Coronavirus: launch of the second part of the Federal Plan for Social and Economic Protection
During the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Friday 20 March a number of measures were approved to alleviate the socio-economic consequences of Covid-19. They are based on the recommendations of the ERMG (Economic Risk Management Group) which met yesterday, and the meeting with the G10.
These measures belong to the second part of what is known as the Federal Plan for Social and Economic Protection. These come on top of the 10 measures adopted on 6 March from the first part of this federal plan.
In recent weeks, the health situation has forced us to take difficult measures to protect our people. These measures have had a major impact on all of Belgium's economic actors: companies, employees and the self-employed.
It was therefore imperative to take measures to protect them.
These are based on three pillars:
- measures to protect the spending power of employees;
- measures that directly support the self-employed;
- measures to support companies in these difficult times.
1. Regarding the spending power of employees
Temporary unemployment will be granted automatically, and will be extended and reinforced. This means that companies do not have to provide a reason for seeking temporary unemployment and that temporary unemployment is also possible for people who, for example, have to stay at home because their partner is infected and to limit the impact on the spending power of employees. The reference percentage is being increased from 65% to 70%, the days of unemployment are taken into account for and included when calculating holiday pay, and the National Employment Office is giving approximately € 5.63 for each day of unemployment.
A distinction is no longer being made between unemployment for economic reasons and for force majeure.
There will also be an automatic two-month extension of payment deadlines for personal income tax.
2. Regarding support for the self-employed who have had to close their business or are having difficulties
The bridging right will allow those who are self-employed as their main activity, and who because of coronavirus are unable to continue their activity or are only partially able to do so, to get a monthly allowance of between 1,291.69 and 1,614.10 EUR. This right will automatically apply to the industries covered by the Royal Decree of 16 March and will be applied immediately (March/April). For the other industries, activities must have been stopped for 7 consecutive days.
A postponement of payment is provided for taxes (two months) and social security contributions (postponement for the first two quarters). Certain exemptions will also be provided for.
Local authorities have been asked to contribute to the effort and to freeze certain local taxes.
3. Regarding support for SMES and companies who have had to close their business or are having difficulties
They will be able to enjoy the aforementioned postponed payment.
If federal government contracts have been awarded to service providers, no penalties for delays in the execution of these contracts will be imposed, if they are affected by Covid-19. In addition, the authorities undertake to speed up payments for these contracts.
4. Provisions per industry
Regarding the hospitality industry, the rules on "take away" will be applied with flexibility (fiscal and FASFC - no new licence required for restaurants). Brasseries, in turn, will not be penalized in case of under-consumption.
Regarding retail, the government has started consultations with social partners to allow greater flexibility in supermarket opening hours. There are also ongoing talks to find ways of transferring staff from one industry to another, to ensure that activities are maintained, but also to maintain the possibility of carrying out flexi-jobs, even in case of temporary unemployment.
Regarding the travel industry, if a package holiday is cancelled, people will get a voucher of equal value, valid for at least one year.
Regarding the events industry, tickets purchased will remain valid if the event is postponed. If consumers are unable to attend the event, sufficient time will be provided for the refund.
Regarding agriculture and horticulture, the period of seasonal work will be doubled.
Regarding federal scientific institutions, they will be able to draw on their reserves to compensate for the shortfall in income resulting from the closures because of Covid-19.
The Minister of the Budget will supervise the measures taken by the federal government.
As a reminder, companies are requested to organise working from home (remote working). If this is not possible, the social distancing rules must be applied strictly within the company, both in the workplace and for any transport provided by the employer. If not adhered to, the company will have to shut down. Strict compliance with social distancing measures does not apply to key industries. However, there too, people are strongly advised to apply the measures as much as possible.
All information is available from the website www.info-coronavirus.be or by calling 0800 14 689.