New “Corona leave” reduces young parents’ suffering

In a previous article, we mentioned in mildly critical tones that the Belgian government still hadn’t issued a regulation on a proposed special “Corona leave” for young parents struggling to balance (home)work and the care of their children. It could just be coincidence, obviously, but the very next day the government reached agreement on the topic. Unfortunately we have then had to wait until today for publication of the details in the relevant Royal Decree.

The new rules may be summarised as follows:

  • Corona leave is a variant of the traditional parental leave, but taking one does not impact the other (as in, the balance of outstanding parental leave will not be reduced by the Corona leave). With the approval of the employer, employees may also switch from the traditional parental to Corona leave part way through.
  • The regime applies retroactively as from 1 May.
  • Access is subject to the following conditions:
    • Having at least one child below the age of 12 (or a disabled child below the age of 21);
    • Having at least one month’s service with the current employer;
    • The employer has been given at least 3 days’ prior notice of the leave and has approved it;
    • The employee worked at least 75% of full time prior to requesting the leave.
  • A full-time suspension of work is not possible as part of Corona leave, only a reduction by half or 1/5th. Employees who work part-time (subject to that minimum 75% of full time hours) will only have access to a reduction equivalent to half a full time schedule.
  • The leave may be taken over an uninterrupted period until 30 June, or in (un)interrupted periods of one week or one month.

The employee should make the request in writing, either by registered mail or by e-mail with confirmation of receipt, at least three working days in advance of its intended start date. The employer has three working days to accept or reject the request. Such rejection should not be justified by the employer. Employer and employee may agree to shorten the process.

For now, the leave is accessible only until 30 June, but the government will consider extending it over the summer months.

For the days on Corona leave, the employee will be entitled to an allowance payable by the Unemployment Office, which will be 25% higher than for traditional parental leave.

It is a little regrettable that it has taken so long to introduce the Corona leave, but as it is becoming more and more likely that some children will not be returning to school before September, it is clearly entirely safe to say: better late than never!