Omicron measure: what is provided for employees on career breaks?

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

In order to ensure the proper organization of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees will have the possibility, under certain conditions, to temporarily suspend their career break or to go and work for another employer during a career break period.

This measure will apply from 23 January to 28 February 2022 in all sectors, except care and education. In those two sectors, the measure will be in effect from 1 January to 31 March 2022 (see “Care and education: temporary measures for career breaks“).

Important note! The measure still has to be published in the Belgian Official Gazette.

Update! The Act of 14 February 2022 was published on 9 March 2022. The measure has been confirmed.

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').

What is possible in practice?

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

  • either the employee agrees with his employer to temporarily suspend his career break,
  • or, during his career break, the employee is temporarily employed by another employer.

Suspension of the career break

An employee may agree with his employer 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 retains his career break benefit payable by the National Employment Office (ONEm/RVA). However, the amount of that benefit is reduced by 1/4.

Temporary suspension of the career break is only possible until 28 February 2022.

Temporary employment during the career break with another employer

During his career break, the employee may be temporarily employed with another employer.

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 28 February 2022, the planned end date of this measure.

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.

Informing the employees (or their representatives)

The employer who uses or wishes to use the measure must immediately inform the trade union delegation or, in the absence thereof, the employees (by appropriate means).

The information shall cover:

  • the possible use of the measure,
  • the exact start date of use,
  • the absences within the company and their impact on the operation of the company.

The employer may continue to use the measure after an initial two-week period unless the trade union delegation unanimously objects within ten days of the start of the use of the measure.

The reasons why the measure can no longer be used shall be explained in writing and in detail.

If there is no trade union delegation, the employer shall notify the joint committee of the intention to continue using the measure.

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. This is done using a form that should be downloadable from the ONEm/RVA website.

Source: Bill containing various temporary emergency measures in the field of labour law to combat the labour shortage caused by the Omicron variant contaminations, doc. 55 2456.

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