We already informed you that in certain circumstances the coronavirus was recognised as force majeure by the National Employment Office (RVA/ONEM). This was the case for companies working closely with affected areas in China and employees who no longer could return to Belgium because of the measures taken by the local authorities in the affected areas.
Belgium itself has now become an affected area. On 12 March 2020, the National Security Council announced strict measures, which took effect from 14 March 2020 until 3 April 2020. On 18 March 2020, these measures are being tightened up, and last until 30 June 2020.
These measures have an enormous impact on the economy and therefore also on labour regulations. Undoubtedly, a lot of companies are also affected by these strict measures. Many companies will be forced to close temporarily. And the others will have to deal with an unprecedented drop in customers, turnover and production.
On 20 March, the government announced a single corona procedure to apply for temporary unemployment due to force majeure.
The RVA/ONEm created a special application form available for this purpose on its website: RVA - ONEM.
Temporary unemployment for economic reasons will therefore be eliminated for all companies claiming temporary unemployment as a result of the corona crisis.
Only one single procedure is therefore applicable in the context of the corona crisis, with the name "Tijdelijke werkloosheid ten gevolge van het uitbreken van het Coronavirus Covid-19 / Chômage temporaire à la suite de l'épidémie de coronavirus covid-19"
All temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus can be considered as temporary unemployment due to force majeure.
1. Which enterprises or workers are concerned?
In principle, all companies and workers affected by the corona crisis can claim temporary unemployment due to force majeure, including the following:
- all cafés, restaurants and bars closed as a result of the measures introduced on 14 March 2020;
- non-essential stores and businesses, except food stores, pharmacies, pet stores, hair salons, gas stations and bookstores;
- workers made redundant as a result of the cancellation of events, cultural activities, sports activities (cf. sports clubs, fitness centres, etc.), closure of cinemas and closure of leisure centres;
- all shops in the retail sector that are completely closed (with the exception of food shops and supermarkets) as a result of the measures introduced on 18 March 2020;
- enterprises that are still able to offer limited services despite the compulsory closure can also apply for temporary unemployment for all days on which the workers cannot be employed (significant reduction in the volume of work) due to force majeure.
- workers employed in sheltered workshops, social workshops and made-to-measure companies (PC 327);
- workers from the non-profit sector who fall under the rules of the private sector;
- service cheque companies that close voluntarily as a result of the corona crisis;
- companies that remain open but whose workers are unable to work because of the loss of orders from customers, for each full day that they are unable to work;
- workers of suppliers of companies that have been hit by an imposed closure;
- workers who have to stay at home because of family circumstances.
Cannot be temporarily unemployed due to force majeure: liberal professions (lawyers, accountants, architects, ...), statutory employees and students.
Temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure is provisionally accepted until 30 June 2020 (until further notice).
2. Simplified formalities
The RVA/ONEM introduced simplified procedures for the introduction of temporary unemployment, for both employers and workers.
2.1 for the employer
- For the duration of the restrictive measures (provisionally until 30 June 2020), the employer must no longer send notices of temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure to the competent unemployment office of the RVA/ONEM.
This period can be extended until 30 June 2020 if the sanitary measures are extended or reinforced by the government.
- If, for the period starting 13 March 2020 in the ASR scenario 5 (electronic social risk filing in which the employer states the number of days on which the employee is temporarily unemployed), the employer indicates the temporary unemployment as "force majeure" (by mentioning the code "nature of the day" 5.4 and with the reason "coronavirus"), such filing is deemed to be the required notification.
This procedure applies regardless of whether the employer had already sent a notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for the period from 13 March 2020 and also applies if he had sent a notification of temporary unemployment due to economic reasons.
The employer who had initially sent a notification of temporary unemployment due to economic reasons can thus switch to the regulation of temporary unemployment due to force majeure (reason "coronavirus") without further formalities, even if it is still possible for certain workers to work or to work on certain days.
- If the employer indicates 'economic reasons' as a reason for temporary unemployment in the ASR scenario 5 (by mentioning the code 'nature of the day' 5.1), the existing procedures will be maintained (notification of the foreseen temporary unemployment due to economic reasons, notification of the first effective unemployment day, compulsory working week...).
- The employer is obliged to deliver an ASR scenario 5 as soon as possible (on the basis of which the RVA/ONEM can also determine the amount of the benefits of the temporary unemployed person). The employer should not wait until the end of the month, but must do this during the month, as soon as all the data until the end of the month are known.
- The employer is released from handing over the form C 3.2A to the employee.
2.2 for the employee
- The employee may use a simplified form (form C3.2- WERKNEMER-CORONA / formulaire C3.2 – TRAVAILLEUR-CORONA) to apply for the benefits with his payment institution.
- An employee who is temporarily unemployed for reasons of force majeure is admitted to the unemployment benefits without any conditions for admission. This applies for the period from 1 February 2020 until 30 June 2020 (included), even if the unemployment is because of economic reasons.
Employers who had already applied for temporary unemployment for economic reasons because of the coronavirus (cf. previous contribution) and who are now affected by a measure to close or abolish the activity, can now submit a new application for temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure.
More details about the procedure to be followed is available on the website of the RVA / ONEM.
The form C 3.2A must not be submitted to the employee during the coronacrisis.
But be aware! The information provided by the RVA /ONEM is permanently changing and updated.
3. How and by whom is the temporarily unemployed worker compensated?
The temporarily unemployed worker is exempted from a waiting period and does not have to prove working days in order to be entitled to the allowance.
The employee receives an allowance of 70% of his average capped salary (capped at 2,754.76 EUR/month). This unemployment benefit is entirely at the expense of the RVA/ONEM. A withholding tax on professional income of 26.75% will be applied.
An additional allowance of EUR 5.63 per day (EUR 150 per month) on top of this unemployment benefit will be paid by the RVA/ONEm.
That means that the full allowance will be paid by the RVA/ONEm. In principle, therefore, the employer has nothing more to pay.
Please, do not hesitate to contact us. It goes without saying, that we can assist you, first of all to assess your legal position and to consider what action you can or should take in this crisis. You can always contact us on 02/747 40 07 or CoronaTaskforce@seeds.law.