Smooth transition corona unemployment-economic unemployment

Author: Catherine Mairy (Legal Expert)
Date:

Royal Decree No. 46 temporarily adapts the existing economic unemployment schemes (manual and non-manual workers) to facilitate the transition from temporary unemployment due to force majeure as a result of Covid-19 to these schemes.

This transitional regime will enter into force on 1 September 2020 and will cease to have effect on 31 December 2020 .

Companies concerned 

The transitional regime will apply to companies which will no longer be in a position to invoke temporary unemployment due to force majeure related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In such a case, they will be able to resort to temporary unemployment due to lack of work for economic reasons.

Temporary adjustments

In order to facilitate the transition from one scheme to the other, temporary adjustments are being made to the existing economic unemployment schemes for manual and non-manual workers.

Economic unemployment for manual workers

As regards economic unemployment for manual workers, the temporary adjustments relate to the maximum duration of unemployment in the absence of a sectoral Royal Decree:

  • in the event of complete suspension of the employment contract (complete cessation of work), the maximum allowed duration will be set at 8 weeks (instead of normally 4 weeks);
  • in the case of a reduced working time scheme 'major suspension' (either less than 3 working days/week or less than one working week per 2 weeks with at least 2 working days), the maximum allowed duration will be set at 18 weeks (instead of normally 3 months).

Important note! With the exception of the temporary adjustments mentioned above, the other rules of the economic unemployment scheme for manual workers will therefore continue to apply unchanged. Thus, the employer will always be obliged (where appropriate, in the required forms and by the required time):

  • not to place a manual worker who is entitled to certain days of compensatory rest on economic unemployment;
  • not to outsource to third parties the work that should normally have been carried out by the manual workers during unemployment;
  • to make the required notifications and communications to the manual workers, the works council/trade union delegation and the unemployment office;
  • to issue a C3.2A control form to every manual worker placed on economic unemployment;
  • to complete the validation book;
  • to submit a social risk declaration- (DRS/ASR) scenario 2 and -scenario 5;
  • to pay to the manual worker placed on economic unemployment a supplement on top of the unemployment benefits (unless there are derogations);
  • to reintroduce, at the expiry of the maximum allowed duration, the scheme of full employment for a full week, before a new complete or partial suspension can take effect;
  • etc.

Economic unemployment for non-manual workers

As regards economic unemployment for non-manual workers, the temporary adjustments relate to:

  • on the one hand, the terms of application of unemployment;
  • and, on the other hand, its maximum duration.

 

          a)Terms of application

The temporary adjustments are as follows:

  • the employer will have to be able to demonstrate that he has experienced a substantial decrease of at least 10% in turnover or production in the quarter preceding the application for the introduction of economic unemployment, compared with the same quarter in 2019 (in other words, it is not necessary for the company to be recognised as being in difficulty under the transitional regime);
  • the employer will have to offer 2 training days a month to non-manual workers who have been placed on economic unemployment.

If the company is bound by a company plan, the following will also apply:

  • the plan must demonstrate that the company has experienced a substantial decrease of at least 10% in turnover or production in the preceding quarter compared with the same quarter in 2019;
  • the plan must state that the employer undertakes to offer 2 training days a month to non-manual workers who have been placed on economic unemployment;
  • the plan does not derogate from the amount of the supplement on top of the unemployment benefits payable by the employer;
  • a copy of the plan must be forwarded by the employer without delay to the works council or, in the absence of that body, to the trade union delegation.

It should also be noted that the company plan will not have to be submitted to the Director-General of the Directorate General Collective Labour Relations of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, nor will it have to be presented to the ‘Company Plans’ Committee for approval.

     b) Maximum duration 

The maximum duration of temporary unemployment per calendar year (either 16 calendar weeks in the case of complete suspension of the employment contract, or 26 calendar weeks in the case of a reduced working time scheme involving at least 2 working days/week) will be increased by 8 calendar weeks.

Important note! With the exception of the temporary adjustments mentioned above, the other rules of the economic unemployment scheme for non-manual workers will therefore continue to apply unchanged. Thus, the employer will always be obliged (where appropriate, in the required forms and by the required time):

  • not to place a non-manual worker who is entitled to certain days of compensatory rest on economic unemployment;
  • not to outsource to third parties the work that should normally have been carried out by the non-manual workers during unemployment;
  • to be bound by a sectoral collective labour agreement (CLA) or, failing that, a collective labour agreement in the company or a company plan;
  • to deposit the CLA or the company plan at the Clerk’s Office of the Directorate General Collective Labour Relations of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue;
  • to send form C106A to the unemployment office;
  • to make the required notifications and communications to the non-manual workers, the works council/trade union delegation and the unemployment office;
  • to issue a C3.2A control form to every non-manual worker placed on economic unemployment;
  • to complete the validation book;
  • to submit a social risk declaration- (DRS/ASR) scenario 2 and -scenario 5;
  • to pay to the non-manual worker placed on economic unemployment the supplement on top of the unemployment benefits (unless there are derogations); 
  • etc.

We await further clarification on certain points (e.g. on the conditions required to still be able to resort to temporary unemployment 'force majeure Covid-19' after 31 August 2020). We will keep you updated.

 

Source: Royal Decree No. 46 of 26 June 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 support the employers and the employees, Belgian Official Gazette of  1 July 2020 (Art. 12 to 14).

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