The current situation regarding Coronavirus is having a major impact on all of us and our businesses. Protective measures, restrictive measures, financial aid measures are announced almost every day. It is sometimes difficult to navigate through them. This article summarizes the changes from day to day. Note that some information still needs to be confirmed by formal legislation.
3 JUNE 2020
The modalities of phase 3 of the exit strategy, scheduled for Monday, 8 June, have been decided and announced today by the National Security Council. On the menu: reopening of hotel and catering businesses, tourism, culture and social life.
31 MAY 2020
Today, at midnight, the deadline for submitting your application for the one-off premium of 4,000 Euros from the Brussels-Capital Region has expired.
30 MAY 2020
In view of the upcoming reopening of the horeca, a best practice guide has been produced which will enable the sector to prepare for its probable reopening on 8 June. However, this deconfinement will be conditional on strict compliance with a series of health-related obligations for establishments. For more information, see the press release (FR).
28 MAY 2020
At the proposal of the Secretary of State for Economic Transition, Barbara Trachte, the Brussels Government has decided to adopt, at first reading, a decree aimed at granting reduced rate loans to job cooperatives active in the Brussels-Capital Region. This will enable these cooperatives to grant, in turn, loans to their entrepreneurial members. The budget allocated to this measure is EUR 2 million. Learn more (FR)
25 MAY 2020
It was decided in the Cabinet on Saturday 25 April to extend the bridging law up to and including 30 June.
Do you wish to benefit from the Corona bridging right in June? Then you have to submit a new application, even if you have already benefited from the Corona bridging right before. There is therefore no automatic renewal.
20 MAY 2020
The Brussels-Capital Region launches the Covid-19 premium to support internationalisation. This premium amounts to a maximum of 2,500 € and is accessible to companies which, because of the coronavirus, have been unable to participate in certain events and activities on an international level, booked as part of an internationalisation project. If the company has not been able to obtain a refund, it can apply for this subsidy from the Region, under certain conditions. More information (FR)
16 MAY 2020
- On Saturday, the Council of Ministers approved the establishment of a “coronavirus” parental leave for full-time self-employed workers who must reduce their work time to take care of a disabled child or child under the age of 12 during the months of May and June. The allowance will total €532.24 per month, or €875 for single-parent families. It cannot, however, be combined with temporary “bridging right” income. To receive the allowance, you must submit an application to your social insurance fund.
- The bridging right for self-employed individuals will be extended until 30 June. The Council of Ministers approved a draft royal decree in this regard on Saturday.
15 MAY 2020
Due to the (partial) suspension of school classes, workers can, since 1 May 2020, benefit from a special parental leave (called the “coronavirus parental leave”) to take care of their child or children. The leave will make it possible for employees who have worked for at least one month under the terms of an employment contract with their employer to reduce their working hours, subject to their employer’s approval, by 1/5th, or to half-time, if their children are under the age of twelve.
Royal decree no. 23 formalises this measure.
- For questions concerning the coronavirus parental leave, please see the News, T9 info sheet and the Coronavirus parental leave FAQ (pdf) from the National Employment Office (ONEM).
- Click here to see the application process.
14 MAY 2020
- The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has agreed on the terms for the introduction of a €2,000 allowance to support the self-employed and companies (maximum 5 full-time equivalent employees) that experience a significant decrease in activity due to the measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Government has also agreed on the methodology for a relaunch and reopening plan to tackle the serious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more
- The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region is taking measures to support the cultural and creative sector in the Brussels Region. In particular, it is providing a one-time regional sectoral allowance of €2,000 for all cultural and creative organisations affected by the COVID-19 crisis and special aid of maximum €1,500 for intermittent cultural workers (€5 million fund).
13 May 2020
On Wednesday 13 May, the National Safety Council, with participation extended to include the various Ministers-presidents, met and decided, based on a report from the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES), to trigger phase 2 of the lockdown easing plan, beginning on 18 May 2020.
- lessons for primary and secondary school pupils shall resume:
- in small groups for certain pupils,
- and so long as strict safety conditions are met.
- people providing services that involve physical contact shall return to work:
- seeing clients on an appointment-only basis,
- with social distancing between clients maintained,
- and with clients and professionals both wearing a mask.
- markets shall reopen:
- subject to authorisation from local authorities,
- with a maximum of 50 stalls,
- with shoppers following a one-way system through the market and complying with social distancing requirements.
- A mask must be worn by stall keepers and their personnel, with this measure strongly advised for shoppers.
- sport and leisure activities:
- museums, some historic buildings, nature reserves and wildlife/animal parks shall open on condition that:
- tickets are sold online,
- visitors follow a one-way system and comply with social distancing requirements,
- cafeterias and restaurants shall remain closed, as should attractions and play areas.
- sports clubs may resume training on condition that:
- the training is performed outdoors,
- those involved comply with social distancing requirements,
- a trainer is present,
- no more than 20 people are involved.
- museums, some historic buildings, nature reserves and wildlife/animal parks shall open on condition that:
TUESDAY 12 MAY
The temporary moratorium on business bankruptcies introduced in April as one of the measures to combat the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has been extended to 17 June (announced by various ministers of the federal government). Established by a royal decree of special powers, the aim of this partial “freezing” of bankruptcies is to protect businesses which were financially healthy up until 18 March, but which were then badly affected by the coronavirus crisis and are at risk of defaulting on their payments. More Information.
MONDAY 11 MAY
Any licensed operator (natural person or legal entity) of a taxi service and/or a car hire with driver service whose licence was issued by the Brussels-Capital Region before 19 March 2020, may receive a one-off financial grant of €3,000. More Information.
FRIDAY 8 MAY
- The Minister of Employment, Nathalie Muylle (CD&V), has announced that the scheme that allows artists to claim temporary unemployment benefits has been strengthened. Similarly, the events sectors may also claim temporary unemployment benefits due to coronavirus, even when no employment contract can be submitted as proof. For all the practical details about the subject of this announcement we must await the ministerial decree. This new regulation will not come into effect until it has been published in the Belgian Official Journal. The National Employment Office (ONEM) website shall be updated accordingly (conditions, deadlines, etc.) as soon as the regulation is published in the Official Journal.
- The Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue has published a second version of its guide entitled "Safe working practices during the Coronavirus crisis", and several guides for specific business sectors which describe the measures which the various sectors and every employer can tailor to the specifics of their business in order to ensure that the activities can resume under conditions which are as safe and secure as possible. More Information.
THURSDAY 7 MAY
Starting from this week, doctors shall use two new templates for the medical certificates they issue, and for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. One is for inability to work and the other for patients in quarantaine. The templates shall be the same for all patients and for all consultations. More information.
WEDNESDAY 6 MAY
- Temporary unemployment due to “Corona” as a force majeure shall be extended until 30 June 2020. The ONEM’s FAQ will be adapted accordingly.
- The National Safety Council, to which the various Ministers-presidents were invited to attend, met to validate, complete and define details of the next phase of the exit from the lockdown; i.e. phase 1b due to start on 11 May 2020. Information about this is provided on the Crisis Centre’s website. In summary:
- Expansion of social groups: as from 10 May, every household can welcome into their house up to four people - who must always be the same for any subsequent visits.
- Reopening of shops on 11 May 2020, in strict compliance with the following rules:
- One customer only shall be permitted per 10 m² of floor area and for a maximum stay of 30 minutes. An exception is planned for the smallest shops.
- Every customer is strongly advised to wear protective covering of his or her nose and mouth when in a shop.
- Employers shall be responsible for the health and safety of their employees, and must take all necessary steps to ensure safe working conditions.
- Public transport should only be used if there is no alternative.
TUESDAY 5 MAY
The transitional rights (parachute payments) introduced as a temporary measure to combat the crisis have been extended until 31 May 2020 and are paid automatically.
MONDAY 4 MAY
On 2 May 2020, the Council of Ministers approved Corona parental leave. This leave will make it possible for employees who have worked for at least one month under the terms of a contract of employment with their employer and subject to their employer’s agreement, to reduce their working hours to 1/5th or to half-time on condition that their children have not reached 12 years of age.
As soon as the decree is published, information about Corona parental leave (information sheet, form, etc.) shall be published on www.onem.be.
Note! It is not yet possible to request Corona parental leave from ONEM; however, you can submit a request as of now to your employer.
THURSDAY 30 APRIL
The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has decided to strengthen the economic measures for certain sectors including those worst affected by the health crisis and by the emergency measured adopted by the National Safety Council. These include:
- Additional resources for finance&invest.brussels
- Anticipatory decision-making and payment of subsidies for economic expansion, irrespective of the sector of activity.
- Mobilisation of private savings via a “Proxi” loan (1 million euros)
- Support for business cooperatives and for Smart (2 million euros)
- The granting of cash microcredits for the self-employed and for very small companies (TPE)
- Support for microcredit organisations (500,000 euros)
The terms of these measures are currently being drawn up.
TUESDAY 28 APRIL
In critical sectors, the upper limit for voluntary overtime is increased to 220 hours for the period from 01 April to 30 June 2020. Like standard voluntary overtime, these 120 hours must not be taken back as time in lieu. However, they are not considered as a wage supplement, unlike the standard situation. The social and tax status of the 120 voluntary overtime hours must still be confirmed.
FRIDAY 24 APRIL
Coronavirus: Belgium has set out its exit strategy: the rules are stated and explained on the Crisis Centre’s website.
Important note: the various phases described below are contingent on various circumstances, such as any changes to how the virus spreads.
IMPORTANT POINTS THAT COMPANIES/HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES SHOULD NOTE WITH REGARD TO PHASE 1A - 4 MAY
- In the workplace (in both the public and private sectors) employers must provide their employees with all the protective equipment deemed to be necessary.
- With regard to labour practices, the Groupe des Dix (a committee of employer associations and unions) has adopted a general good practices guide which shall form the basis for the negotiation of agreements both on a sector-wide level and within individual companies. This reference document shall define how the economy gradually restarts under conditions which are sound and healthy for everyone.
- For B2B industries and services
Home working shall continue to be the norm. Where it is not possible to maintain social distancing within a company, the company will be permitted to implement health protection measures to overcome this issue, including the wearing of masks.
- For retail and hospitality businesses
There are no changes to the rules, with the exception of fabric shops and haberdasher’s which may be able to reopen, in view of the important role they will play for people making protective coverings for the nose and mouth.
IMPORTANT POINTS THAT COMPANIES/HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES SHOULD NOTE WITH REGARD TO PHASE 1 – B (11 MAY, ESTIMATED)
- For retail businesses:
During this phase, all retail businesses shall be able to reopen at the same time, with no discrimination as to size or sector, thus giving each entity the same business opportunities. This reopening may only be envisaged under certain conditions. These conditions shall be defined jointly with the sectors and social partners. There shall be three types of conditions:
- Labour practices,
- Receiving customers in-store,
- Limiting access to retail businesses to avoid overcrowding.
Professions whose work requires direct person-to-person contact are excluded.
IMPORTANT POINTS THAT COMPANIES/HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES SHOULD NOTE WITH REGARD TO PHASE 2 (18 MAY, ESTIMATED)
- For retail businesses
An analysis shall be conducted to determine if and under which conditions professions whose work requires direct person-to-person contact (such as hairdressers) can resume their activities.
IMPORTANT POINTS THAT COMPANIES/HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES SHOULD NOTE WITH REGARD TO PHASE 3 (8 MAY AT THE EARLIEST, ESTIMATED)
- An analysis must be conducted to consider how restaurants and then cafés and bars can gradually be reopened. In all circumstances, the reopening of these businesses shall be subject to strict conditions.
WEDNESDAY 22 APRIL
In the FAQ section of the Crisis Centre’s website www.info-coronavirus.be the following changes have been announced:
- Animal refuges are open. They have been asked to ensure that anyone wishing to adopt or give up their animal must visit the refuge on an appointment-only basis. Social distancing rules must be fully respected. Volunteers are also permitted to support the work of the refuge.
- Boarding kennels and catteries etc. may also re-open.
- Other details:
- veterinarians have been asked to postpone any care which can be put off or which they judge to be non-urgent or unnecessary. They are required to comply fully with social distancing rules.
- Insurance adjusters may visit premises; however, the recommendation is that visits should only be made for urgent matters.
- Vehicle repair garages, tyre shops and windscreen repairers may stay open, but only to perform essential repair work (repairing brakes, headlights, fitting summer tyres to replace winter tyres, etc.). The permissible repair work is that necessary to ensure the safety of the vehicle.
- The social distancing measures are satisfied if a wall of plexiglass (acrylic) is fitted in a van/bus if the 1.5 m distancing requirement cannot otherwise be satisfied.
- If the child of parents who are (potentially) infected do not present with symptoms of the disease, the child may attend nursery/school unless a general practitioner states that the child should not.
friday 17 april 2020
Can open as from now on, but with respect of the social distancing measures :
- General DIY stores that primarily sell tools and/or building materials (decision of the National Security Council of 15 April)
- Garden centres and nurseries that primarily sell plants and/or trees (decision of the National Security Council of 15 April)
- Wholesale stores for professionals, but only for the benefit of the latter. (decision of the National Security Council of 15 April)
thursday 16 april 2020
The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region today decided on new measures to support the sectors most affected by the emergency measures decided following the Coronavirus crisis. The terms for these measure are being defined. Among these, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has decided:
to grant aid of 3,000 euros to all operators of taxis and chauffeur-driven cars
to introduce a compensatory premium of 2,000 euros to support entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises (between 0 and 5 FTEs) who are experiencing a significant drop in activity due to the measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19
to extend the one-off premium to certain sectors (video cassette and DVD companies (NACE 77.220), car washes (NACE 45.206), bookshops (NACE 47.620) and estate agents (NACE 68.311)
Extension of deadlines or notice periods: payment of road tax and registration tax, notice periods for private tenants and student tenants, the ban on gas and electricity outages, the suspension of planning deadlines, public inquiries and conciliation committees until 16 May 2020.
Business withholding tax: the federal government allows an automatic two-month deferral for the April business withholding tax. In addition to this automatic deferral of payment, companies can also apply for the previously announced support measures for the payment of withholding tax debts.
Wednesday 15 April 2020
The National Security Council (CNS: Conseil national de Sécurité) has extended the confinement until 3 May.
- no public mass gatherings will take place before 31 August
- some businesses will reopen this Monday 20 April: hardware shops and nurseries/garden centres subject to compliance with safety distancing
- waste/recycling centres could also open their doors again from Monday
- When social distancing measures are gradually lifted, cloth masks are recommended for any situation where contact of less than 1.5 meters is necessary and in places where there will be a lot of people.
Find out more at info-coronavirus.be
- The Minister for Culture of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, Bénédicte Linard, approved the emergency measures proposed by the Cinema and Audiovisual Centre to allow cinema and audiovisual professionals to cope with the health crisis. More info here
Tuesday 14 April 2020
Following a decision by the Minister of Employment, the application of the simplified procedure for temporary unemployment due to force majeure (initially scheduled until 19 April 2020) has been extended until 31 May 2020 inclusive. More info here
Pending the Council of State’s opinion to move onto the 2nd reading of the decree, three measures have been announced to support domestic help workers and service voucher companies in Brussels:
- Support for domestic help workers: domestic help workers from service voucher companies with their head office in the Brussels Region and who work within the Region’s territory may receive, in addition to their temporary unemployment benefit, an additional allowance of 2.5€ gross per hour of temporary unemployment.
- A flat rate for each service voucher company: a flat rate aid of 4,000€ is granted to service voucher companies with their head office in the Brussels-Capital Region.
Increased regional intervention: to allow companies to provide sufficient protection for domestic help workers and users, companies will benefit, for the duration of the crisis, from an intervention increased by 2€, i.e. 16.60€ instead of 14.60€ per service voucher.
More info in the meantime
Within the Group of 10, made up of representatives of employers' organisations and trade unions, agreements were reached on 14 April on three practical points in the context of the corona crisis. These three points are:
- The introduction of a new medical certificate, to be used during the coronacrisis, distinguishing between incapacity for work and quarantine. (model medical certificate and related clarifications)
- Raising the incapacity benefits, during the coronacrisis, to the level of the benefits for temporary unemployment.
- The introduction of a new reporting obligation from the employer to the employees in case of temporary unemployment due to force majeure - coronavirus.
These agreements were submitted to the temporay Government, with the request to transpose them into legislation.
Saturday 11 April 2020
The federal government’s kernkabinet has released new socio-economic decisions. The information below is, however, drafted subject to the relevant legislation expected:
- Confirmation of a bridging fee for additional self-employed people: "classic" when it concerns self-employed persons who contribute the maximum possible; "adapted" for some additional self-employed persons (income between 6,996.89€ and 13,993.78€) and active pensioners (income> 6,996.89€) who are forced to stop their activities because of Covid-19.
More info here.
- The establishment of a temporary moratorium on business bankruptcies. Any debtor company – facing difficulties because of the fallout from Covid-19 – will be protected against interim freezing orders and enforceable seizures, any declaration of bankruptcy or judicial dissolution. In addition, the terms of payment provided for in a reorganisation plan are extended and contracts concluded before the entry into force of the Royal Decree cannot be resolved unilaterally or through the courts.
- Temporarily unemployed workers will be able to work temporarily in the horticulture and forestry sectors in a flexible manner and without loss of income. For a full working day, for example, the worker will receive the normal salary related to the role performed as well as an amount equivalent to 75% of the temporary unemployment benefit.
- A relaxation of flexible hours, secondment and casual work to facilitate the temporary provision of permanent employees from other businesses to employers in “critical” sectors. Mechanisms to protect workers from social dumping - such as the principle of equal pay for equal work - will continue to apply.
- The neutralisation of the hours worked by a student in the second semester of 2020 so that they are not taken into account in the quota calculation (475 hours per year) thus allowing strengthening of the workforce of “critical” sectors, such as the mass retail or food sector.
- The possibility of successively accumulating a fixed-term contract (CDD: contrat à durée déterminée) in the “critical” sectors, for a period of three months.
- Tax exemption for voluntary overtime (220 hours) in the so-called “critical” sectors was implemented until 30 June 2020.
- The granting of the State guarantee for certain credits contracted in order to cushion the economic consequences of the coronavirus. This decree aims to guarantee new credits for non-financial companies, including the self-employed and legal entities in the non-profit sector, up to 50 billion. It will be retroactive (1 April 2020) and definitively adopted by the Council of Ministers this weekend for publication in the Moniteur belge.
Friday 10 April 2020
- No formal notices or constraints for unpaid social contributions. The social insurance funds will temporarily no longer send formal notices for unpaid social contributions. The constraints envisaged for unpaid social contributions are also no longer implemented until further notice. Info Inasti
- Payment of copyright in April. Sabam and the food and drink federations of Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders have finalised an agreement to reduce the Unisono bill for food and drink establishments. This solidarity contribution will be granted by authors and composers and is equivalent to one month of copyright. More info
Covid-19: suspension of mandatory deadlines and appeals deadlines in the Brussels Region. In view of the exceptional circumstances linked to the Covid-19 health crisis, the Brussels Government has decided to temporarily suspend all mandatory deadlines (deadlines which cannot normally be extended) and appeals deadlines set out for all Brussels' laws and regulations (or adopted under them), as well as public inquiries. More info here
Wednesday 8 April 2020
- A one-off allowance of 4,000€ per company obliged to close following decisions adopted by the National Security Council (CNS: Conseil National de Sécurité), can be introduced via the site www.primecovid.brussels
Tuesday 7 April 2020
- Corona: City Tax suspension for the first half-year but compulsory tax declaration. More info here.
Monday 6 April 2020
- Exemption from tax on the use of taxis or chauffeur-driven cars. More info here.
Thursday 2 April 2020
The region is providing 400,000€ to support social economy companies working in the field of integration. More info here
Tuesday 31 March 2020
Support measures for businesses / organizations are announced by the federal government, in which banks play a central role.
- On the one hand, for existing credits, a measure to postpone capital maturities up to 6 months (until 31 October 2020 at the latest). This measure aims to give a breath of fresh air to companies/organizations, to enable them to meet their (other) financial obligations in a period of lower or even zero income.
- On the other hand, for companies/organisations that would need additional liquidity to “get through” this difficult period, the possibility of concluding new financing in the form of credits up to 12 months. This component will be the subject of an order which is being prepared and which the authorities will review as soon as it is finalised.
More info here
Friday 27 March 2020
- Procedure for paying temporary unemployment benefits following the coronavirus crisis.
The National Employment Office (ONEM: Office National de l’Emploi) has simplified the procedure for paying temporary unemployment benefits as much as possible. More info here
Friday 20 March 2020
- During the Council of Ministers session on Friday 20 March, a series of additional measures were adopted to cushion the socio-economic effects of Covid-19.
The summary of these measures can be found on the SPF Economie (Federal public service for the economy) website