Anti-Crisis Measures to Sustain Employment

The Law implementing measures to sustain employment in times of economic downturn was published in the Belgian Official Journal on 25 June 2009. Three types of specific measures, applicable during the second half of 2009, aim at decreasing the amount of time worked and reducing salary costs while maintaining purchase power for the workers: temporary unemployment for white-collar workers, crisis related time credit and temporary collective reduction in working time.

Only companies in serious difficulty can apply for temporary unemployment for white-collar workers and crisis-related time credit. It concerns companies facing a decrease in turnover or production of at least 20% compared to last year or companies with blue-collar workers already temporarily unemployed during 20 % of their normal working time. In addition, the company must have a sectoral or company CBA, or an approved company plan.

1.  Temporary unemployment for white collar workers

The employer can suspend the employment contract of a white-collar worker entirely for a maximum of 16 weeks. He can also partially suspend the employment contract for a maximum of 26 weeks. In case of a partial suspension, the white-collar worker should work at least 2 days a week. He will receive an unemployment benefit from the National Employment Office (RVA/ONEM) and an additional supplement from the employer which must be at least equivalent to the one received by temporarily unemployed blue-collar workers.

2.  Crisis related time credit

By means of an individual written agreement between the employer and the worker, the working time of a full-time worker can be reduced by 1/5 or 1/2 and this during a period of one to six months. During this time, the worker is entitled to receive compensation from the RVA/ONEM. An additional voluntary contribution can be paid by the employer . Crisis related time credit has no influence over regular time credit.

3.  Temporary collective reduction in working time

The employer can reduce the working time by 1/5 or 1/4 by means of a CBA. In this case, a social security contribution exemption is applied (600 EUR for a 1/5 reduction and 750 EUR for a 1/4 reduction) per worker and per quarter. When the reduction in working time is combined with a 4 day working week, this amount is increased to 1,000 EUR and 1,150 EUR respectively per worker per quarter. However, it must be noted that at least 3/4 of the social security contribution exemption must return to the workers by means of a wage supplement.