfare and health sector);
  • JC no. 322 (Joint Committee for the 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 belonging to one of the joint committees mentioned above).

What is possible in practice?

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

  • either the employee employed by an employer belonging to the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing agrees with him to temporarily suspend his career break,
  • or, during his career break, the employee is temporarily employed by another employer belonging to the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing.

Suspension of a career break with an employer belonging to one of the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing

An employee employed by an employer belonging to the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing, 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 March 2021. However, by Royal Decree, this possibility can be extended by 3 months.

Temporary employment during the career break by another employer belonging to the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre responsible for contact tracing 

During his career break, the employee may be temporarily employed by another employer belonging to the sectors concerned (care or education) or operating a facility/centre in charge of contact tracing.

The parties (the employee and the other employer) must conclude a written fixed-term contract. The end date of that contract cannot be later than 31 March 2021, the planned end date of this measure. However, a Royal Decree may decide to extend this measure by 3 months. In that case, the end date for fixed-term contracts concluded under this measure cannot be later than 30 June 2021.

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 by another employer. 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 by another employer has been taken note of.

Sources: Act of 20 December 2020 on temporary support measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Belgian Official Gazette 30.12.2020; ONEm.

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