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What about temporary unemployment due to force majeure?

Friday 24/04/2020
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Since 4 May, the measures concerning the spread of the Coronavirus in the companies have been somewhat relaxed. It is no longer absolutely compulsory for non-essential companies to work out from home for the functions that lend themselves to it.

On the other hand, the telet homework is still highly recommended. However, many companies are still closed or do not have enough work to keep all employees fully employed.  

Which companies can make use of this possibility? 

If, as a result of Corona, the company is no longer able to employ all or part of its workers, a temporary unemployment benefit may be claimed for all days of inactivity.  This applies both to firms which have closed down and those which are allowed to work but which do not yet have enough work for all their employees.  Shops and businesses that are closed as a result of this imposed measure may apply for temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure. This is also allowed for workers who cannot be employed due to the abolition of events, cultural activities, sports activities, closure of cinemas.... 

Temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure may also be claimed for workers employed by suppliers of companies affected by an imposed closure, to the extent that they are no longer able to be employed at all as a result. 

For businesses that can still offer limited services despite the compulsory closure (e.g. a catering service or room service in a hotel whose restaurant has been compulsorily closed), temporary force majeure unemployment can also be applied for for all days on which the workers cannot be employed. In this scheme, therefore, exceptional days of unemployment may alternate with working days. 

For what period can this be claimed? 

Temporary unemployment for reasons of force majeure is provisionally accepted until 31/08/2020. In addition, the super-core decided that certain sectors may have recourse to the force majeure corona temporary unemployment scheme until 31 December 2020.  

Undertakings still experiencing economic difficulties as a result of the corona after this date will have to resort to the economic unemployment procedure. The super-core provides for a specific transition from the corona temporary unemployment system to the normal system of temporary unemployment for economic reasons. In order to benefit from this, certain specific conditions would have to be met. 

Practical - how to apply? 

Only an electronic declaration of temporary unemployment to the unemployment office of the NEO (via the social security portal) must be made, which must mention "Corona virus" in the "remarks" section and the applicable joint committee number. In that case, no additional file has to be submitted to the GVA to prove the force majeure, as it concerns a measure imposed by the government. 

At the end of the month, the social secretariat, including the NEO, will be informed which employees were employed on which days and who was on temporary unemployment. The current system of force majeure offers companies a great deal of flexibility, in the sense that it is possible to keep an employee in work for part of the week and a part temporarily unemployed. However, full days must be taken into account. Also, unlike in the case of temporary unemployment for economic reasons, no prior notification (7 calendar days) has to be given to the workers. Workers must report the first day of unemployment to their trade union or help fund so that the payment can be made correctly. 

If you have other questions regarding the Corona crisis, please visit our special FAQ

Last update: 25/06/2020

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Saskia Lombaerts
Saskia Lombaerts
Director Tax & Legal
An Lettens
An Lettens
Partner Tax & Legal Services