Brexit: temporary unemployment for employers in difficulty
Employers experiencing economic difficulties following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) can make use of a specific temporary unemployment scheme.
This is one of the three temporary crisis measures for these employers provided for in the law of 6 March 2020 and which will be in effect from 22 March 2021 to 22 March 2022.
The specific temporary unemployment regime applies to private sector employers experiencing economic difficulties as a result of the Brexit.
It concerns employers recognized by the Secretary of State for Employment as being affected by a decrease of at least 5% in turnover, in production or in the number of orders due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
How can you apply for this temporary unemployment scheme? There are 2 application conditions:
- The employer must on the one hand be bound by a collective labour agreement, and
- on the other hand, be recognized as an employer in difficulty.
If you need any assistance with regard to this crisis measure, please reach out to your payroll contact at Mazars.
Allowance for home office – adjusted amount
The administrative circular letter on working from home, announced by the Minister of Finance, has recently been published.
This circular letter relates to homework that is performed in the employee’s private premises.
The home office allowance is considered to cover office costs, which are all costs that have to be incurred in order to be able to perform a professional activity in a normal manner. These are costs associated with the furnishing and use of an office space, printer and IT equipment, costs for utilities such as water, electricity and heating, maintenance costs, insurance costs, property tax, coffee, water, soft drinks, etc.
Up until now, the employer could already grant a monthly net allowance of 129.48 EUR (amount valid since April 1, 2020) for regular and structural work from home that is actually performed by an employee. Structural and regular working from home is understood to be the equivalent of one working day per week.
In a press release, the Minister of Finance announced that the maximum compensation for working from home would be temporarily increased for the second quarter of 2021 (April, May and June 2021) in order to better absorb the costs actually incurred. The increased amount is equal to 144,31 EUR (press release of 12 February 2021 from the Belgian Minister of Finance, Mr. Vincent Van Peteghem).
Please inform us if you would like more information regarding the home office allowance or any other net allowance and how to apply this in the periodic payroll administration.
Mouth masks, hydroalcoholic gel and the Belgian tax authorities
The Belgian tax authorities have recently ruled on the provision and reimbursement of mouth masks and hydroalcoholic hand gels by the employer.
When the wearing of mouth masks and the use of hydroalcoholic hand gels is mandatory in the workplace or when the employee uses them for commuting or business travel by public transport, the employer may:
- Either make mouth masks and hydroalcoholic gels available to the employees;
- Either reimburse the employees for the purchase of these mouth masks and gels, or contribute to the maintenance of these masks.
The Belgian tax authorities accept that when the employer makes mouth masks and/or hydroalcoholic gel available to the employees, the provision of mouth masks and/or hydroalcoholic hand gels to employees does not constitute a taxable benefit of any kind for them.
However, the number of mouth masks (and/or the quantity of gel) must be proportionate to the number actually needed by the employee during working hours (employer’s workplace or at customers’ premises) and for commuting or business travel by public transport.
In order to avoid a taxable benefit, mouth masks and/or hydroalcoholic gel cannot be reimbursed, but must be provided in kind by the employer.
This means that the employer cannot contribute to the purchase costs of the employee or grant him a flat-rate amount with which he can buy the mouth masks and/or gel.
Exceptionally, however, a reimbursement of costs on the basis of supporting documents can be accepted when the employee cannot go to his workplace to receive the mouth masks and/or gel (e.g. an employee who is employed abroad).
The employer may also contribute to the actual costs of maintaining a cloth mouth mask. The Belgian tax authorities accept an amount of € 0.20 per week, which will be considered as a non-taxable reimbursement of costs proper to the employer.
As regards to Belgian social security, the National Social Security Office has pronounced itself in favour of the same principles agreed by the Belgian tax authorities with regard to the employer’s contributions to mouth masks.
Covid-19: teleworking remains mandatory!
The Consultative Committee of 19 March 2021 has confirmed again that teleworking from home remains mandatory.
It has also announced that, from Monday 22 March 2021, antigen tests will be used in risk-sensitive sectors where teleworking is not possible.
As a reminder, teleworking from home is mandatory:
- in all companies, all associations and all services;
- for all staff members;
unless this is impossible due to the nature of the position or the continuity of the business, the activities or the services.
Flexible temporary unemployment corona until 30 June 2021
The Belgian government is extending the flexible system for temporary unemployment due to corona until 30 June 2021.
The flexible “corona unemployment” system, which entered into force since March 2020, will continue until 30 June 2021. It will be accessible to all employers in all sectors.
For the employer this means:
- any form of temporary unemployment due to the corona crisis is unemployment due to force majeure;
- no prior notification to the ONEm/RVA;
- no application for benefits (Social Risk Declaration unemployment scenario 2);
- no delivery of verification cards C.3.2A;
- only a monthly declaration of the days of temporary unemployment (Social Risk Declaration unemployment scenario 5) with code ‘nature of the day’ 5.4 and reason ‘force majeure Coronavirus’.
For the employee this means:
- single application for benefits via the C.3.2 - WORKER-CORONA.
In the case of unemployment due to a cancelled event, the form C.3.2 - WORKER-CORONA-EVENTS must be used
- exemption from keeping a control card C.3.2A;
- unemployment benefit of 70% of the capped wage (EUR 2,754.76/month);
- supplement from the ONEm/RVA of EUR 5.63/day;
- reduced wage withholding tax of 15% on the benefits;
- no admissibility condition, i.e. no occupational history to be demonstrated.
In case of any questions or assistance in this respect, please contact our payroll department.
Single permit - New electronical platform
Foreigners who do not possess a nationality of an EEA-country or Switzerland and who wish to stay and work for more than 90 days in Belgium during a calendar year must (in principle) submit a single permit application request to the competent region. A single permit combines the right to stay and the right to work in Belgium, and must be applied by the employer.
The Belgian government will develop a new online platform to simplify these single permit applications for both the employer and the employee. Besides the application itself, it will also be possible to gather and safely exchange all documents and intelligence necessary for the investigation and decisions related to the single permit. A first draft will be live shortly and further information will follow.
In light of the vaccination campaign for the wider Belgian public, a few regulations and common practices need to be taken into account.
A bill which grants the employee paid leave of absence for their COVID-19 vaccination, has been put forward. This leave of absence is subject to the following conditions:
- the employer has to be informed prior to the absence;
- the absence is only to be used for the vaccination and should not exceed the time necessary for the vaccination itself; and
- the employee should provide proof of his/her absence (for instance the convocation letter) to the employer, upon request.
The bill itself has not yet been published, this information is to be interpreted with reservation.
An employee who experiences symptoms and falls ill following the vaccination, needs to follow the procedure of a regular sick leave.
Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees who refuse to be vaccinated, nor can they force their employees to get vaccinated. The employer can, however, inform and incentivize their employees in this respect.
At all times, even when employees and employers have been vaccinated, are the current COVID-19 measures, to be strictly followed.
Bonus joint labour committee 200
The bonus for Joint Labour Committee 200 amounts to 267,64 EUR as from 2021 (unless converted into an equivalent benefit).
This bonus will be processed on the payslip of June 2021 on the basis of effective and equivalent work performed (employment) in the course of the reference period.
The eco vouchers to be provided to the employees subject to Joint Labour Committee 200 amount to maximum 250 EUR and will be processed in June 2021 on the basis of effective and equivalent work performed (employment) in the course of the reference period.
Provisions holiday pay of 2021
The amounts of the provisions of the holiday pay for 2021 that were booked on the balance sheet on December 31, 2020 and that can be accepted as professional expenses have recently been determined.
The provisions for the holiday payment in 2021 shall only be regarded as “tax deductible professional expenses” in the hands of the employer (subject to Belgian corporate income tax law) to the extent that they do not exceed the following limits:
- 18,20% of the fixed and variable remuneration granted in 2020 to white-collar employees reduced with the additional holiday pay (*) that was granted in 2020.
- 10,27% of 108/100 of the gross remuneration granted to blue-collar employees and apprentices in 2020.
Variable remuneration refers to the normal periodic (not fixed) remuneration such as commissions, premiums, wages for overtime,… The holiday pay itself, year-end premium or other similar allowances may not be included in the basis for calculating the holiday provision.
(*) This concerns the holiday pay for days on which white-collar workers have taken additional holidays because they were not yet entitled to legal holidays at the start or resumption of their employment. The additional holiday pay corresponds to the basic wage for the days of additional holidays taken and is financed by a pre-taking on the statutory double holiday pay of the following year.
Meal vouchers, eco vouchers and sports /culture vouchers: expiration date extended
The meal and Eco vouchers that expire between November 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 will be valid for six more months.
The period of validity for sports and culture vouchers, which normally expired on September 30, 2020, has also been extended until September 30, 2021.
If you require more detailed information about the extension of the validity of vouchers granted by an employer in Belgium, please inform us.
Telework registration tool
As you may know, telework is already mandatory since 2 November 2020 for functions that allow it to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On March 24, 2021, the Belgian Government decided to strengthen the monitoring of this mandatory telework. The National Social Security Office (NSSO) has been imposed with the task to develop a registration tool that employers must fill out regarding employees who cannot telework.
This new registration obligation applies to all Belgian employers, in both the private and public sectors. The employer should register the number of employees in service and the ones with a ‘non-telework function’ based on the employment situation on the first working day of the month.
The employees to be registered are only those for whom the employer is required to file or has already filed a DIMONA notification (i.e. employees that are subject to Belgian social security contributions). The form should be filled no later than the 6th calendar day of the month. This means that for the month of April 2021, the form must be completed and filed no later than Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
For more in-depth information, we refer to the Mazars Info newsletter of this month. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your payroll consultant or your Mazars contact person.
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