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Coronavirus – Employment law – Belgium

  • Belgium
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus - Country overview
  • Employment law


Strict social distancing measures have been taken in Belgium due to the spread of the COVID-19 within our country. The measures announced are (for now) applicable until 19 April 2020 inclusive.

Population is expected to stay at home, except mainly to buy food, go to gas stations, assist a relative or go for a walk in pairs maximum. All gatherings are forbidden.

Restrictions have been imposed on companies as well.

You will find below (1) an overview of the restriction’s measures on companies (2) some useful information on the organization of telework (3) An overview of salary continuation obligations and of the support measures to help employers in this respect.

Restriction measures: are companies able to continue operations at this time?

Based on a Ministerial decree of 23 March 2020, the following rules apply:

a) businesses and stores must close, except food stores, pharmacies, bookstores, gas stations and fuel suppliers

b) businesses in the crucial sectors and essential services whose continued operation is necessary for the protection of the vital needs of the nation and the needs of the population:

  • they must organize telework. If this is not possible (because the function is not appropriate for this), they must ensure 1.5 metres of social distance between workers
  • if this is not possible, they can still remain open
  • an appendix to the Ministerial decree lists the essential services and crucial sectors (for instance banks, medias, insurances…).

c) companies that do not fall under a or b:

  • they must organize telework. If this is not possible (because the function is not appropriate for this), they must ensure 1.5 metres of social distance between workers. If this is not possible, they must close

Checks on compliance are carried out in companies, resulting in fines or forced closures.

The organization of telework

The government imposes on companies the duty to organize telework where possible.

If the employer had already introduced a framework for structural telework (CLA 85) because teleworking was already regular before the COVID-19 spread, it needs to see what is provided for this in the written document that was established for that purpose. For instance, if the existing document provides for a compensation for telework, the company will have to pay it.

If such a system was not in place, as it is the case for most companies, the employer can use the Occasional Telework Scheme (Feasible and Manageable Work Act of 5 March 2017).

Considering the restrictions measures taken by the government, we consider the Employer can impose telework on its workers.

No mandatory formalities have to be complied with in this respect.

It is however advised to have a good communication on the conditions of telework (duration, provision of equipment, working hours and availabilities, whether or not to cover the costs arising from teleworking…). The employer can agree with its workers on the possible coverage of the costs caused by telework, but it has no obligation in this respect.

Note that general employer’s obligations regarding well-being at work remain applicable, the employer shall ensure health and safety of its workers.

In this respect it is advised that managers remain in regular contact with the workers (for instance by organising at least weekly team meetings), that the employer provides for the adequate material for work (screen, mouse and keyboard are a must, ergonomic chairs could be a good idea too), that it clearly communicates on the fact that it remains available for any question and to provide for a contact person in case of questions.

Salary continuation obligations and government support measures

Different situations shall be considered:

  • as long as working is possible (for instance through telework), the worker shall work and the Employer shall pay the salary
  • if a worker falls ill with COVID-19 and is unable to work, the usual sick pay provisions would apply. During the 1st month of illness, the guaranteed salary is due and paid by the Employer, after there is an indemnity from the social security but no salary due by the Employer
  • the employer can agree with its workers that they will remain home on paid leave
  • if the employer can no longer provide work to a worker in the context of COVID-19 (for instance because it receives order to close), temporary unemployment for force majeure is possible

Temporary unemployment means that the employment contract is suspended (total suspension or reduced working time), for the suspended period the salary is not paid by the employer. Those days the workers receive payment of an unemployment allowance paid by the national unemployment offices (ONEM/RVA). Until 30 June 2020, the amount of the temporary unemployment benefit will be increased to up to 70% of a maximum of €2,754.76 gross for a full month of temporary unemployment (from which will be deducted 26,75% tax) as well as an amount of 5,63 EUR net per day of temporary unemployment.

In order for the worker to be able to receive these benefits, the company must make a simplified electronic declaration social risk (ASR Scenario 5 - reason coronavirus) on the social security website.

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