The coronavirus - FAQ for entrepreneurs

The coronavirus - FAQ for entrepreneurs

1819.brussels

You probably have questions about how your business can continue to operate during the coronavirus crisis. 1819, the leading information service for Brussels entrepreneurs, coordinates and distributes all the information likely to be of help to you. Below you will find some FAQs about coronavirus. It is based on a compilation of information from official sources. The questions are divided into the following categories:

  1. Measures taken by the authorities
  2. Assistance for companies, retailers and the self-employed
  3. Employer - employee relations
  4. Operation of the company
  5. Health advice
  6. Useful telephone numbers and websites providing information

Of course, you can also call the service directly by dialing 1819. You can reach us every working day from 9 am to 1 pm and from 5pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday evenings.

Date of the last update:  2 July 2020

1. Measures taken by authorities

WHICH BUSINESSES AND SHOPS HAVE TO CLOSE OR CAN STAY OPEN?

The National Security Council, extended to include the ministers-president, reached an agreement to proceed with phase 4 of the phasing-out from 1 July, on the basis of the agreement of the GEES experts, who refers to the favourable evolution of the epidemiological situation.

Below is a table of contents with the measures by type of establishment/sector:

  1. Shops and catering business
  2. Itinerant businesses
  3. Home services

1. shops and catering business
 

  • All shops are open. On the other hand, night clubs and dance halls will remain closed until 31 August 2020. Moreover, wellness, saunas and swimming pools that are part of a catering establishment are not open to the public.
  • Night shops are open until 1:00 a.m.
  • Pubs and restaurants are open until 1:00 a.m.
    • It is best to make a reservation.
    • Meet up with a maximum of 10 people. 
    • Stay seated at the table.
    • Do you own a pub or restaurant? Read the guide by the FPS Economy with tips to open your pub or restaurant safely.
  • You can throw a party in a reception or function room or at your home with a professional caterer. This is allowed with a maximum of 50 persons (including your own family).

Who must ensure compliance with the measures in shops?
Each shop owner is responsible for ensuring that social distancing is maintained. They must implement the measures required to ensure social distancing. If a security firm is used to ensure that the measures are complied with, they must do so in accordance with the law of 2 October 2017 regulating private and special security services.

Are there any special restrictions on the opening hours of businesses and shops?
Businesses can open on their usual days and at their normal times.
Night shops can open at their regular time and stay open until 1:00 am.

2. itinerant businesses

All markets are authorised. They must implement the measures required to protect participants and visitors against the propagation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the application of social distancing rules and, in particular, maintaining a distance of 1.5 meters between people. Appropriate prevention measures must be taken in a timely fashion, as recommended by the “Generic guide to reopening businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19”, available on the Federal Public Service Economy website.

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 3 July

WHAT ABOUT PUBLIC ADMINISTRATIONS? AND PUBLIC SERVICES?

Administrative services

Do administrative services remain open?
Administrations continue to function in order to guarantee their services, subject to social distancing measures and/or teleworking where possible. They will inform the public about the possibilities of obtaining documents and information via alternative channels (online).

Can I still go to the library?
Libraries are considered a public service and are publicly accessible with free entry and exit for basic service provision (lending and returning). The social distancing measures must be respected. The governors must ensure that free public access is organised.

Do regional, provincial and municipal domains, parks and woodland have to be closed?
The recreational areas of public domains must be closed (e.g. playgrounds). However, parks and woodland, along with cultural and natural sights, can open, subject to social distancing measures. Walks and physical activities in the open air that do not involve physical contact provided that they:

  • are carried out alone;
  • are carried out in the company of persons living under the same roof, which also includes residential groups and their supervisors from youth facilities staying under the same roof;
  • and/or in the company of a maximum of two other persons, who are always the same two persons, at a distance of 1.5 metres between each person. . These activities are permitted for the time necessary to do them. Once these activities are completed, it is compulsory to return home. To avoid gatherings, it is not allowed to sit in parks. Tolerance must be shown towards pregnant women and the elderly. This measure does not have to be strictly applied either to people with reduced mobility or mental disabilities. For the same reasons, picnics and sunbathing are not allowed in parks either.

Are there specific provisions for public toilets and hygiene?
For reasons of public order and hygiene, it is recommended to these open or provide an alternative. The municipality must take the necessary hygienic measures in this regard.

Will call centres for people in need (suicide, domestic violence, etc.) remain available? 
Yes, they will. They have to respect general hygiene and social distancing.

Can I get evicted? 
The regions have decided to suspend all evictions for the time being.

RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES

Can places of worship remain open to the public despite the fact that services are prohibited?
Yes, religious buildings and premises remain open, subject to social distancing measures. The managers of these buildings are expected to lay down the necessary rules in this regard, and ensure strict compliance.

Can religious services continue?
No, with the exception of:

  • For funeral ceremonies, only in the presence of up to 30 people, maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between each person and without the possibility of the body being exposed. Organising a light lunch after the ceremony is not permitted.
  • For religious marriages, in the presence of maximum 30 people. Organising a party or reception after the ceremony is not permitted;
  • Religious ceremonies recorded with the intention of broadcasting them via all available channels:
    • which take place with a maximum of 10 people, including the people responsible for the recording;
    • subject to social distancing measures;
    • insofar as the place of worship remains closed to the public during the recording.

Are civil marriages still allowed?
Yes, but only in the presence of a maximum of 30 people who are respecting social distancing. Organising a party or reception after the ceremony is not permitted.

What about funerals and cremations?
Funerals and cremations in the presence of max. 30 people are allowed, subject to social distancing measures and without exposure of the body. Organising a light lunch after the ceremony is not permitted..

Are cemeteries allowed to remain open?
Yes, subject to social distancing measures.

Can ashes be scattered at sea?
Burials at sea, only permitted in the form of scattering the deceased’s ashes from an urn, performed from a ship under the Belgian flag with departure and arrival from a Belgian coastal port, are permitted under the following conditions:

The following may be on board: the ship’s crew according to the minimum crew requirements and relatives up to a maximum of 30 people provided that the 1.5m distance rule is respected, including during embarkation and disembarkation. The shipping company must take measures to decontaminate the areas used by the family members after sailing. The direct travel from the place of residence of each participating family member to and from the ship are considered as authorised journeys.

What about special occasions of worship or religious high days?
The general rules also apply to special occasions or religious high days: religious gatherings cannot take place in places of worship. Family gatherings are limited to persons living in the same dwelling and must take place in that dwelling, possibly in the presence of a maximum of 4 other persons who are part of the same social bubble (for explanations and conditions see the section “Social contacts” under chapter “Public life”).. The specific food shops where extra shopping may be bought in this context can remain open according to the applicable rules for food shops. They must ensure that the rules are applied, in particular where a larger number of customers are expected. The mayor will communicate these measures to the parties in question. The police and the mayor will ensure compliance.

Waste

Is door-to-door collection of household waste allowed to continue?
The various waste collections (residual waste, green waste, paper, glass, cardboard and PMD) are guaranteed, at least if there is sufficient collection staff. Otherwise, priority will be given to the collection of residual waste and organic waste (with the exception of green waste). The regulations on the collection of household and similar commercial waste can be found on the websites of the regions concerned.

Are container parks closed?
The rules for container parks can be found on the websites of the regions concerned.

May associations organise waste collections (waste paper) for charity? Yes, in municipalities where there is no alternative and/or this way of working is prevalent, this is permitted, but the social distancing measures must be respected as far as possible.

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 25 May

WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES FOR COMPANIES?

What are the general principles for companies?
Teleworking is encouraged in all companies for all staff whose position is suitable for it. Where teleworking is not applied, companies must take the appropriate measures:

  • ensuring maximum compliance with the social distancing rules, and in particular that a distance of 1.5m is maintained between each person.

  • if the social distancing rules cannot be guaranteed, ensuring at least an equivalent level of protection. The above measures shall also be applied in the case of transport organised by the employer. The application of these principles must be guaranteed at company level and elaborated by taking preventive measures as defined in “the generic guide to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work”.

  • guidelines at sectoral level;

  • and/or guidelines at company level; and/or other appropriate measures offering at least an equivalent level of protection. Collective measures always take precedence over individual measures For companies that do belong to the crucial sectors and essential services: However, these companies and services are obliged to apply, to the extent possible, the system of teleworking and the rules of social distancing. Sectors and employers belonging to crucial sectors and essential services who have not interrupted their activities and who have already taken the necessary safety measures themselves can use the generic guide above as a source of inspiration. As regards subcontracting and ancillary services of crucial sectors and essential services, they are subject to the regulations applicable to the crucial sectors and essential services.

Apart from employees, who is allowed to be present on company premises?
At publicly accessible places within companies which do not fall under the essential services and crucial sectors, the public may be granted access subject to social distancing measures or an equivalent level of protection applicable within the companies. At publicly accessible places which do fall under the essential services and crucial sectors, public access will be organised such that the social distancing rules are applied insofar as possible.

Source: info-coronavirus.be - Update 25 May

What about transport and journeys?

May one go somewhere else?
Members of the public must stay at home in order to avoid contact with people other than their family members, as much as possible. Only essential journeys are allowed: The following are considered essential journeys:

  • professional travel (including commuting and the journeys of volunteers in the context of their activities for crucial sectors and essential services);
  • Necessary travel (doctor’s visit, shopping, travel to the post office, bank, pharmacy, petrol station or assistance to persons in need, parents travelling to their children’s crèche, all travel in the context of a legal obligation, charging a budget meter, driving lessons etc.);
  • walks and physical activities (including motorbike rides) in the open air that do not involve physical contact provided that they:
    • are carried out alone;
    • are carried out in the company of persons living under the same roof, which also includes residential groups and their supervisors from youth facilities staying under the same roof;
    • and/or in the company of a maximum of two other persons, who are always the same two persons, at a distance of 1.5 metres between each person;

These activities are permitted for the time necessary to do them. Once these activities are completed, it is compulsory to return home. To avoid gatherings, it is not allowed to sit in parks. Tolerance must be shown towards pregnant women and the elderly. This measure does not have to be strictly applied either to people with reduced mobility or mental disabilities. For the same reasons, picnics and sunbathing are not allowed in parks either. The use of a motorised vehicle to carry out a physical activity or walk is only allowed to travel to the destination (e.g. a forest at a reasonable distance) or the necessary sports infrastructure of the sport or walk in question. Moreover, it is reiterated that tourist activities or excursions are not allowed.

  • Visit to one other household within the restrictions allowed under the “social contacts” section of this chapter;
  • Visits to nature and/or cultural sightseeing;
  • Journey to a regular training course outdoors in an organised capacity;
  • Travel to and from a second home;
  • All other movements explicitly referred to in these FAQs.

More information: https://mobilit.belgium.be/en/aviation/covid_19_coronavirus

What if you do not live under the same roof as your partner or children in the context of co-parenting?
Visiting your partner or children in the context of co-parenting is an authorised journey.

I'm in my dorm right now. Can I go back to my parents?
It is recommended that students find a permanent place to stay during the lockdown. Foreign students who have to resume their classes can go to their student accommodation.

Can I travel to my holiday home, for example in the Ardennes or at the coast?
Yes this is allowed in Belgium for owners and for tenants who have a minimum rental contract of one year. A second home is considered to be:

  • A house or apartment;
  • An immobile residence with a fixed pitch (e.g. a (mobile) caravan, bungalow).

It is, therefore, not permitted to move around with a mobile home, such as a caravan, but it may be used if it is already installed on a fixed pitch. On camp sites where there are second homes, the following measures apply:

  • Bars, common areas of restaurants and recreational areas are closed. Terrace furniture must be brought inside and may not be used.
  • Special attention must be paid to the hygiene of sanitary facilities (regular cleaning of showers, toilets and the provision of hand hygiene products, etc.).

Can I take driving classes and obtain my driving licence?
Theoretical and practical driving lessons and exams are resumed. Exercising on public roads is considered to be an authorised journey. 

In Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, vehicle inspection centres are closed. Am I still validly insured if my inspection certificate expires after 13 March 2020?
The regions have made a political undertaking to renew any ‘inspection certificate’ that expires after 13 March 2020. As such, motor vehicles whose inspection certificate expired after 13 March 2020 have a valid certificate The insurer cannot invoke this reason in the context of recourse against the policyholder.  In the Brussels region, the period of validity of inspection certificates has been extended. For more information, you can visit the following website (Dutch and French).

Is it still possible to use shared cars and shared scooters?
Yes, these are regarded as means of transport and are therefore not prohibited but limited to 2 persons maximum.

Can I sit in a van with my colleague?
Yes, only if you respect the social distance (1.5 meters). A flexible transparent screen provides adequate protection and installing one can be permitted in means of transport. The physical protection is important, not the material with which this is done.

Are specific measures applicable to the transport of disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility?
The most important thing is that no new social mixing occurs. Transport can therefore continue, but it must be ensured as much as possible that the same combination of drivers and persons with reduced mobility/disabled persons is maintained, subject to hygiene and social distancing measures. Voluntary transport of disabled persons and people in need can continue, and a minimum distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained between each person. The number of persons that can be transported therefore varies according to the type of vehicle.

Are there any specific measures for public transport?
Public transport remains operational. It is recommended to avoid the use of public transport if an alternative is available. Public transport users who are 12 years of age or older are obliged to cover their mouths and noses by wearing a face mask or any other fabric alternative. This applies from the moment they enter the airport, station, at stops or on the platform, train or other means of transport organised by a public authority. Public transport drivers are not required to cover their nose and mouth, insofar as the driver is well-isolated in a cabin on the one hand, and a poster and/or sticker indicates to users the reason why the driver is not wearing a mask on the other. This exception also applies, under the same conditions, to drivers of organised collective transport (e.g. school bus). Please consult the relevant websites for the available services of transport companies.

What about taxis (and other on-demand transport services)?
Taxis are allowed to transport customers. A minimum distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained between each person. The number of persons that can be transported therefore varies according to the type of vehicle. A family can travel in the same car, social distancing does not apply here. It is recommended to regularly ventilate and clean the vehicle. Wearing a mouth and nose covering is strongly advised.

What measures have been taken with regard to carpooling? How many people are allowed to travel in a private car?
As is the case for taxis a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between each person must be respected during transport. The number of persons that can be transported therefore varies according to the type of vehicle. This measure does not apply to a family. It is recommended to ventilate and clean the car regularly. In general, travel should be avoided as much as possible. Wearing a mouth and nose covering is strongly advised.

Are aviation companies allowed to fly?
In the context of the resumption of economic activities, all commercial flights are permitted regardless of the type of aircraft as defined by the EASA, whether VFR or IFR (this concerns business to business and business to customer commercial activities).

Which small-scale aviation activities are allowed?
Local VFR flights (with the same take-off and landing site and no intermediate landing) which are operated as solo flights or with a person living under the same roof on board, for each type of aircraft as for flights with model aircraft and UAVs.

Can pilot training be resumed?
All activities related to training, exams and verification procedures for certificates of competence for any type of aircraft (practical and theoretical lessons) are allowed. The same strict rules as for driving schools must be respected.

Are specific measures taken for boats and cruise ships?
Cruise ships and boats are not allowed to let passengers disembark, but can receive supplies. New cruises organised by boats or ships sailing under the Belgian flag are prohibited. For more information on shipping, please contact the FPS Mobility: https://mobilit.belgium.be/nl/scheepvaart/covid_19_coronavirus

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 25 May

ARE SPECIAL MEASURES TAKEN IN HOSPITALS? WHAT ABOUT OTHER CARE SERVICES?

Hospitals

Despite the general measures on social distancing, care for people remains a priority and must be ensured.

In recent weeks, the epidemic has had a significant impact on healthcare provision, both in primary care and in hospitals. Working groups are currently studying how to respond to the need to continue providing the best care to people infected with COVID-19 while gradually and safely increasing access to general and specialised healthcare. The aim is to ensure that everyone regains ‘normal’ access to healthcare as soon as possible and that the medical infrastructure needed to care for people suffering from the virus is not overloaded. It is advisable to inquire at the care facilities and follow their guidelines.

As from 04/05/2020, care providers active in ambulatory care may perform their activities for both urgent and non-urgent care provided that they respect the recommendations as set out at https://www.health.belgium.be/nl/covid-19-heropstarten-van-ambulante-zorgverstrekking-een-prive-praktijk.

Care providers working in hospitals may also perform urgent and non-urgent services in accordance with the guidelines on the VBS-GBS website: www.vbs-gbs.org and the FPS Public health. Blood collections must continue, with respect for social distancing measures as much as possible. Persons who are ill must, as always, be excluded.

Are visitors allowed in hospitals?
All visits are prohibited except for parents of children under the age of 18 and close relatives of patients in a critical condition or who are receiving palliative care. Counselling of patients during vital consultations or examinations must be limited to a maximum of one person. Discussions are currently underway to allow visits in the near future. For psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitation centres, visits may be resumed from 11 May.

Are visits allowed in residential care centres or residential care institutions?
Remote communication (by phone, video call, etc.) is recommended, for hygienic reasons. Essential visits (informal caregivers, etc.) are allowed, so that residents are not in total isolation. Consult the residential care centre or institution to determine whether a visit is possible in a safe manner. A chat room that separates visitors and residents via a large glass panel may be installed, provided it is disinfected after each visit.

Are service flats regarded as residential care centres?
Yes, service flats must be regarded as residential care centres if they have a communal entrance

Are home and family support services allowed to continue?
Support (including volunteers) to older persons, disabled persons and vulnerable persons can be continued. This includes:

  • Home help
  • Family help
  • Assistance to disabled persons
  • Home nursing
  • Reception shelters for abused women
  • Reception centres and night shelters for people with social problems and the homeless.

Can health and ambulance workers continue to work when they show symptoms?
Healthcare workers can continue to work if they show mild symptoms, provided they use a protective mouth mask. In case of fever, ≥ 37.5°C, they cannot continue to work and should stay at home.

CONTAMINATION and PROTECTION

Who's currently being tested? 
Detailed information concerning the procedure for general practitioners can be found on the Sciensano website.

More information: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/testing/

What can I do to protect myself and others?
Everyone can contribute to the fight against the coronavirus! Some people may be infected with the coronavirus but not show any symptoms, which means they do not know that they can transmit the virus.Anyone can apply the following hygiene measures:

  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Very important: wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Sneeze and cough into a paper tissue. Use a new paper tissue every time and dispose of it in a lidded bin.
  • If you have no tissue at hand, cough or sneeze in your elbow.

It is safer to keep enough distance in your social interactions to slow down the spread of the virus.

  • Avoid shaking hands or kissing when greeting someone.
  • Watch out for those most at risk: people over 65 years of age, diabetics, people with heart, lung or kidney diseases, children under 6 months of age, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.
    -Children do not get seriously ill from the coronavirus, but they can spread it easily. That is why contact between children and older people should be avoided.
  • Avoid contact with people who are visibly ill, or keep your distance.

What are the recommendations for wearing face masks and gloves in public places?
COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets and contact with infected surfaces, not by air. Wearing a face mask therefore offers no protection against infection if someone does not have close contact (within a distance of 1.5 meters) with a sick person. Covering the face and nose is important during the scaling-back period. This can be done with a so-called comfort mask or an alternative means of protection such as a scarf or bandana. This is:

  • Strongly advised in public spaces and shops
  • Mandatory on public transport from entering the airport, the station, on the platform or a bus, (pre-)metro, tram, train stop or any other means of transport organised by a public authority for users aged 12 and over.
  • Mandatory in schools from 15 May 2020 for staff and pupils aged 12 and over.

In itself, a mask does not provide adequate protection, it must be seen within the wider use of face masks, hygiene measures and physical distancing. For more information about fabric face masks, please visit:
https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/facemask/. However, wearing gloves is not recommended, as it gives a false sense of security, people still touch their nose, mouth and eyes if they are wearing gloves, whereby they can still get infected. It is much better to wash hands regularly with soap and water.

Is there a risk of infection through contact with objects and surfaces? This risk exists, but is much smaller than through direct contact with an infected person. In ideal conditions, the virus survives on average around three hours on smooth surfaces and materials (such as door handles, handrails, tables, etc.). On absorbent material (such as cardboard, paper, textiles, etc.) the virus cannot easily survive. The virus is highly sensitive to dehydration, heat and sunlight. Anyone who ingests virus droplets via contact with hands in their mouth, nose or eyes can become infected with the virus. It is important to wash hands regularly and thoroughly after contact with surfaces and packaging that have been touched by many people. As regards contamination via packaging materials and foodstuffs, more information is available on the site of the FASFC: http://www.favv.be/professionals/publications/communications/coronavirus.asp

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 25 May 

ARE ACTIVITIES PERMITTED? WHERE CAN I GO?

Which recreational and outdoor activities are permitted?
Private and public activities of a cultural, social, festive, folkloric, sporting, tourist and recreational nature are prohibited. Exceptions are:

  • walks and physical activities (including motorbike rides) in the open air under strict conditions;
  • Sports training outdoors in the open air under strict conditions;
  • Horse riding under strict conditions;
  • Natural and cultural sightseeing under strict conditions;
  • Visits to libraries under strict conditions;
  • Marriages, funerals and religious ceremonies under strict conditions.

Under what conditions may I go for a walk or undertake physical activity?
Walks and physical activities (including motorbike rides) in the open air that do not involve physical contact are permitted provided that they:

  • are carried out alone;
  • are carried out in the company of persons living under the same roof, which also includes residential groups and their supervisors from youth facilities staying under the same roof;
  • and/or in the company of a maximum of two other persons, who are always the same two persons, at a distance of 1.5 metres between each person.

These activities are permitted for the time necessary to do them. Once these activities are completed, it is compulsory to return home. To avoid gatherings, it is not allowed to sit in parks. Tolerance must be shown towards pregnant women and the elderly. This measure does not have to be strictly applied either to people with reduced mobility or mental disabilities. For the same reasons, picnics and sunbathing are not allowed in parks either.

The use of a motorised vehicle to carry out a physical activity or walk is only allowed to travel to the destination (e.g. a forest at a reasonable distance) or the necessary sports infrastructure of the sport or walk in question. Moreover, it is reiterated that tourist activities or excursions are not allowed.

Sports training in the open air is also permitted under certain conditions (see “which sports are allowed?” question).

Can people still get together socially?
No, the rule is still that all gatherings of more than 2 persons are prohibited apart from the exceptions given in this FAQ.

Can Academies for Music, Drama and Dance, and Art Academies resume classes?
Classes may resume in accordance with the guidelines from the Communities and the additional measures provided by the federal government.

Which sports are allowed?
Physical activities are allowed, on condition that they are carried out:

  • in the open air;
  • without physical contact;

if they are undertaken:

  • either alone
  • or carried out in the company of persons living under the same roof, which also includes residential groups and their supervisors from youth facilities staying under the same roof and/or in the company of a maximum of two other people, who are always the same people. Social distancing of 1.5 metres must be respected.
  • Either as part of regular training sessions and classes in the open air that do not involve physical contact, in particular where organised by a club or association, with a group of maximum 20 people, always in the presence of a trainer or an adult supervisor, and respecting a 1.5-metre distance between each person;

The basic principles of social distancing will continue to apply, which is why it is recommended to play sorts with the same group as far as possible. It is not the intention for initiation classes to be organised.

The necessary and usual facilities for practising the permitted can open, with the exception of changing rooms, showers, canteens and cafeterias. Toilets and vending machines can however be used. Facilities refers to the clubs and sports pitches. The rental or sale of equipment is allowed, while recreational and tourist activities are prohibited.

May I accompany my under-age child or a disabled person requiring assistance to a training session and remain there throughout?
Yes, that is allowed.

Do elite athletes get exceptional access to sports facilities?
Yes, if they have elite sport status and they only do their training in an individual context or with no more than two other people. Group training is prohibited.

Are water sports allowed?
Yes, as long as the conditions in question “which sports are allowed?” are met.

Can the municipalities open local (sports) grounds for sporting activities in an organised capacity?
Yes, as long as a trainer or an adult supervisor is present, and while respecting a 1.5-metre distance between each person.

May fitness centres open?
Fitness centres may not carry out their activities (indoors or outdoors). However, a coach/trainer associated with a fitness centre may teach classes in the open air in the context of the rule around sports training.

Can I still use my drone?
Recreational use of your drone is only allowed on your own private land, around your home. More information can be found at: https://mobilit.belgium.be/nl/luchtvaart/drones/dronevluchten_covid19.

Is fishing allowed?
Yes, but if this is in a club context, only the toilets and vending machines can be accessible, if any.

Can competitions with animals, such as pigeons, still take place?
No, these are not essential movements.

Can I still ride my own horse?

  • Riding on your own pasture/track is permitted
  • Riding (on your horse) in the stables is permitted only in the context of animal welfare, if the stables cannot organise this and subject to social distancing measures. It is possible to take a trailer with you to travel between your home and the stables or riding track, if necessary, also to transport the horse.
  • Horse riding (in the saddle, harnessed, on a tether, etc.) on public roads is allowed only with a view to animal welfare. Horse rides can only be done with a maximum of two riders/drivers, subject to social distancing measures. Motorised transport of the horse for these rides is only allowed if it is not safe to do so in any other way.

What are natural sights and under what conditions may they open? Natural sights are considered to be: a garden, nature park, nature reserve, zoo or animal park. These may open their doors to the public if the following conditions are respected:

  • Visits are made alone or in the company of people living under the same roof;
  • The social distancing rules, in particular maintaining a minimum 1.5-metre distance between each person, are respected.
  • An online or phone-based ticket system is introduced to regulate the flow of visitors. Payment on-site is possible.
  • One visitor per 10m² of the publicly accessible surface area;
  • A maximum number of visitors per timespan is determined;
  • One-way signage and supervision of the public are provided;
  • The staff are responsible for ensuring that the social distancing rules are complied with;
  • Any shops are required to observe the rules intended for trading businesses;
  • Any cafeterias, restaurants, attractions and playgrounds are closed.

Day trips will remain prohibited. After the visit, you should immediately return home.

May children's farms open?
Yes, as long as the same rules are followed as for natural sights.

May indoor animal parks (aquariums, dolphinariums, reptile houses) open?
Yes, as long as the same rules are followed as for natural sights. Shows with an audience are not permitted.

Are group visits permitted?
No, group visits are not permitted. Only people living under the same roof may visit a natural or cultural sight together.

Are guided visits permitted?
Yes, these are permitted within natural and cultural sights, but only for people living under the same roof and in accordance with the appropriate social distancing measures for the sight. All other guided visits (e.g. with city guides) are not permitted.

May recreational activities and entertainment be organised in the infrastructures of cultural and natural sights?
No, these will remain prohibited in order to avoid gatherings.

May recreational transport be organised within a cultural or natural sight?
Yes, but only as long as the social distancing measures are guaranteed.

May restaurants within the cultural or natural sights open?
No, only takeaways are permitted.

May drink and snack machines be accessible at cultural or natural sights?
Yes

May adventure parks open?
No, these need to remain closed.

May caves open?
No, these need to remain closed.

Are youth movement group activities permitted?
No.

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 25 May

WHAT ABOUT INTERNATIONAL aspects: TRAVEL, TRANSPORT, WORK...

What are the general principles for traveling abroad?
Article 7 of the Ministerial Order of 23 March 2020 laying down urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 stipulates that non-essential travel to and from Belgium is prohibited. This measure will expire on 8 June 2020, but can be extended. 

  • Nonetheless, any person with Belgian nationality, with or without their main residence in Belgium, long-term residents in Belgium and persons with legal residence in Belgium, may always return to Belgium.

  • Border crossings in both directions will in any event remain possible on presentation of legitimate proof. In the context of goods transport and journeys of a professional nature (including seasonal workers; educational journeys, except for school trips). Other possibilities for journeys do exist and are specified in the “What other essential journeys to Belgium are still permitted?” and “May people travel abroad from Belgium? questions”.

  • Travel restrictions and border controls will be lifted gradually when the favourable epidemiological situations are sufficiently similar.

  • Travelling abroad for tourist purposes is still prohibited.

  • As regards the external borders of the EU, the Commission has made recommendations to Member States to selectively restrict the access of persons to the EU. In Belgium, the temporary restrictions on non-essential journeys outside the EU are in force until 15 June 2020. These restrictions may be extended.

  • A person who is a national or resident of a third country can always leave Belgian territory to return to the country of which he/she is a national or resident. Nevertheless, certain countries do not allow their residents to return to their country. It is therefore advisable to contact the embassy of the destination.

  • If you are planning to make an essential journey abroad, it is highly recommended to consult the travel advice from Foreign Affairs, which is being continually updated: https://diplomatie.belgium.be/nl/Diensten/Op_reis_in_het_buitenland/reisadviezen

Is it still allowed to travel abroad from Belgium?
The general principle is that any person with Belgian nationality, with or without their main residence in Belgium, long-term residents in Belgium and persons with legal residence in Belgium, may return to Belgium subject to two conditions. The two conditions are that:

  • The person must remain in self-isolation at home for 14 days; and
  • The person is prohibited from working outdoors for 14 days (even if they are employed in an essential sector), although teleworking is still permitted.

These two conditions apply to returning persons and cover all possible modes of transport used (air, land and sea) for their return. In the case of return via a domestic or foreign airport, these two conditions also apply to the person who is going to pick up the returning person(s), but not to the rest of the family who live under the same roof. The person picking up the returning person should preferably be a family member, but if the family members are employed in an essential sector, it is not recommended that they go to pick up the returning person. These two conditions do not apply to frontier workers, seasonal workers, drivers employed by professional transport companies and persons who make an essential journey, with the exception of persons who have gone to pick up returning persons from a foreign airport (see previous paragraph).

As a rule, the returning person, regardless of whether they arrive on Belgian territory or another country, uses public transport (taxi or rental car) to get to their destination; If public transport/taxi is not an option, the returning person can be picked up by another person (preferably a member of the same family, but not employed in an essential sector); Preferably, no more than two people should travel in the vehicle. An exception to this is if several persons from the same family have to be picked up. During the travel, social distancing measures must be respected.

On Belgian territory, public transport users who are 12 years of age or older are obliged to cover their mouths and noses by wearing a face mask or any other fabric alternative. This applies from the moment they enter the airport, station, at stops or on the platform, train or other means of transport organised by a public authority.

Remark: The person going to pick up another person must be in possession of proof of identity and/or passport. If the pick-up takes place abroad, legitimate proof to cross the border justifying the essential journey.

What about Belgian nationals returning to a Belgian seaport or inland port with their recreational craft?
They may navigate Belgian waters with their craft only in order to reach the port of destination of their choice by the shortest route. They must report to the harbour master’s office of their port of destination (for inland ports: the port operator) via the usual radio frequencies for the geographical area of their destination. They must also report whether they are sick or showing symptoms or whether there are sick persons or persons with symptoms of any kind on board. https://mobilit.belgium.be/nl/scheepvaart/covid_19_coronavirus

What rules apply if, as a foreign national with no main residence in Belgium, I merely want to cross Belgian territory on my way to my destination?
The general principle is that foreign nationals must be able to enter and leave Belgian territory easily in order to travel on to their destination. Individuals in transit through Belgian territory must observe the social distancing measures in the chosen means of transport. If the transport is by road, buses and vehicles do not stop on Belgian territory as a rule. If the journey is by train, a minimum number of connections and the shortest travel route must be ensured. Persons in transit through Belgian territory must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport and legitimate proof.

Which rules do I have to comply with if I arrive in Belgium by air, train, road or sea, in further transit abroad?
The general principle is that foreign nationals in transit on Belgian territory must be able to leave Belgian territory as quickly as possible. As a rule, persons in transit through Belgian territory use public transport (including taxis) to travel to their destination. Renting a car is also a possibility. If public transport/taxi/rental car is not an option, persons in transit through Belgian territory can be picked up by another person or authority (possibly from abroad) to leave Belgian territory immediately after pick-up. During transport through Belgian territory, at most the social distancing measures must be observed. If the transport is dropped off by the employer, the social distancing measures must be observed. As a rule, road journeys cannot stop on Belgian territory. If the journey is by train, a minimum number of connections and the shortest travel route must be ensured. Persons in transit through Belgian territory must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport. The person picking up in transit through Belgian territory must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport and legitimate proof confirming the necessity of the journey.

Is frontier work still allowed?
The general principle is that when performing their professional activities, both in essential and non-essential sectors, frontier workers must be able to enter and leave Belgian territory smoothly to reach their destination. Frontier workers can use their own chosen means of transport. They are allowed to go shopping during these journeys. During transport through Belgian territory, at most the social distancing measures must be observed. Frontier workers must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport and a certificate from the employer is strongly recommended; For the work-related journeys of employees in vital professions/crucial sectors, a paper vignette can be used bilaterally between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Are border crossings for medical reasons allowed?
According to the general principle, you should consult a doctor in your own country. If the doctor in possession of your medical file is in a neighbouring country, this doctor must provide you with a signed document (by post or digitally) showing that it is necessary for you to go to their practice. At the border, you will have to present your identity card and this document.
Urgent medical assistance will remain guaranteed and border crossings by emergency services are permitted for this, based on the existing agreements.

Can seasonal workers come and work in the agricultural and horticultural sector in Belgium?
Seasonal work in the agricultural and horticultural sector is essential in order to guarantee the food chain and food supply. This seasonal work is also performed by foreign workers. In this context, it is therefore important that the journeys of seasonal workers in and to our country are seen as essential journeys. Seasonal workers from other countries may be admitted and must follow the same measures as Belgian nationals. In order to enter the territory, they must present a certificate from their employer. Upon arrival, they do not have to be quarantined for 14 days.

What other essential journeys to Belgium are still permitted?
The general principle is that assistance and care for the elderly, minors, vulnerable persons and persons with disabilities; co-parenting; visit to a partner who does not live under the same roof; care for animals; executing deeds; attending funerals/cremations only in the presence of maximum 30 people; and attending civil/religious weddings is allowed. People can choose their own means of transport. These persons must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport and legitimate proof to justify the essential journey.

Can learners, students and interns from neighbouring countries, who go to school in Belgium in the context of their education, come to Belgium?
In the context of resuming school activities, learners, students and interns from neighbouring countries can come to Belgium.

What about people stuck in a foreign country?
You will find the necessary information on the website of the FPS Foreign Affairs: https://diplomatie.belgium.be/nl.

Is it still allowed to travel abroad from Belgium?
The general principle is that any non-essential travel abroad is prohibited up to and including 8 June 2020. In other countries, the respective national regulations and any additional measures must be respected. It is strongly advised to consult these regulations on the respective websites of the relevant foreign authorities. In accordance with the regulations in force in the country of destination, the necessary documentation must be prepared before departure. You must be in possession of an identity document and/or passport and legitimate proof to make the essential journey. The following journeys are currently being resumed as essential reasons to travel abroad:

  •  Journeys abroad in the context of professional activities, including commuting;
  • Journeys to continue medical care;
  • Journeys to provide assistance or care to an elderly person, minor, disabled or vulnerable person;
  • Journeys to take care of animals;
  • Journeys in the context of co-parenting;
  • Journeys to pick up any person with Belgian nationality, with or without their main residence in Belgium, long-term residents in Belgium and persons with legal residence in Belgium, from abroad and bring them back to Belgium;
  • Journeys to take family members abroad so they can carry out their activities for essential reasons;
  • Journeys of Belgian nationals to their main residence abroad. 
  • Journeys to a partner who does not live under the same roof;
  • Journeys in the context of the execution of a deed (if necessary and cannot be done digitally);
  • Journeys in the context of funerals / cremations; 
  • Journeys in the context of civil / religious marriages;
  • Journeys of learners, students and interns, who go to school in a neighbouring country in the context of their education.
  • Journeys to have urgent repairs carried out in the context of vehicle safety. 

When can I visit my family who live on the other side of the border?
When the neighbouring country in question allows access to its territory and when the epidemiological situation so permits. This will be decided on the basis of expert opinions. This is not yet the case for any neighbouring country.

Are specific measures taken for Belgian airports?
Passengers must observe the social distancing measures and the airport operator must facilitate these. Anyone aged 12 and over is obliged to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or any other fabric alternative, as soon as they enter the airport. More information: https://mobilit.belgium.be/en/aviation/covid_19_coronavirus

What about ferries to neighbouring countries?
Unlike boats and cruise ships, ferry travel is not regarded as a recreational activity, but as a means of transport. Consequently, ferry crossings are not prohibited in the context of essential travel, subject to social distancing measures.

Can an employee use a digital version of the vignette/employer certificate to cross the border?
If the employer cannot personally supply the vignette/employer’s certificate to the employee, it must be sent by post. If the employee is summoned for urgent reasons, the vignette/employer’s certificate can be sent digitally by the employer accompanied by a certificate signed by the employer with their telephone number and the name of the person summoned.

Can I cross the border with my children to take them to the day care centre?
If there is no other possibility, it is allowed to cross the border to take the child to the crèche. This possibility does not apply to childcare provided by family members and friends. It is allowed to cross the border on presentation of the child’s registration in the crèche.

I booked a flight/a trip to a country concerned by the coronavirus. What will happen if I decide to cancel it?
The FPS Economy has published advice for travellers in your situation. You will find it on their website (https://economie.fgov.be/fr/themes/entreprises/coronavirus/informations-pour-les/pas-encore-parti/coronavirus-annulation-par) (Information only available in French or Dutch).

Source: info-coronavirus.be - 25 May

Which deconfinement measures are taken?

24 June 2020

  • The National Security Council has reached an agreement to move to phase 4 of the exit strategy. May open under certain conditions:
    • swimming pools and wellness centres;
    • amusement parks and indoor playgrounds;
    • theatres and cinemas;
    • casinos and gaming rooms;
    • congress halls;
    • reception and party rooms with a limit of 50 persons.

One of the conditions is the application of protocolsMore info (FR)

3 June 2020

Belgium is set to enter Phase 3 of deconfinement measures next week on Monday, with a reopening of hotels, bars and restaurants, extended social life and eased tourism restrictions, the National Security Council (CNS) said on Wednesday (3 June). Here’s a brief overview of the upcoming relaxing of measures:

  • As of Monday (8 June), it is allowed to have close contact with 10 people per week, an “expanded personal bubble”, which is permitted to change from week to week. Group activities are also limited to 10 people, children included.

  • The Horeca sector (hotels/restaurants/cafes) can reopen again from 8 June, provided that they follow an accurate protocol (maximum 10 people at one table, distance of 1.5 meters must be respected). 

  • Cultural activities can continue without an audience, while cultural activities with an audience will have to wait until 1 July. Rules related to audience management will be provided, but plans include a limitation to 200 people, with social distancing.

  • Sporting activities can all resume as of 8 June, fitness centres will be able to reopen if they respect the protocol, while contact sports (boxing, judo, basketball, volleyball) should be limited. Swimming pools will remain closed.

  • Religious worship may resume from 8 June, with up to 100 people in attendance. This will be expanded to 200 people from 1 July.

  • Night clubs will remain closed until the end of August. But all establishments and night shops are allowed to stay open until 1 am.

  • From 8 June it will be possible to make trips in Belgium for one or more days. From 15 June, the borders will reopen for those travelling within the Schengen zone.

13 MAY 2020

On Wednesday, May 13, the National Security Council extended to the Minister-Presidents met and took the decision, based on the report of the GEES experts, to launch phase 2 of the deconfinement plan as of May 18. The measures are summarized below: 

  • During this phase, schools will gradually reopen for some primary and secondary pupils, under strict organisational conditions. Pre-schools will remain closed at this stage and higher education has already planned through to the end of the academic year in cooperation with the community authorities.
  • A second aspect in this phase is culture. The National Security Council has decided that museums and cultural attractions, i.e. historic buildings and monuments, castles and citadels, can reopen their doors from 18 May, provided they set up an online or phone ticketing system and take the necessary measures to avoid overcrowding. Libraries will remain open, under the same conditions as now.
  • As far as economic life is concerned, it has been decided that professions requiring close contact with customers can resume their activities in this phase, subject to certain conditions. For instance, they must work by appointment, wear a mask or mouth-nose protection (both staff and customers) and respect social distancing between customers. Furthermore, markets may be re-organised with the agreement of local authorities. The markets may have a maximum of 50 stalls, a circulation plan must be drawn up and social distancing must be respected at all times. It is mandatory for vendors and their staff to wear a mask or mouth-nose protection and customers are strongly advised to do the same.
  • Finally, a number of other decisions have been taken with regard to sports and leisureNature attractions, such as zoos, will also be allowed to reopen, provided that they introduce an online or phone ticketing system to restrict access to the public, that they draw up a circulation plan and that cafeterias and restaurants remain closed, as well as attractions and playgrounds. Regular outdoor group sports training and lessons may resume, provided social distancing is adhered to and a coach is present. Groups may not exceed 20 persons and sports clubs may re-open only on condition that all possible measures are taken to guarantee the safety of the sportsmen and sportswomen. With regard to weddings and funerals, a maximum of 30 people will be allowed to attend from 18 May under certain conditions, such as respecting social distancing. However, it is not permitted to organise a reception after the ceremony.

The next phase of the exit strategy will not take place before 8 June. After Phase 3, there will be more phases. Many activities are resuming which impacts the amount of contact people have. It is the intention to gradually allow people to resume their activities and for it to happen as safely as possible.

The detailed plan for the gradual phasing out of restrictions applied to all sports and culture-related activities will be communicated as soon as it has been agreed upon with the GEES. The same applies to the gradual resumption of tourism activities and the reopening of restaurants, terraces and cafés.

We must also consider in which phase and under which conditions we will be able to extend our social contacts, allow for summer and youth camps, resume worship services and hold gatherings and events of various sizes.

What we can say is that all cultural, sports, tourism and recreational events remain prohibited until 30 June.

6 MAY 2020

Experts have given the green light to the launch of a new phase of lockdown easing in light of several favourable indicators, namely the number of hospital admissions per day, the average trend of these admissions, which is decreasing in relation to previous weeks, the number of occupied beds in intensive care units, testing and tracing. These criteria will continue to play a role in the progressive easing of lockdown.

The chosen approach to lockdown easing is based on a series of phases, corresponding to the gradual removal of measures. It seeks a balance between safeguarding physical and mental health, offering adequate learning provision within the education sector and restarting the economy.

Certain general principles still apply during this phase of lockdown easing:

  • Basic hygiene measures remain essential;
  • Staying at home remains the norm;
  • Only authorised journeys (travel to work when it is not possible to work from home, trips to the pharmacy, post office, food shops, petrol station, etc.) are permitted;
  • Social contact must be kept to a minimum. In particular, contact between people of different generations and social groups that would not usually mix should be avoided. If contact cannot be avoided, social distancing should be respected as far as possible. In situations where this cannot be guaranteed, other measures should be taken (e.g. masks).

When do the new measures adopted by the National Security Council (CNS) on 6 May come into force? How long will they last?

The measure that comes into force on 10 May relates to household visits by a maximum of 4 individuals (always the same people).

The other new measures come into force on 11 May 2020.

All measures will remain in place until 17 May 2020 inclusive, at the earliest, except:

  • non-essential travel to and from Belgium is banned until 8 June 2020 inclusive;
  • school trips lasting more than one day are banned until 30 June 2020;
  • professional and amateur sporting competitions: no events of this type will take place before 31 July 2020, inclusive.

More information in the Ministerial Decree of 8 May.

SUMMARY OF PHASE 1B, WHICH COMES INTO FORCE ON 11 MAY THIS YEAR:

  • From 10 May, each household may invite a maximum of four people into their home. These must always be the same people. 
  • Shops will also reopen on 11 May. This reopening, like all others, is subject to stringent compliance with the following rules:
    • As is the case for shops that are currently open - 1 customer is permitted per 10m², for a maximum of 30 minutes. An exception is made for smaller shops. 
    • Customers are strongly advised to wear protective mouth and nose coverings while inside shops. Social distance must be respected at all times.
    • Employers will be responsible for the health and safety of their employees, and must take all steps possible to ensure safe working conditions. 
    • In order to prevent overcrowding, people must shop alone. 
    • They are also advised to use shops located in a town or municipality close to their home or workplace. 
  • You should only use public transport if you have no other option. 
  • Workplaces involving physical contact outside a healthcare setting will remain closed for now.

The next phase is currently scheduled for 18 May. The Communities and the education sector are already making concerted efforts to enable a phased return to classes in primary and secondary schools.  In the meantime, feasibility will be considered and conditions established for:

  • The reopening of markets;
  • The reopening of museums, libraries, zoos, etc.;
  • The reopening of businesses involving physical contact, such as hairdressers;
  • An increase of the number of attendees at weddings and funerals;
  • A return to outdoor sports training. Experts will also consider the return of sporting and cultural events, on the basis of work submitted by the relevant ministers, in order to put forward a more specific, phased timetable.
  • The question of day trips and stays in second homes or holiday cottages will be considered when preparing for phase 3 (estimated date: 8 June).

24 APRIL 2020

Belgium has established its “crisis exit” strategy:  the rules are set out on the Crisis Centre website

On Thursday 30 April, the ministerial decree setting out the specific terms of the lockdown easing scheduled for 4 to 10 May was published in the Belgian Official Journal. You can view the full text here

Important note: the various phases described below are conditional, and depend on the spread of the virus.

KEY POINTS FOR PHASE 1A - 4 MAY

In summary:

  • You may meet 2 friends or family members:
    • for outdoor physical activity
    • while respecting physical distancing
    •  
  • Companies will gradually go back to work
  • For B2B industries and services.
    • Homeworking is 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. 
    • If homeworking is not possible: follow the advice in the guide Safe working: general guide to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, which will form the basis of future sector-wide or company-wide agreements. This will be a key reference document for gradually reopening the economy, while ensuring safe and healthy conditions for all. 
    • In the workplace (in both the public and private sectors), employers must provide their employees with all protective equipment deemed necessary. 
  • Currently, there are no changes for businesses in the hospitality sector. 
  • The rules have not changed, except for fabric and haberdashery shops, which may reopen in light of their important role in the production of protective face coverings.
  • Public transport will resume normal service.
    • Take the bus or the train:
      • if you do not have your own means of transport
      • preferably outside of rush hours.
      • wearing a face mask.
  • Hospitals will extend access to general and specialist treatments
    • gradually
    • and safely

2. Assistance for companies, retailers and the self-employed

Which federal measures exist to support companies ?

1. TEMPORARY UNEMPLOYMENT: SIMPLIFICATION

!! Update: 23 March: 

If you have any questions about temporary unemployment, have a look at the FAQ (pdf) produced by ONEM (the national employment office) (date of publication: 23/03/2020). 

!! Update: 20 March: 

Last Friday, the cabinet approved a second phase of its social and economic safeguarding plan set up to combat the coronavirus crisis. All claims for temporary unemployment relating to Covid-19, filed by blue-collar workers or salaried employees, shall be processed as a claim due to a force majeure event. This is the “corona procedure”.

1. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYERS

  • For as long as the restrictive measures are in place (provisionally, up until and including 05/04/2020), the employer is no longer required to send notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to the competent ONEM unemployment office. This period is likely to be extended until 30/06/2020 if the health measures taken by the Government are extended or enhanced.
  • If, for the period commencing on 13/03/2020, the employer indicates “force majeure” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (=electronic declaration of social risk in which the employer specifies the number of days during which the employee shall be in temporary unemployment) (using code 5.4 for “type of day” and “coronavirus” as the reason), then this action is equivalent to completing the mandatory notification.

This procedure is valid even if the employer had previously submitted notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for the period commencing on 13/03/2020 or had submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons.

Any employer who had initially submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reason can thus switch to the temporary unemployment due to force majeure regime (reason: “coronavirus”) without having to complete any other formalities, and even if some employees can still work or if employees can work on some days only.

  • If the employer indicates “economic reasons” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (using code 5.1 for “type of day”), the existing procedures then continue to apply (notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons, notification of the first day of actual unemployment, mandatory week of work, etc.).
  • The employer is required to submit a DRS scenario 5 as quickly as possible (based on which ONEM can also determine the value of the benefits to be paid to the temporarily unemployed person). The employer must not wait until the end of the month, and instead must complete the formalities during the current month, as soon as all the information is known about the situation up until the end of the month.
  • During the period from 01/03/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, the employer is not required to provide a control card (C3.2A) to employees made temporarily unemployed, and irrespective of the reason for the temporary unemployment. 
  • For more information, refer to info sheet E1 Coronavirus – Employers

Do not hesitate to contact your service supplier you use to administer your payroll since in some cases they can complete certain formalities for you. 

2. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYEES

  • To file a claim for benefits to the paying-out organisation, the employee has to option to use a simplified form (form C3.2 – EMPLOYEE-CORONA
  • Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure is eligible for unemployment benefits without needing to satisfy any eligibility conditions. During the period from 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, this measure shall also apply to any employee made temporarily unemployed for economic reasons.
  • From 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020, the employee receives benefit equivalent to 70 % of his or her average salary (capped at an upper limit of €2,754.76 per month). Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (reason: “coronavirus”) receives, in addition to unemployment benefit, a supplement of €5.63 per day, i.e. 150 euros per month, paid out by ONEM.
    A payroll tax of 26.75 % shall be deducted from this benefit.
  • For more information, refer to info sheet T2 Coronavirus – Employees

Note that self-employed persons and “professions libérales” (service-based, self-employed occupations that are primarily intellectual or technical in nature, such as lawyers and accountants) cannot be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (another type of replacement income exists for them: see below).

!! Update: 19 March: 

  • Employees working in sheltered workshops, supported employment workshops and “maatwerkbedrijven” (CP 327) can also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Employees in the social profit sector required to operate in accordance with the rules applicable to the private sector may also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Service voucher entities which close on a voluntary basis as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis may make their employees temporarily unemployed due to force majeure. Companies which stay open may also make temporarily unemployed due to force majeure any employees who cannot work due to the cancellation of projects or work by customers, if they cannot work for a full day.

!! Update: 18 March:

In view of the surge in the number of claims for temporary unemployment relating to the coronavirus epidemic and in view of the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, the government has decided to award everyone for whom a new temporary unemployment file to be created, an immediately-available lump-sum payment of 1,450 euros per month to ensure that they are provided for pending the creation of their file. The "lump sum" awarded to "new" temporarily unemployed people, who have not previously used the system, is not supplemental to the income provided during the period of temporary unemployment. Once the employee is integrated into the system and the claim has been processed, the balance is calculated and paid, where applicable, to the individual concerned. 

2. BRIDGING RIGHT: PROVISION OF A FORM OF REPLACEMENT INCOME FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED (PARACHUTE PAYMENTS): TEMPORARY CRISIS MEASURE

!! Update: 2 July

Since May 2020, many self-employed persons can resume their self-employed activity. During the months of June, July and August, these self-employed workers can make use of the new bridging right to support recovery. Those who cannot yet resume their activities can still qualify for the existing temporary Corona bridging right during the months of July and August 2020 in the following situations, but under stricter conditions. More info on the NISSE site (French or Dutch only)

!! Update: 25 May

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.

!! Update: 27 April

It was decided in the Cabinet on Saturday 25 April to extend the bridging law up to and including 31 May.
The bridging law is being tacitly extended for activities falling under the mandatory closure measures. Even if these self-employed persons may resume their activities on 4 May or at a later date during the month of May, they will have to contend with the bridging law for this month. For self-employed persons not falling under the mandatory closure measures, but having voluntarily interrupted their activities, the measures are also being tacitly extended. In order to have a right to the payment for May, they must interrupt their activities for at least 7 consecutive days in May, as is the case in previous months.

!! Update: 10 April

As a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, the conditions for the award of parachute payments have been relaxed for cases where the claim is made due to force majeure (3rd scenario in which parachute payments can be authorised).

As a full-time self-employed person (“à titre principal”) (including co-workers, co-workers who live with the self-employed person (in “maxi-status”), and (first-time) start-ups), you can be considered for temporary Corona parachute payments in the following situations:

  • To comply with health protection measures, the authorities have forced you to cease trading either totally or partially. You are immediately considered for parachute payments. No minimum period of cessation of trading has to be satisfied. This provision applies, for example, to self-employed people who are obliged to close their place of business (such as a restaurant, café, or non-food retail outlet) or whose work requires face-to-face contact. Restaurants which prepare or deliver takeaway meals also fall into this category.
  • The authorities have not obliged you to cease your activity partially or totally, however, you feel forced to halt your activity as a result of the corona crisis for a period of at least 7 successive calendar days. Those concerned in this case may, for example, be the self-employed who cease trading due to being quarantined, insufficient resources or various reasons of an economic or organizational nature (relating to COVID-19). Self-employed people exercising a health-related profession, such as physiotherapists, dentists and specialist doctors fall into this category.

The following self-employed persons may be eligible for the financial support payments in full:

  • full-time self-employed persons (“à titre principal”) (including co-workers, co-workers who live with the self-employed person and (first-time) start-ups);
  • part-time self-employed persons (“à titre complémentaire”) liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed;
  • full-time self-employed persons considered to be equivalent to part-time self-employed persons (under art. 37 RGS) and liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed;
  • students also working in a self-employed capacity and liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed.

The following self-employed persons may be eligible for a part percentage of the financial support payments:

  • part-time self-employed persons liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 13,993.77 euros;
  • full-time self-employed persons considered to be equivalent to part-time self-employed persons (under art. 37 RGS) and liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 7,330.52 euros;
  • students also working in a self-employed capacity and liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 13,993.77 euros;
  • active self-employed persons, also receiving a pension, liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of more than 6,996.89 euros.

Note: unlike certain typical scenarios in which transitional rights are awarded (resulting in the payment of parachute payments), a certificate from ONEM proving that you are ineligible for unemployment benefit is not required when accessing corona parachute payments.

The corona parachute payment financial support scheme has been set up to pay the following monthly amount for March and April (full entitlement):

  • 1,291.69 EUR per month if you do not have dependents;
  • 1,614.10 EUR per month if you have dependents.

For self-employed persons eligible for part payment of the financial support, the payment for March and April is:

  • 645.85 EUR per month if you do not have dependents;
  • 807.05 EUR per month if you have dependents.

Transitional rights (parachute payments) are taxed at the progressive taxation rates set for the standard collection of personal income tax. However, these rights (payments) are not considered when calculating the contributions paid by the self-employed.

Under certain conditions, the financial support may be paid as a supplement to another source of replacement income (pension, (temporary) unemployment benefit, sickness benefit).

Please note: For self-employed persons who may be eligible for part payment of the financial support, the total value of the partial payment of the “Corona parachute payment” plus other replacement income cannot exceed 1,614.10 euro per month. If this amount is exceeded, the monthly value of the part payment of the “Corona parachute payment” will be reduced.

If awarded, the March payment shall be paid at the start of April, and the April payment at the start of May 2020.

You are still liable for your social security contributions, which allow you to maintain your entitlement to social security rights. If you are having difficulties paying these contributions, you can ask for your provisional social security contributions to be reduced or for their payment to be deferred or for your social security contributions to be waived.

FILING A REQUEST FOR PARACHUTE PAYMENTS BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS 

To claim parachute payments because of the coronavirus crisis, send the completed claim form to your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider). You must not sign the form electronically.
More information or contact your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider)

3. Postponement of the payments owed to the National Social Security Office (RSZ)

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the government has implemented a number of measures since 20 March 2020. One of these measures concerns the postponement of payments to the RSZ until 15 December 2020. 
These measures refer to three types of payment postponement.

  • Automatic postponement for companies subject to mandatory closure
  • Postponement following a sworn declaration for companies that decided to fully close themselves
  • Postponement following a sworn declaration for companies that are not fully closed but have had their economic activities severely curtailed

Companies not involved in the automatic postponement or postponement following a prior declaration. More info on the ONSS site.

4. DEFERMENT OF THE CUT-OFF DATE FOR SUBMITTING ISOC, IPM AND INR-SOC RETURNS WITH A DUE DATE OF 16 MARCH TO 30 APRIL 2020 INCLUSIVE 

!! Update: 19 March:

The tax return deadline has been extended until midnight on Thursday 30 April. 2020 This applies to taxpayers submitting their returns for ISOC (corporation tax), IPM (tax paid by entities not subject to corporation tax) and INR-SOC (tax paid by non-residents/foreign companies). 
This deferment applies only to tax returns whose submission deadline is from 16 March and 30 April 2020 inclusive
More information

5. DEFERMENT OF THE DEADLINE FOR 5. SUBMITTING VAT RETURNS

The deferment details are specified on the FPS Finances website.

6. PAYMENT PLAN FOR EMPLOYER’S SOCIAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTIONS

Since this relates to the payment of social security contributions due for the first and second quarters of 2020, the Covid-19 crisis shall be accepted as justification for opening discussions to reach mutually-agreed payment deadline extensions.
More information

7. PAYMENT PLAN FOR VAT

On condition that the creditor can demonstrate that its difficulties in making the payments are a result of Covid-19, the VAT payments can be spread out and the usual fines can be waived.

!! Update: 19 March:
An automatic two-month deferment of the payment deadline for VAT has been granted, and no fines or late-payment interest shall be charged.
More information:

8. PAYMENT PLAN FOR PAYROLL TAXES

It shall also be possible to spread out payroll tax payments and to benefit from the waiving of the usual fines, under the same conditions.

!! Update: 19 March: An automatic two-month deferment of the payment deadline for payroll taxes has been granted, and no fines or late-payment interest shall be charged.
More information

9. PAYMENT PLAN FOR PERSONAL INCOME TAX/CORPORATION TAX

On condition that the taxpayer can demonstrate that its difficulties in making the payments are a result of Covid-19, a request may be made to defer the payment of personal income tax and of corporation tax.

Update: 19 March: An additional two-month extension shall automatically be granted, in addition to the normal delay, for the payment of personal income tax, corporation tax, tax paid by entities not subject to corporation tax and tax paid by non-residents. This measure applies to the tax calculated for the 2019 tax year, determined as of 12 March 2020. 
More information

10. REDUCTION IN PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED

If a self-employed person calculates, during the course of the year, that his or her income is less than that used as the basis for the calculation of the contributions, he or she may ask to pay a reduced contribution.
More information

11. DEFERMENT OF OR EXEMPTION FROM SOCIAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTIONS FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED

With regard to social security contributions for the first two quarters of 2020, a one-year deferment with no late-payment interest charged and exemption from social security contribution payments will be authorised. Once again, eligibility is dependent on the self-employed person demonstrating that the difficulties relate to Covid-19.
More information

12. new financial guarantee: credendo bridge guarantee

The Belgian economy is one of the most open economies in the world and its exports represent over 85% of the Belgian GDP. Therefore, it is crucial to support internationally active Belgian enterprises during the covid-19 crisis. 

In this context, Credendo – the Belgian export credit agency – launched new initiatives in order to ensure that enterprises continue to have access to bank credit and credit insurance in these difficult times. The European authorities have just approved these two support measures in favour of the Belgian economy and internationally active enterprises.
Credendo is now offering a new financial guarantee, the ‘Credendo Bridge Guarantee’ which aims at ensuring that enterprises, and SMEs in particular, can obtain the necessary bank credit in these challenging times. Credendo guarantees up to 80% of bridging loans for a maximum duration of one year and a maximum amount of 10 million euros per enterprise. Thanks to this guarantee, internationally active enterprises can obtain credit more easily, and credit amounts can be higher, while the bank granting the credit facility will have a larger capacity and more comfort.

As this new financial guarantee has a very clearly defined scope, please read the requirements (EN, FR, NL) carefully.

f you want to apply for the Credendo Bridge Guarantee, please send a completed word version and an executed pdf version of the application form to CBG@credendo.com.

More info on https://www.credendo.com/covid-19

13. FLEXIBILITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF FEDERAL PUBLIC CONTRACTS

The federal state will not invoke penalties or sanctions against service providers, companies and the self-employed with regard to the performance of all federal public contracts so long as it can be demonstrated that the cause of the delay or failure to perform is Covid-19.

Update 2 July

What measures are planned to support the self-employed?

Self-employed persons who are facing difficulties as a result of coronavirus may apply for the support provided by the following measures.

Bridging right: PROVISION OF A FORM OF REPLACEMENT INCOME FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED (PARACHUTE PAYMENTS): TEMPORARY CRISIS MEASURE

!! Update: 2 July

Since May 2020, many self-employed persons can resume their self-employed activity. During the months of June, July and August, these self-employed workers can make use of the new bridging right to support recovery. Those who cannot yet resume their activities can still qualify for the existing temporary Corona bridging right during the months of July and August 2020 in the following situations, but under stricter conditions. More info on the NISSE site (French or Dutch only)

!! Update: 25 May

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.

!! Update: 27 April

It was decided in the Cabinet on Saturday 25 April to extend the bridging law up to and including 31 May.
The bridging law is being tacitly extended for activities falling under the mandatory closure measures. Even if these self-employed persons may resume their activities on 4 May or at a later date during the month of May, they will have to contend with the bridging law for this month. For self-employed persons not falling under the mandatory closure measures, but having voluntarily interrupted their activities, the measures are also being tacitly extended. In order to have a right to the payment for May, they must interrupt their activities for at least 7 consecutive days in May, as is the case in previous months.

!! Update: 10 April

As a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, the conditions for the award of parachute payments have been relaxed for cases where the claim is made due to force majeure (3rd scenario in which parachute payments can be authorised).

As a full-time self-employed person (“à titre principal”) (including co-workers, co-workers who live with the self-employed person (in “maxi-status”), and (first-time) start-ups), you can be considered for temporary Corona parachute payments in the following situations:

  • To comply with health protection measures, the authorities have forced you to cease trading either totally or partially. You are immediately considered for parachute payments. No minimum period of cessation of trading has to be satisfied. This provision applies, for example, to self-employed people who are obliged to close their place of business (such as a restaurant, café, or non-food retail outlet) or whose work requires face-to-face contact. Restaurants which prepare or deliver takeaway meals also fall into this category.
  • The authorities have not obliged you to cease your activity partially or totally, however, you feel forced to halt your activity as a result of the corona crisis for a period of at least 7 successive calendar days. Those concerned in this case may, for example, be the self-employed who cease trading due to being quarantined, insufficient resources or various reasons of an economic or organizational nature (relating to COVID-19). Self-employed people exercising a health-related profession, such as physiotherapists, dentists and specialist doctors fall into this category.

The following self-employed persons may be eligible for the financial support payments in full:

  • full-time self-employed persons (“à titre principal”) (including co-workers, co-workers who live with the self-employed person and (first-time) start-ups);
  • part-time self-employed persons (“à titre complémentaire”) liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed;
  • full-time self-employed persons considered to be equivalent to part-time self-employed persons (under art. 37 RGS) and liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed;
  • students also working in a self-employed capacity and liable for provisional social security contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions paid by the full-time self-employed.

The following self-employed persons may be eligible for a part percentage of the financial support payments:

  • part-time self-employed persons liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 13,993.77 euros;
  • full-time self-employed persons considered to be equivalent to part-time self-employed persons (under art. 37 RGS) and liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 7,330.52 euros;
  • students also working in a self-employed capacity and liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of between 6,996.89 euros and 13,993.77 euros;
  • active self-employed persons, also receiving a pension, liable for provisional social security contributions calculated based on a reference income of more than 6,996.89 euros.

Note: unlike certain typical scenarios in which transitional rights are awarded (resulting in the payment of parachute payments), a certificate from ONEM proving that you are ineligible for unemployment benefit is not required when accessing corona parachute payments.

The corona parachute payment financial support scheme has been set up to pay the following monthly amount for March and April (full entitlement):

  • 1,291.69 EUR per month if you do not have dependents;
  • 1,614.10 EUR per month if you have dependents.

For self-employed persons eligible for part payment of the financial support, the payment for March and April is:

  • 645.85 EUR per month if you do not have dependents;
  • 807.05 EUR per month if you have dependents.

Transitional rights (parachute payments) are taxed at the progressive taxation rates set for the standard collection of personal income tax. However, these rights (payments) are not considered when calculating the contributions paid by the self-employed.

Under certain conditions, the financial support may be paid as a supplement to another source of replacement income (pension, (temporary) unemployment benefit, sickness benefit).

Please note: For self-employed persons who may be eligible for part payment of the financial support, the total value of the partial payment of the “Corona parachute payment” plus other replacement income cannot exceed 1,614.10 euro per month. If this amount is exceeded, the monthly value of the part payment of the “Corona parachute payment” will be reduced.

If awarded, the March payment shall be paid at the start of April, and the April payment at the start of May 2020.

You are still liable for your social security contributions, which allow you to maintain your entitlement to social security rights. If you are having difficulties paying these contributions, you can ask for your provisional social security contributions to be reduced or for their payment to be deferred or for your social security contributions to be waived.

FILING A REQUEST FOR PARACHUTE PAYMENTS BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS 

To claim parachute payments because of the coronavirus crisis, send the completed claim form to your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider). You must not sign the form electronically.
More information
Or contact your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider)

DEFERMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTIONS AND WAIVING OF SURCHARGES

The full-time self-employed and co-workers who live with the self-employed person who are affected by the consequences of coronavirus may submit a written request to their social insurance provider to defer for one year the payment of their provisional social security contributions, with no surcharges applied to their account, and with no impact on the services provided.

This measure applies to the provisional contributions for the first and second quarters of 2020.

This request must be submitted:

  • Before 31/3/2020 to request a deferment of the payment of contributions for the first and second quarters of 2020;
  • Before 15/6/2020 to request a deferment of the payment of contributions for the second quarter of 2020.

The request must include, as a minimum, the following information:

  • the surname, first name and home address (domicile) of the person concerned;
  • the name and head office of the business;
  • the company registration number.

Please note: If the contribution concerned is not paid in full before the due date specified, surcharges shall be due for the quarters concerned and the cost of the services wrongfully received shall be recovered.

Do you need more information? Contact your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider).

REDUCTION IN PROVISIONAL SOCIAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTIONS

Self-employed people who face difficulties as a result of coronavirus may request a reduction in their provisional social security contributions for 2020 if their professional income is below one of the legal thresholds.

Do you need more information? Contact your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider).

WAIVING OF SOCIAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTIONS

Full-time self-employed persons and co-workers who live with a self-employed person who are unable to pay their social security contributions may ask for their contributions to be waived.

Contributions may be waived in full or in part.

You can request the waiving of provisional contributions or of any balancing contributions due as a result of correcting for known previous-year professional income.

Please note: Have you used the online service to submit your contributions-related request? If you have, you are advised to send a notification email to mailbox-dvr@rsvz-inasti.fgov.be which should speed up the processing of the request.

Do you need more information?

Waiving of surcharges (article 48 RGS)
E-mail: mailbox-rek@rsvz-inasti.fgov.be 
Tel. +32 2 546 45 95

Waiving of contributions
E-mail: mailbox-dvr@rsvz-inasti.fgov.be
Tel. +32 2 546 60 20

Or contact your “caisse d'assurances sociales” (social insurance provider).

SICKNESS AND INABILITY TO WORK

Healthcare costs incurred by self-employed persons and their family are reimbursed by the mutual fund provider.

Self-employed persons who are unable to work for at least 8 days are eligible for sickness benefit paid out by the mutual fund provider from the first day onwards.

In some cases, you can ask for your social security contributions to be waived for the duration of the sickness (“assimilation pour cause de maladie” (you can still access services, but do not make payments)).

Source: INASTI Updated on 2 July

What measures have been taken for Brussels entrepreneurs?

!! Update: 19 March: the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region decided, on 19 March, to take unprecedented economic and social measures to support the sectors most affected and have allocated a budget for these measures of more than 150 million euros.

1. A ONE-OFF ALLOWANCE OF 4,000 EUROS

The Brussels-Capital Region supports companies that have been forced to close down temporarily and are active in certain business sectors. Under certain conditions, you can get a €4,000 grant for each company unit in the Region.
! The deadline for submitting your application (1 June 2020) has expired.

2. COMPENSATORY PREMIUM OF 2,000 EUROS

The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has agreed on the modalities for the introduction of a premium of 2,000 euros intended to support the self-employed and companies (maximum 5 FTEs) which are experiencing a significant drop in activity due to the measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19.  It is estimated that some 50,000 self-employed persons and enterprises in Brussels are concerned, with a total budget of 102 million euros.

Since Thursday 4 June, entrepreneurs who wish to apply to the Brussels-Capital Region for a compensatory premium of 2,000 euros have had access to all the terms and conditions on which this premium is granted. This information is available on the website: www.primecovid.brussels. The application may be submitted on the same page from Monday 8 June until 30 June.

This premium is intended for self-employed persons and small businesses in Brussels :

  • employing a maximum of 5 full-time equivalents;
  • who have not applied for another regional premium;
  • who have benefited either from the bridging right (as a self-employed person or as a company manager) or from temporary unemployment for the majority of their employees.

To apply for this premium, the applicant must also be in order with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (addresses of the units of establishment, functions, etc.). A tool allows this to be checked as of Wednesday 3 June. The list of other documents required to complete the bonus application is also already available on www.primecovid.brussels (bank certificate, bank card photo, etc.).

3. Taxis

Like the tourism sector, taxi services are suffering the effects of the coronavirus crisis. For this reason, the Brussels Government has decided to exempt the tax on the operation of taxis or cars with driver. The exemption is valid for the tax year 2020. The modalities and the deadline for submitting your request for exemption can be found on the website Bruxelles Fiscalité.

Following a decision by the Brussels Government on 16 April, a premium of €3,000 will be granted to all operators of taxis and hire cars with drivers.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THIS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE?p

Any operator (natural or legal person) who has a licence to operate a taxi service and/or a car rental service with driver issued by the Brussels-Capital Region before 19 March 2020.  

HOW TO APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID?

A form for beneficiaries will be put online; the exact web address will be sent to them by post and email (Taxi News) from Monday 11 May.   The deadline for submitting the application is 30 June 2020. Please note that only a person authorised by the company's articles of association (the manager or one of the managers of the company) or the natural person holding the authorisation may submit the application.

In order to complete the application form, it is necessary to have a means of connecting to Irisbox (identity card reader, Itsme, Token, ...) and to have an identity card.
Then the following information must be encoded : 

  • your "BCE" business number; 
  • the number of the valid Belgian current bank account ("IBAN" format) to which you wish the financial aid to be paid;
  • and the contact details (name and address) of the person holding this bank account;

If you have any questions about the financial aid of 3,000 € in favour of taxi and/or limousine operators with an operating permit issued by the services of the Brussels-Capital Region, please contact the Communication team of Brussels Mobility: 0800 94 001 - mobilite@sprb.brussels.

4. SUspension of City Tax

Following the submission of a proposal by the Minister of Finance and Budgets, Sven Gatz, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has approved, at its first reading, a draft decree of special powers relative to the tax on tourist accommodation businesses, prompted by the COVID-19 health crisis. By virtue of the draft decree, the tax on tourist accommodation businesses (Citytax) would not be charged for the period 1 January to 30 June 2020. The obligations on taxpayers and on the authority with regard to this tax are voided for this period. 
The Government has introduced this measure to support businesses in the tourist accommodation sector which have been badly affected by the health crisis.

5. Support of cash flow issues

Strong support to relieve cash-flow issues faced by companies affected by coronavirus, through the granting of public guarantees (via the Brussels Guarantee Fund) for bank loans, for a total of 20 million euros.
Note: the Brussels guarantee will complement the State guarantee, as soon as the modalities of the latter are defined (work still in progress).

6. loans for the hospitality sector

At the request of the Government, finance&invest.brussels supports, through loans, restaurants, cafés, hotels and their suppliers who are affected by the coronavirus crisis.  More specifically, this concerns :

  • A low-interest subordinated loan for Brussels hospitality businesses employing at least 10 FTEs. The basic criteria to be eligible for aid :
    • the applicant is negatively and significantly affected by the VIDOC crisis19 ;
    • the applicant will be presumed viable following the granting of the loan;
    • the applicant has taken the necessary steps to benefit from the other measures put in place in the context of this crisis.
  • A subordinated loan at a reduced rate for key suppliers in the Brussels hospitality sector, enabling them to offer a payment period to businesses in the hospitality sector.  In addition to the basic criteria mentioned above, be aware that :
    • Priority will be given to those which provide the most essential goods or services for the continuity of the activity of Brussels hospitality sector and which have the largest volume of Brussels hospitality businesses among their clientele.
      Note: the number of FTEs is not a criterion in this case.

Characteristics of the loan : 

  • The rates depend on the amount and are a minimum of 2% and a maximum of 3.6%; 
  • Possibility of a moratorium (payment term, excluding interest) of 6 to 12 months; 
  • No repurchase indemnity if refinanced or repaid early; 
  • No pari passu;
  • No negative pledge (= English term refers to a clause inserted in a credit agreement which prohibits the establishment of new guarantees in favour of other creditors on all or part of the assets and property owned by the debtor. The purpose of a negative pledge is to maintain the quality of the security given to the original creditor compared to new lenders. Here, there is no such clause, which is a real advantage).

If you meet the above criteria and wish to make use of these new credits, please send an e-mail to coronacontact@finance.brussels with the following information:

  • Company name
  • VAT number 
  • Sector of activity
  • Phone number

With this tool, the Government is targeting large hospitality businesses and hotels with 50 or more employees. For small businesses, a bonus of 4,000 euros has already been introduced by the region (see above).

7. MICROCREDIT: RECOVERY LOAN

Since Tuesday 26 May, a new measure has come into force. The aim of this measure is to strengthen microcredits by enabling BRUSOC to grant a cash credit of up to 15,000 euros at a reduced rate to the self-employed, very small enterprises (micro-enterprises) and social enterprises.
RECOVER is an emergency loan that helps to reduce cash flow tensions and to promote the restart and development of economic activities impacted by the current crisis.

HOW much? 
  • Loan of maximum 15.000 Euros

  •  Redeemable over a maximum of 3 years

  • Fixed interest rate of 1.75%.

FOR WHOM?

The companies that can apply for this loan are all companies that have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and need cash.

Are concerned:

  • companies as a natural person: independent as a main or complementary activity.
  • companies taking over all legal forms of commercial companies.

! Attention, this is a cash loan. This loan must therefore be allocated to the following items:

  • Reconstitution of working capital
  • Acquisition of inventories
  • Payment of arrears

This loan is therefore exclusively intended to meet the company's cash flow requirements. Any financing of tangible and/or intangible investment is excluded.

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS?

The eligibility criteria are as follows:

FOR COMPANIES MORE THAN 2 YEARS OLD: 

a) For commercial companies, at least 2 of these 3 criteria must be met:

  • Company growing between 2018 and 2019;
  • Positive result on 31.12.2019;
  • Positive equity capital.

b) For companies as a natural person, the following criteria must be met:

  • The company must show a profit as at 31/12/19 ;
  • Turnover growth between 2018 and 2019.

FOR COMPANIES LESS THAN 2 YEARS OLD :

  • If applicable, the last published balance sheet (or the warning statement for the natural person);
  • A recent accounting situation certified by the accountant;
  • The financial plan drawn up at the time of the company's incorporation.

The exclusion criteria are:

  • Denunciation of a credit by a financial institution ;
  • Tax and social security debts due for more than 2 quarters before the Covid-19 crisis, except if the settlement plan(s) is (are) accepted and proof that it (they) is (are) respected.

Guarantee: Personal guarantee

No application fee

HOW TO PROCEED?

Send your email exclusively to the following address: covidbrusoc@hub.brussels. You will then receive a link to a form to be completed.

Below is the list of documents to prepare in order to attach them to the form ! Please note: only applications accompanied by all the documents will be analysed.

  • All of your 2018, 2019 and 2020 VAT returns;
  • If applicable, the detailed annual accounts for 2017 and 2018 (or the notice and statement of account for the individual);
  • An accounting situation as at 31/12/2019, certified by the accountant;
  • A sworn statement concerning your tax, ONSS and VAT debts;
  • A sworn declaration concerning the absence of a credit denunciation by a financial institution before 13/03/2020 (if a company) or the BNB certificate (if self-employed as a natural person);
  • If your company is less than two years old, the financial plan drawn up when the company was set up;
  • A copy of both sides of your identity card;
  • A copy of the complete articles of association of the company.

8. support for the cultural and creative sector in brussels

In order to support the cultural and creative sector in Brussels, which has been heavily affected by the health crisis and its consequences, the Brussels Government and the French and Flemish Community Commissions approved specific measures amounting to 8.4 million euros on 14 May.

The Brussels Government has therefore decided to grant :

  • A single regional sectoral premium of €2000 for all non-profit cultural and creative organisations affected by the crisis caused by COVID-19.  This single premium is intended for all Brussels organisations in the non-profit cultural and creative sectors, subject to compliance with certain conditions. The premium will be granted upon express request by the organisation to Brussels Economy Employment via an online formThe premium can be applied for from 25 June onwards till 15 July.

  • Exceptional aid of up to €1500 for intermittent cultural workers (€5 million fund). 
    Many intermittent workers in the cultural sector find themselves in a very precarious situation. In addition to the fact that they are currently unable to receive benefits, they are only entitled to temporary unemployment under limited conditions. Benefits are at best postponed, at worst cancelled, leading to a significant loss of earnings during this period.  In this context, the Brussels Government will set up a fund of 5 million euros to provide exceptional aid to intermittent cultural workers suffering loss of income following the cancellation or postponement of events due to the crisis, and who have neither access to temporary unemployment nor to the bridging right. This aid of up to €1500 per person will help to cover some of the basic needs of these citizens but also to support employment in Brussels. It is reserved for workers who apply for it and whose status meets the conditions laid down.

9. Support for activity cooperatives and their member-entrepreneurs

The objective of this mission is to support, in the context of the crisis of COVID-19, entrepreneurs who have chosen to carry out their activity within an activity cooperative, as this choice has the consequence of excluding them from the single premium (4000 euros) and compensatory premium (2000 euros) adopted by the Brussels Government. Indeed, these premiums require a company number of their own, whereas the entrepreneurs of an activity cooperative all use the cooperative's unique company number.

The Brussels activity cooperatives are as follows: SMartCoop, ISIS-DiES, BRUCOOP, SATICOOP and RCoop. These cooperatives are innovative structures, with a social purpose, which allow entrepreneurship with a safety net and mutualisation of charges.

In concrete terms, loans can be granted to entrepreneurs of the cooperative concerned who have a territorial link with the Brussels-Capital Region. These loans amount to a maximum of 25,000 euros. They are granted at a maximum interest rate of 1% and for a maximum period of five years.

The entrepreneur will have to submit his loan application directly to the cooperative of which he is a member.  The scheme will be in place very soon, from mid-June.

10. ACCELERATION OF APPLICATIONS for ECONOMIC EXPANSION Subsidies

The accelerated or even anticipatory processing, decision-making and payment of subsidies for economic expansion (for applications currently being analysed by Brussels Economy and Employment) for the following sectors: hospitality, tourism, events and culture; 

11. Emergency support for brussels companies

Since Tuesday, April 28th, a regional team of coaches with a variety of expertise has been set up to help you manage this crisis and direct you to the appropriate partners.

Fields of intervention

  1. Coaching
  2. Accounting & financing
  3. Administrative procedures
  4. Thematic expertise
  5. Export
  6. Mediation & Law

On the hub.brussels website, you will find details of the possible interventions in each area.

Who is this service for? 
This service is aimed at companies:

  • with an economic activity in the Brussels-Capital Region
  • whose activity is impacted by the coronavirus
  • who specifically wish to receive support in one of the above-mentioned areas

If you are interested in this accompaniment, please fill out this questionnaire (change language in the upper right corner). This questionnaire is completely confidential and will allow the team to clearly identify the problems encountered.

Please note! This guide does not cover questions relating to federal and regional premiums and measures. These questions should be asked directly to 1819 via n°1819 or by e-mail via info@1819.brussels.

The emergency support team brings together the combined expertise of key regional players, including the Centre for Enterprises in Difficulty (CED) and hub.brussels, which coordinates this regional team. More locally, the Guichets d'Economie Locale (GEL) and Plate-formes d'Auto Création d'Emploi (ACE) are also expected to join the team.
finance&invest.brussels, a stakeholder in the collaboration, acts as a provider of financial solutions for companies.

12. Social economy and service voucher sector

Although they are normally excluded from economic aid, social economy companies working in the field of integration may benefit from all the provisions put in place to support the Brussels economy as it faces the Covid-19 crisis.  

Update 22 June: Measures to support the service voucher sector are extended until 30 June 2020. More information

Update: 14 April: three measures are planned to support home cleaners and service voucher entities:

  • Support for home helps/cleaners: home helps/cleaners employed through service voucher entities whose head office is in the Brussels region and who work within the Region may receive, in addition to temporary unemployment benefits, a supplemental allowance of €2.5 (gross) per hour of temporary unemployment. 
  • A fixed sum for each service voucher entity: a fixed-sum support of €4,000 has been granted to service voucher entities whose head office is in the Brussels-Capital Region. 
  • An increase in the regional intervention subsidy: to allow entities to make provision for sufficient protection for home helps/cleaners and users, the entities shall receive, for the duration of the crisis, an intervention subsidy of €16.60 per service voucher, which is €2 more than the previous figure of €14.60.

13. covid-19 premium for agriculture

The measures taken to counter the spread of the coronavirus are having unprecedented consequences on the economic activity in Brussels. The Region wishes to support the agricultural sector, which has also been affected by the crisis. As a company active in the primary production of agricultural products and in aquaculture, you can, under certain conditions, benefit from a maximum premium of €3000. Your application for the premium must be submitted by 29 May at the latest

14. Foreign trade

The fight against coronavirus has prevented companies from participating in certain international events and activities, booked as part of an internationalisation project. If the company has not been able to obtain a refund, it can apply for a subsidy from the Region, under certain conditions. This subsidy amounts to a maximum of €2,500.
More information and the application form can be found on the website of Brussels Economy & Employment.

15. the proxi-loan: citizen savings to support sme's

The "Proxi" loan aims to mobilise citizen savings for the benefit of SME financing via a tax credit on one or more loans granted by a Brussels resident to an SME.  In concrete terms, the Proxi Loan allows the borrower (the self-employed person or the manager of an SME with an economic activity established in the Brussels-Capital Region) to take out a loan at a reduced rate for a fixed period of 5 or 8 years from a private individual (close relative, family or any other person interested in his or her activity...), with a maximum ceiling of 250,000 euros for the borrower. The rate will be set at a later date by decree. More info

16. property taxes

Following the submission of a proposal by the Minister of Finance and Budgets, Sven Gatz, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region has approved a draft decree that would introduce a 2-month extension to the payment deadlines for property taxes for the 2020 tax year. This would give the taxpayers concerned more financial margin for manoeuvre in the context of the on-going COVID-19 health crisis. The terms and conditions of the payment plans will also be relaxed.

17. With regard to Brussels’s image, Sport, Equality of Opportunity and Social Cohesion.  

In order to support the association-based networks and the events, tourism, culture and sports sectors in Brussels:

  • Promotion of Brussels's image with regard to events scheduled, entirely or in part, from 1 March to 30 April 2020 inclusive: 
    • With regard to events postponed until later in 2020, the subsidy awarded shall remain in place without changes to the terms of the subsidy agreement and with no change to the amount awarded; 
    • For cancelled events, the Brussels government authorises the use of this subsidy to settle invoices for expenditure already incurred for the event and which cannot be cancelled.
  • With regard to Sport, Equality of Opportunity and Social Cohesion:
    • If the event or initiative is pure and simply cancelled, and if costs have been incurred which cannot be recovered, then the subsidy does not need to be reimbursed;
    • If the event or initiative is postponed to a later date, a new application procedure for a subsidy does not need to be initiated and the analysis of the supporting documents will be relaxed.

18. Suspension of LEZ fines

The Brussels government has decided to postpone the date on which fines relating to the low-emission zone will start to be sent out (initially scheduled for 1 April 2020) and to temporarily suspend the sending out of fines to the owners of vehicles in breach of the regulations since 2018. 

!! Update June 2: Suspended during containment, the low emission zone will resume in Brussels. Fines will again be sent, as of 1 July, to vehicles whose standards do not comply with the LEZ.

19. Other measures announced by the Government on 4 March 2020

  1. The setting up of a task force which brings together the members of the enlarged strategic council for the economy (CSE) at visit.brussels. This task force may call on the expertise of the Brussels economic and social council (CES) and of the various economic sectors to determine the actual situation on the ground.
  2. In terms of information and communication, 1819 coordinates and distributes all the official information likely to provide assistance to Brussels companies and entrepreneurs about the consequences of Covid-19. You can access this information via www.1819.brussels or via a telephone call, by dialling 1819.
  3. A system for monitoring, on a weekly basis, the impact of Covid-19 on the Brussels economy and particularly on high-risk sectors shall be set up by IBSA, working with hub.brussels, visit.brussels and all the members of the task force.
  4. A bilingual website, www.coronavirus.brussels, has been created to provide the latest information about the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic and the telephone number of the dedicated call centre. You can also download from the website posters in 10 different languages (French, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, Classical Arabic). A multilingual poster campaign will also be launched across the country

Source: 1819, Brussel Government - update:  24 June 2020

Are there support measures for non-profit organisations?

NON-PROFITS COMPARED TO OTHER TYPES OF COMPANIES

Non-profits can benefit from the same tax and social aid as other types of companies. For example:

  • Temporary unemployment due to force majeure, including for ACS contracts (without losing points)
  • Deferment of NSSO contribution payments upon request and under certain conditions
  • Automatic deferment of payments of payroll taxes for two months
  • Automatic deferment of payment of VAT, taxes on legal entities and corporate taxes.

NON-PROFITS WHOSE BUSINESS ACTIVITY IS SUBJECT TO VAT

Non-profits with a business activity subject to VAT can also benefit from a one-time €4,000 allowance granted by the Brussels region, provided that they are active in an eligible sector and that they meet the other conditions for the allowance:

  • Employ fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees.
    Note: the 50 FTE employee limit is per company and not per business unit;
  • Not be a public company or classified as one;
  • Have at least one place of business in the Brussels-Capital Region.
    Please note: the non-profit's business unit gives entitlement, not the head office (which may be in another region).

Visit www.primecovid.brussels and click on the blue button labelled “Verify Criteria” to determine if you are eligible for the allowance. If so, fill out the form. (More information about the conditions and process for this allowance can be found in the answer to the question “What assistance is being provided to businesses in Brussels?” ) in this FAQ-section.

In addition, the Brussels government announced a new €2,000 compensatory allowance intended to support entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises (between 0 and 5 FTEs) experiencing a significant drop in activity due to the measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19. The conditions and practical details have not been specified yet. If you would like to be kept up-to-date automatically about new developments, please join our mailing list

Is your non-profit subsidised? In this case, we advise contacting your subsidising authority directly to find out about their approach to the coronavirus crisis.

MEASURES SPECIFIC TO CERTAIN BUSINESS SECTORS

The measures specific to certain business sectors in the Brussels region are described below:

CULTURE

Several measures were implemented by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation for the cultural sector. In particular, subsidy obligations were relaxed and cultural operators and, under certain conditions, event organisers can access an Emergency fund.

The FAQ on the Wallonia-Brussels Federation website provide further information about the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the cultural sector and the measures implemented. A help desk can also be reached via the 02/413.31.28 number or via culture.info@cfwb.be

In addition, an emergency liquidity loan was launched by Fonds St’art to support cultural and creative companies.

CHILDCARE FACILITIES

All Wallonia-Brussels Federation subsidies are being continued. They will not take decreased attendance into account and subsidies may be dispensed in advance to prevent cash flow issues.

Emergency aid will also be provided for care facilities. The allowance amount depends on the type of care facility (subsidised or not). Allowances will be disbursed by the ONE (Office of Birth and Childhood), which will send an explanatory letter regarding the award procedure shortly.

SPORTS FEDERATIONS AND AFFILIATED SPORTS CLUBS

The Wallonia-Brussels Federation government has implemented a fund to assist sectors which fall under its remit, such as sports. The terms of use are being drafted.

The conditions for obtaining and continuing subsidies for sports events and projects are available in this document prepared by the office of Minister Glatiny on 2 April.

ASSISTANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS - HEALTHCARE - SOCIAL - TRAINING - INTEGRATION

The Brussels-Capital Region, the Common Community Commission (COCOM) and the French Community Commission (COCOF) have set up a special €29 million “COVID-19” fund specifically allocated between:

  • Domestic assistance:  €2,322 million to support the purchase of additional equipment, the reorganising of routes and the setting up of electronic communication channels;
  • Nursing homes: €3.95 million to equip premises and cover additional wages;
  • Social welfare: €4.97 million to, among other things, expand capacity for receiving migrants and increase patrols, street work and shelters for homeless people.
  • Assistance for people with disabilities (sheltered workshops, assistance services, welcome and accommodation): €2,866 million.

Their subsidies will also be continued and administrative simplification is planned for all of the following sectors: Healthcare, Social, Personal Assistance, Training, Social and Professional Integration and Social Cohesion.

The French Community Commission (COCOF) is continuing the optional subsidies for postponed events which were set to take place between 1/3 and 30/4/2020. The subsidies can be used to pay the bills which were already incurred for cancelled events. The administrative application process will be simplified.

HOW DOES THE LOCKDOWN PERIOD AFFECT THE ORGANISATION OF BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETINGS AND ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGS?

Board of Directors meetings can be held virtually, via video conferencing, on condition that the principle of collective responsibility is met, i.e. every member’s point of view can be expressed and discussed, as is the case during a classic meeting.

Unless your articles of association prohibit it, some decisions may also be taken in writing. This type of written decision must be taken unanimously (for example, a written text explicitly approved and signed by all of the members).

As for General Meetings, the law does not provide non-profits with the option of a written procedure or other distance voting procedure. A deliberative general meeting must be held.

More information is available in this article from the Boutique de Gestion.

What tax-related measures have been taken?

Companies facing financial difficulties as a result of the spread of coronavirus can apply to FPS Finance for support measures. These support measures may provide some financial margin for manoeuvre in order to help taxpaying companies and individuals overcome their short-term financial difficulties.

!! Update: 18 March: In order to create some financial margin for manoeuvre for these companies and entrepreneurs as well as for households, the federal government has now taken additional measures to alleviate, as much as possible, the financial impact of the virus.

Deferment of the deadline for submitting ISoc, IPM and INR-soc returns with a due date of 16 March to 30 April 2020 inclusive 

The tax return deadline has been extended until midnight on Thursday 30 April, 2020. This applies to taxpayers submitting their returns for ISOC (corporation tax), IPM (tax paid by entities not subject to corporation tax) and INR-SOC (tax paid by non-residents/foreign companies). This deferment applies only to tax returns whose submission deadline is from 16 March and 30 April 2020 inclusive. 

Deferment of the deadline for submitting VAT returns

The various deadlines are indicated on FPS Finances website for:

  • Periodic returns
  • Statement of intracommunity transactions
  • Annual list of VAT-registered customers

Payment of VAT and payroll taxes.

An automatic two-month deferment of the payment deadline for VAT and payroll taxes has been granted, and no fines or late-payment interest shall be charged. 
In addition to this automatic deferment of payment, it is also possible to ask for the measures announced previously to be applied to the payment of unpaid VAT and payroll tax. Submitting this request may entitle you to additional payment deferments, exemption from late-payment interest and/or a reduced late-payment fine. Refer to the explanations below.

Payment of personal income tax and corporation tax 

An additional two-month extension shall automatically be granted, in addition to the normal delay, for the payment of personal income tax, corporation tax, tax paid by legal entities and tax paid by non-residents. This measure applies to the tax calculated for the 2019 tax year, determined as of 12 March 2020.

The payment of debts relating to personal income tax or corporation tax, including debts incurred before 12 March 2020, is also covered by the announced assistance measures and by the additional payment extensions, subject to the submission of a request, with the exception of late-payment interest and/or reduced late-payment fines. See below.

PROCEDURE

WHICH COMPANIES?

Natural persons (individual people) and legal persons (private and public companies and organisations) in Brussels who have a company registration number (BCE)

  • and, regardless of their sector of activity,
  • who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the spread of coronavirus and can demonstrate this (e.g. a drop in turnover, a significant reduction in orders and/or of bookings, “chain-reaction” effects with partner companies, etc.).
  • The support measures cannot be granted to companies that, independently of coronavirus, have structural payment problems

WHICH DEBTS?

  • Payroll taxes
  • VAT
  • Personal income tax
  • Corporation tax
  • Tax paid by entities not subject to corporation tax

WHAT IS THE DEADLINE ? 

  • The request should be submitted not later than 30 June 2020

WHICH MEASURES?

  • Payment plan
  • Exemption from late-payment interest
  • Reduced fines for non-payment

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS?

  • Compliance with the conditions for filing returns
  • Debts must not have been incurred as a result of fraud
  • The support measures shall be withdrawn in the event of:
    • failure to comply with the agreed payment plan, unless the taxpayer contacts the relevant authority in advance
    • the initiation of collective insolvency proceedings (bankruptcy, judicial reorganisation, etc.)

ACTION TO TAKE

  • submit one request per debt, which opens access to all the measures, after receiving your notice of assessment or request for payment,
  • use this form (DOCX, 33.37 KB) and send it by e-mail or post
  • a single point of contact for all the support measures: regional collection centres (CRR). Based on the post code of your home address (for natural persons) or of your head office (for legal entities) there is a specific centre that you should use.

How to search for your centre:

Click here to open our guide to the various centres. In the “Commune” (Municipality) filter, enter your post code or the name of the municipality of your home address/head office. Click on “Chercher” (Search). This details of the CRR competent to handle your request will be displayed (including its postal and email address).

Source: FPS Finances

Temporary unemployment: for whom? until when? what formalities do I need to complete?

If, due to coronavirus, you no longer have work for your employees, then you can make them temporarily unemployed, on condition that certain formalities are completed. 

TEMPORARY UNEMPLOYMENT: SIMPLIFICATION

!! Update: 23 March: 

If you have any questions about temporary unemployment, have a look at the FAQ (pdf) produced by ONEM (the national employment office) (date of publication: 23/03/2020). 

!! Update: 20 March:

Last Friday, the cabinet approved a second phase of its social and economic safeguarding plan set up to combat the coronavirus crisis. All claims for temporary unemployment relating to Covid-19, filed by blue-collar workers or salaried employees, shall be processed as a claim due to a force majeure event. This is the “corona procedure”.

1. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYERS

  • For as long as the restrictive measures are in place (provisionally, up until and including 05/04/2020), the employer is no longer required to send notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to the competent ONEM unemployment office. This period is likely to be extended until 30/06/2020 if the health measures taken by the Government are extended or enhanced.
  • If, for the period commencing on 13/03/2020, the employer indicates “force majeure” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (=electronic declaration of social risk in which the employer specifies the number of days during which the employee shall be in temporary unemployment) (using code 5.4 for “type of day” and “coronavirus” as the reason), then this action is equivalent to completing the mandatory notification.

This procedure is valid even if the employer had previously submitted notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for the period commencing on 13/03/2020 or had submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons.

Any employer who had initially submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reason can thus switch to the temporary unemployment due to force majeure regime (reason: “coronavirus”) without having to complete any other formalities, and even if some employees can still work or if employees can work on some days only.

  • If the employer indicates “economic reasons” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (using code 5.1 for “type of day”), the existing procedures then continue to apply (notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons, notification of the first day of actual unemployment, mandatory week of work, etc.).
  • The employer is required to submit a DRS scenario 5 as quickly as possible (based on which ONEM can also determine the value of the benefits to be paid to the temporarily unemployed person). The employer must not wait until the end of the month, and instead must complete the formalities during the current month, as soon as all the information is known about the situation up until the end of the month.
  • During the period from 01/03/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, the employer is not required to provide a control card (C3.2A) to employees made temporarily unemployed, and irrespective of the reason for the temporary unemployment. 

For more information, refer to info sheet E1 Coronavirus – Employers

2. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYEES

  • To submit a claim for benefits to the paying-out organisation, the employee has to option to use a simplified form (form C3.2 – EMPLOYEE-CORONA
  • Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure is eligible for unemployment benefits without needing to satisfy any eligibility conditions. During the period from 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, this measure shall also apply to any employee made temporarily unemployed for economic reasons.
  • From 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020, the employee receives benefit equivalent to 70 % of his or her average salary (capped at an upper limit of €2,754.76 per month). Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (reason: “coronavirus”) receives, in addition to unemployment benefit, a supplément of €5.63 per day, i.e. 150 euros per month, paid out by ONEM. 
    A payroll tax of 26.75 % shall be deducted from this benefit.
  • For more information, refer to info sheet T2 Coronavirus – Employees 

Note that self-employed persons and “professions libérales” (service-based, self-employed occupations that are primarily intellectual or technical in nature, such as lawyers and accountants) cannot be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (another type of replacement income exists for them)

If you have any questions about temporary unemployment, have a look at the FAQ (pdf) produced by ONEM (the national employment office) (date of publication: 23/03/2020). Do not hesitate contact the service supplier you use to administer your payroll since in some cases they can complete certain formalities for you.

!! Update: 19 March: 

  • Employees working in sheltered workshops, supported employment workshops and “maatwerkbedrijven” (CP 327) can also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Employees in the social profit sector required to operate in accordance with the rules applicable to the private sector may also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Service voucher entities which close on a voluntary basis as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis may make their employees temporarily unemployed due to force majeure. Companies which stay open may also make temporarily unemployed due to force majeure any employees who cannot work due to the cancellation of projects or work by customers, if they cannot work for a full day.

!! Update: 18 March:

In view of the surge in the number of claims for temporary unemployment relating to the coronavirus epidemic and in view of the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, the government has decided to award everyone for whom a new temporary unemployment file to be created, an immediately-available lump-sum payment of 1,450 euros per month to ensure that they are provided for pending the creation of their file. The "lump sum" awarded to "new" temporarily unemployed people, who have not previously used this system, is not supplemental to the income provided during the period of temporary unemployment. Once the employee is integrated into the system and the claim has been processed, the balance is calculated and paid, where applicable, to the individual concerned. 

What initiatives have been taken by the Brussels municipalities?

Several Brussels municipalities have created specific pages on their websites to provide residents and shopkeepers with information about the measures put in place.

Also, they: have set up a freephone number, are appealing for donations, provide information about solidarity initiatives, have drawn up lists of restaurants offering takeaway meals, provide details about the measures available to support local shopkeepers, etc.

Listed below are the telephone numbers and websites for every Brussels municipality

Anderlecht

Website of the Anderlecht municipality

Tel.: 02/559.71.01 (from 9 am to 4 pm)
Tel.: 02/ 558 08 00, dedicated line for questions about the restrictive measures

Auderghem

Website of the Auderghem municipality

Tel.: 0800 35 179. Call this number if you have a question about the services provided by the municipality, if your children need help with their home schooling, etc. Anyone with questions that could be answered by the municipality’s public centre for social welfare (CPAS) can also use this number.

Berchem-Sainte-Agathe

Website for the Berchem-Saint-Agathe municipality

Tel.: 0800 35 160 call this freephone number to speak to the local authority in this municipality if you have any questions about the specific measures implemented within the municipality.
Tel.: 02 482 16 16: for isolated individuals needing help with social services and home care/nursing.

Etterbeek

Website of the Etterbeek municipality

Tel.: 0800 399 32 for the public centre for social welfare (CPAS) and social support services
Tel.: 02 627 27 37 (a helpline (calling a mobile phone number) for individuals over 60 years old in quarantine and/or self-isolating)

Evere

Website of the Evere municipality

Tel.: 0499 867 3567 between 9 am and 6 pm (public centre for social welfare (CPAS)): call this number for advice, to ask for meals delivered to your home or to arrange a visit to the doctor.

Forest

Website of the Forest municipality

Tel.: 02 370 22 11 (the municipality's general enquiries number)

Ganshoren

Website of the Ganshoren municipality

Tel.: 02/464.05.36 (9 am to 4 pm)
Tel.: 02/563.46.15 (9 am to 4 pm)

Ixelles

Website of the Ixelles municipality

Tel.: refer to the website for contact details for the various services

Jette

Website of the Jette municipality

Tel.: refer to the website for contact details for the various services

Koekelberg

Website of the Koekelberg municipality

Tel.: 02 600 15 20 for questions about schools, creches and closures. Isolated or vulnerable individuals can also call this number.

Molenbeek

Website of the Molenbeek municipality

Tel.: 02 412 36 81, call this hotline to speak to someone who can listen to your concerns, answer any questions you may have about this disease and help you access services tailored to your needs.
Tel.: 02 600 74 44, telephone numberfor the municipality’s solidarity service: “Solidarité 1080 Solidariteit” providing assistance to the most vulnerable

Saint-Gilles

Website of the Saint-Gilles municipality

Tel.: 0800 35 176: freephone helpline for isolated individuals who need help with their shopping. From 9 am to 5 pm

Saint-Josse-ten-Noode

Website of the Saint-Josse-ten-Noode municipality

Tel.: 0800/35.446 (freephone number from 9 am to 1 pm)

Schaerbeek

Website of the Schaerbeek municipality

Tel.: 02 244 75 11 (Schaerbeek social services, 9 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 4 pm) 

Uccle

Website of the Uccle municipality

Tel.: 02/348.65.51 or 02/348.66.69 or economie-coronavirus@uccle.brussels: a municipality employee is available to provide shopkeepers and companies with information about federal and regional aid and about specific assistance measures.

Brussels-City

Website of the Brussels-City municipality

Tel.: 02/279.22.11 (the municipality's general enquiries number)
Tel.: 0800 20 035 (freephone number for shopkeepers)

Watermael-Boitsfort

Website of the Watermael-Boitsfort municipality

Tel.: 0800/352.42 (assistance for individuals)

Woluwe-Saint-Lambert

Website of the Woluwe-Saint-Lambert municipality

Tel.: 02 761.27.07 - dedicated helpline for older or vulnerable people who have to stay at home

Woluwe-Saint-Pierre

Website of the Woluwe Saunt-Pierre municipality

Tel.:0800 35 190 (freephone number Covid-19): if you have any questions about the measures. From Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Updated on 26 March - 1 pm

Is any assistance being provided by the banks?

The Finance Minister, Alexander De Croo, the National Bank of Belgium and Febelfin have announced their intention to provide financial support for companies facing problems resulting from the coronavirus crisis. Companies may apply to defer their loan repayments for up to a maximum of six months.

The Finance Minister, NBB and Febelfin have drawn up a charter entitled "Deferral of loan repayments for companies" which formally defines their commitment.

This charter outlines the following points:

  • what exactly is covered by the deferral of repayment;
  • who can apply for a deferral of repayment;
  • what types of loans or debt are eligible for the deferral of repayments scheme;
  • when can an application be made for a deferral of repayment and for how long does it run.

DEFERRAL OF LOAN REPAYMENTS FOR COMPANIES: FOUR PRINCIPLES

Entities affected financially by the coronavirus crisis may ask their bank for a deferral of loan repayments. All the details about this deferral of loan repayments are provided below:

1) WHAT DOES THIS SCHEME OFFER?

Under the terms of the deferral of loan repayments scheme, set up as a response to the coronavirus crisis, a company/organisation does not have to repay its loans (capital repayment) for up a maximum of 6 months. The interest on the loans is, however, still due. Once the deferral period has elapsed, the payments shall resume. The term of the loan will be extended for a period equal to that of the deferral. In other words, the borrower shall finish paying off its loan not more than 6 months later than initially planned.

Banks shall not charge any application fees or administration costs to any entity which uses this scheme to defer its repayments.

For all new loans and new credit lines with a maximum duration of 12 months, a guarantee system has been set up jointly with federal government.

2) WHO IS IT FOR?

A deferral of loan repayments for companies may be requested by non-financial companies, SME, the self-employed and non-profit organisations which satisfy each of the following four conditions:

1) The coronavirus crisis has caused payment difficulties due to: 

  • a reduction in sales revenue (turnover) or activity
  • the entity having to introduce temporary or full unemployment
  • authorities obliging the company/organisation to close as a consequence of the measures taken to contain the spread of the virus

2) The company/organisation is permanently based in Belgium.

3) As of 1 February 2020, the company/organisation was not overdue with the repayment of its current loans, or with its payments for taxes or social security contributions. Or the company/organisation acknowledged, as of 29 February, that it was less than 30 days overdue with the repayment of its current loans or its payment of taxes or social security contributions.

4) The company/organisation satisfied all its contractual loan obligations with all banks during the 12 months leading up to 31 January 2020, and is not in the process of restructuring its active debts.

Public authorities cannot apply for a deferral of repayment.

3) WHAT LOANS CAN BE COVERED?

An application for deferral of loan repayments may be made for one of the following loans taken out by companies:

  • loans set up with a fixed repayment plan
  • overdrafts
  • fixed advances

Leasing and factoring cannot be included in the agreement reached. A company/organisation may, of course, still contact its leasing or factoring company to see if a bilateral solution can be reached.

4) WHEN CAN APPLICATIONS BE MADE?

For applications submitted up until 30 April 2020 inclusive, a 6-month deferral of repayments, as a maximum, may be obtained, running up until 31 October 2020 at the latest.

  • For applications submitted after 30 April 2020, the end date is still set at 31 October 2020.
  • Deferral of repayments can only be obtained for future monthly due dates.
  • Applications submitted prior to the publication of this charter shall be evaluated based on the criteria set forth in this charter. If necessary, the bank will make contact with the borrower

PRACTICAL DETAILS

Any entity which believes that it satisfies the conditions necessary to apply for a deferral of loan repayments must contact its bank.

This contact can only be made during a meeting or via the digital means available to the bank (e-mail, chat, mobile app, etc.) or via telephone. Ideally, you should make contact with the bank one week prior to the due date for the following month.

The bank will ask for documentary evidence in order to be able to proceed with the application.

Source: Febelfin - 1 April 2020

What does insurances cover during a pandemic?

Continuity of the group insurance cover taken out by employers for the benefit of their employees

As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, I have been temporarily laid off (furloughed). What impacts will the suspension of my contract of employment have on the pension, death, disability, sickness or hospitalisation risks covered by my group insurance?
In those cases where, under normal circumstances, this cover would be suspended owing to the suspension of your contract of employment, the insurance sector has exceptionally, and in view of the current crisis, agreed to allow you to continue to be covered. In this regard, every insurer concerned shall contact your employer to go through the details of this extension to the cover offered by its group insurance. The employer has a cooling-off period of one month within which he or she can decide to refuse the offer.

I am an employee. What formalities do I have to complete?
None! All the risks (pension, death, disability, sickness and hospitalisation) covered in the group contract that your employer has taken out will continue to be covered unless your employer thinks that he or she should make a different decision. Your insurer will contact you to explain all the details and consequences. You then have a cooling-off period of one month within which you can decide to refuse the offer.

Under the terms of my group insurance, I can sometimes also benefit from cover additional to the types mentioned above, such as home-care assistance.
In this case, please contact your employer so that he or she can discuss with the insurer how to provide a solution which takes into consideration your financial difficulties.

I am an employer, how much will this all cost?
With regard to paying the premiums for this extension to the cover, the insurer may grant you, if specifically requested, a 6-month deferral up until 30 September 2020 at the latest. Moreover, the insurance sector has requested that the government ensures that maintaining this cover under these exceptional circumstances should not be considered by the tax authorities as a benefit in kind received by the employees concerned.

Protection for companies affected by the crisis

Can I, as a company, defer the payment of insurance premiums?
For those types of insurance which are not automatically modified to adapt to a reduction in activity, notably fire insurance, and on condition that your company has ceased trading as a result of the self-isolation measures, you can request a 6-month deferral of payment up to but not beyond 31 October 2020.

If a company, despite the circumstances, continues to trade, can it nonetheless obtain a deferral of payment of its insurance premiums?
Irrespective of the type of insurance, if your company is having difficulties paying its premiums, contact your insurer or broker to work out a suitable solution.

Suspension of contracts: take care!
With regard to any plans to suspend a contract, companies are advised to contact their insurer or broker to analyse and discuss the best solution with them. All steps taken to suspend a contract must be tailored to the individual case since they may be hazardous for the insured companies. In the interest of the company and its continuity, it is important, independently of the ceasing of trading, to ensure that the companies concerned continue to be protected. There may be residual risks which need to be considered jointly with the broker or insurer. Claims against legal aid, fire, accident (not including accidents at work), property insurance etc. may still be need to be made.

As a company, I have to make an overdue payment to an insurance company. 
For current credits or loans to companies, the insurance sector shall apply the same conditions as those stated for the moratorium introduced by the banks for the repayment of capital and the payment of interests falling due up until 31 October 2020.
On condition that you can provide evidence that your company is facing financial difficulties relating to the Covid-19 crisis and that you satisfy the following three conditions, you can request a deferral of up to 6 months, which shall terminate in all cases on 31 October 2020. This moratorium relates both to capital repayments and the payment of interest.

Conditions for deferral of credit/loan repayments:

  • your company is located in Belgium;
  • the repayment of your credit/loan was not overdue on 1 February 2020;
  • you satisfied all your contractual obligations relating to this credit/loan during the 12 months leading up to 31 January 2020 and you are not in the process of restructuring this credit/loan.

We invite you to regularly check www.assuralia.be for new information.

If you do not find the answer you are looking for, please contact your insurance company's contact person or your insurance intermediary (broker or agent).

Source: Assuralia  - Updated 4th May

3. Employer - Employee Relations

What must i do if one of my employees develops symptoms of covid-19? What if I, as a self-employed person, become unwell?

YOUR EMPLOYEE IS UNWELL

As an employer, you cannot test your employees. We recommend that you ask any employees who develop symptoms to speak to their doctor on the phone if they have the following symptoms:

  • High temperature,
  • Coughing,
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Precursor symptoms: shivers, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and runny nose.

The doctor will decide what action needs to be taken. If the employee has indeed contracted coronavirus, which stops him or her from satisfying the contract of employment, the normal rules in relation to inability to work with guaranteed salary apply, on condition that the doctor certifies the inability to work by providing a doctor’s note.

I AM SELF-EMPLOYED AND HAVE BECOME UNWELL. WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

If you come down with coronavirus and are unable to work for at least eight consecutive days, you are entitled to receive sickness benefits from your mutual fund provider, starting from the first day of sickness. 
You must ask your general practitioner to complete the applicable inability to work certificate immediately, since otherwise you will not be eligible for benefits. Your GP may download this certificate from your mutual fund provider’s website.

Source: Agoria

What should i do to keep my workforce safe and healthy?

The World Health Organisation has highlighted a number of preventive measures which you are strongly advised to implement in the workplace to combat optimally the spread of coronavirus.

They notably include the following measures:

  • make sure that workplaces are clean and hygienic (e.g. the surfaces of desks and keyboards) by disinfecting them regularly;
  • make sure that employees wash their hands regularly and thoroughly, and provide sanitising hand-rub dispensers in prominent places;
  • ensure good respiratory hygiene in workplaces by making sure that employees use paper tissues when coughing or sneezing;
  • notify your employees that it is preferable that they stay at home if they develop symptoms of the disease such as a high temperature and/or a cough;
  • make provision for homeworking;
  • draw up instructions in advance for a situation whereby someone needs to self-isolate since they have signs of coronavirus infection, refer also to: What should the employer do when employees develop symptoms of coronavirus or flu?

A detailed list of the various preventive measures you should take in the workplace is provided in this advice from the WHO.

Useful documents:

Source: SPF Santé

How is the salary paid to employees affected if they are unwell ?

If employees are hospitalised or must stay at home because they are ill, the rules are the same as for any other sick leave. As their employer, you have to pay them their guaranteed salary for 1 month. If an employee’s is still unable to work after one month of sickness, he or she will receive sickness benefits.

Source: SD Worx

If my employee does not come to work due to force majeure can I dismiss him or her?

No, this would constitute a case of unfair dismissal. In this case, the employee could challenge this dismissal in court. The situation would be different if the absence from work was a decision taken unilaterally by the employee who cannot provide good reason (voluntary absenteeism). The employer would then be entitled to take action.

If, however, the current situation continues or worsens - i.e. if your company is unable to continue trading normally for a long period of time and the number of orders placed is reducing - you could, as a company, lay off the employees concerned for economic reasons. 

Source: SD Worx

My employee refuses to leave home and has decided to take annual leave. Is this permissible?

Annual leave must be mutually agreed between the employer and the employee. This means that employees cannot unilaterally decide when they are going to take their annual leave.

Consequently, if the employee is absent from work unexpectedly to take leave without your authorisation and if your company’s organisational arrangements do not permit it, you can refuse to pay your employee for these days of absence.

Source: Acerta

Because of coronavirus, i no longer have enough work for my employee. What can I do?

TEMPORARY UNEMPLOYMENT: SIMPLIFICATION

!! Update: 23 March: 

If you have any questions about temporary unemployment, have a look at the FAQ (pdf) produced by ONEM (the national employment office) (date of publication: 23/03/2020). 

!! Update: 20 March:

Last Friday, the cabinet approved a second phase of its social and economic safeguarding plan set up to combat the coronavirus crisis. All claims for temporary unemployment relating to Covid-19, filed by blue-collar workers or salaried employees, shall be processed as a claim due to a force majeure event. This is the “corona procedure”.

1. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYERS

  • For as long as the restrictive measures are in place (provisionally, up until and including 05/04/2020), the employer is no longer required to send notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to the competent ONEM unemployment office. This period is likely to be extended until 30/06/2020 if the health measures taken by the Government are extended or enhanced.
  • If, for the period commencing on 13/03/2020, the employer indicates “force majeure” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (=electronic declaration of social risk in which the employer specifies the number of days during which the employee shall be in temporary unemployment) (using the code “nature of the day” 5.4 and “coronavirus” as the reason), then this action is equivalent to completing the mandatory notification.

This procedure is valid even if the employer had previously submitted notification of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for the period commencing on 13/03/2020 or had submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons.

Any employer who had initially submitted notification of temporary unemployment for economic reason can thus switch to the temporary unemployment due to force majeure regime (reason: “coronavirus”) without having to complete any other formalities, and even if some employees can still work or if employees can work on some days only.

  • If the employer indicates “economic reasons” as the reason for the temporary unemployment in DRS scenario 5 (using the code “nature of the day” 5.1), the existing procedures then continue to apply (notification of temporary unemployment for economic reasons, notification of the first day of actual unemployment, mandatory week of work, etc.).
  • The employer is required to submit a DRS scenario 5 as quickly as possible (based on which ONEM can also determine the value of the benefits to be paid to the temporarily unemployed person). The employer must not wait until the end of the month, and instead must complete the formalities during the current month, as soon as all the information is known about the situation up until the end of the month.
  • During the period from 01/03/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, the employer is not required to provide a control card (C3.2A) to employees made temporarily unemployed, and irrespective of the reason for the temporary unemployment. 
  • For more information, refer to info sheet E1 Coronavirus – Employers

2. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE FORMALITIES FOR EMPLOYEES

  • To file a claim for benefits to the paying-out organisation, the employee has to option to use a simplified form (form C3.2 – EMPLOYEE-CORONA
  • Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure is eligible for unemployment benefits without needing to satisfy any eligibility conditions. During the period from 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020 inclusive, this measure shall also apply to any employee made temporarily unemployed for economic reasons.
  • From 01/02/2020 to 30/06/2020, the employee receives benefit equivalent to 70 % of his or her average salary (capped at an upper limit of €2,754.76 per month). Any employee made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (reason: “coronavirus”) receives, in addition to unemployment benefit, a supplement of €5.63 per day, i.e. 150 euros per month, paid out by ONEM. A payroll tax of 26.75 % shall be deducted from this benefit. 
  • For more information, refer to info sheet T2 Coronavirus – Employees

Note that self-employed persons and “professions libérales” (service-based, self-employed occupations that are primarily intellectual or technical in nature, such as lawyers and accountants) cannot be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (another type of replacement income exists for them).

More information is available on the ONEM website. Do not hesitate to contact the service supplier you use to administer your payroll since in some cases they can complete certain formalities for you. 

!! Update: 19 March: 

  • Employees working in sheltered workshops, supported employment workshops and “maatwerkbedrijven” (CP 327) can also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Employees in the social profit sector required to operate in accordance with the rules applicable to the private sector may also be made temporarily unemployed due to force majeure.
  • Service voucher entities which close on a voluntary basis as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis may make their employees temporarily unemployed due to force majeure. Companies which stay open may also make temporarily unemployed due to force majeure any employees who cannot work due to the cancellation of projects or work by customers, if they cannot work for a full day.

!! Update: 18 March:

In view of the surge in the number of claims for temporary unemployment relating to the coronavirus epidemic and in view of the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, the government has decided to award everyone for whom a new temporary unemployment file to be created, an immediately-available lump-sum payment of 1,450 euros per month to ensure that they are provided for pending the creation of their file. The "lump sum" awarded to "new" temporarily unemployed people, who have not who have not previously used this system, is not supplemental to the income provided during the period of temporary unemployment. Once the employee is integrated into the system and the claim has been processed, the balance is calculated and paid, where applicable, to the individual concerned. 

WORKING-TIME FLEXIBILITY

VARIABLE WORKING HOURS

You can implement flexible working-hour arrangements. This arrangement lets you employ your workforce either for longer hours when there is more work or for shorter hours when there is less work. To implement this arrangement, the option of shorter and/or longer working hours must be included in the company regulations for your business and the various working hours must also be specified in these regulations. If you want to make a change to the working day, e.g. to switch to shorter hours since there is less work due to coronavirus, you must notify your employees of this not less than 7 days in advance.

Under the terms of this scheme, you can include the option in your company regulations to deviate from the standard working hours, up to a maximum of 2 hours more than or less than the standard working day, such that the maximum working day lasts 9 hours. The working week cannot deviate by more than 5 hours more than or less than the standard working week, up to a maximum of 45 hours. Let us assume that your employees normally work 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. In this case, you could employ them for one hour less per day, such that they work 7 hours a day and 35 hours a week.

However, ultimately, over the course of the full year, the total hours worked by the employees must be the same as if they had worked standard hours right through the year. If you oblige your employees to work fewer hours now, these lost hours must be made up by working longer hours at a future date.

In addition to variable working hours, there are other options to employ employees flexibly. The terms of these options are set differently for each sector. Consult the service supplier you use to administer your payroll for further details about these options.

PART-TIME EMPLOYEES

For part-time employees, who work variable hours, you must notify them 5 working days in advance of the hours they have to work. For these employees, you can simply decide yourself when they will work more or fewer hours. You must not, however, forget that the weekly hours worked must be respected for a reference period of not more than one quarter of the year (which may be extended to not more than one year if set in a collective bargaining agreement or company regulation).

RECUPERATION TIME

If your employees have worked additional hours, e.g. in the context of an unusual increase in workload, you should normally grant them recuperation time. If there is less work or if you would prefer for your employees to stay at home, you can ask them to accumulate recuperation time in advance. From a legal perspective, you do not have to have an agreement in place between the employee and the employer regarding when the recuperation time is taken. Clearly, it is advisable to determine when this recuperation time is taken by mutual agreement. Don’t forget to consult your company regulations. There may be rules in these regulations as to when the recuperation time may be taken.

Source: ONEM and Acerta

I am suspending my business activity completely. What should i do with my employees?

If your activity is affected to such a degree that you decide to suspend all activity for a period of time, what’s the situation for your employees?

In all cases, you cannot oblige your employees to take annual leave during this period of closure.

You may, however, consider a collective closure. You cannot decide unilaterally to put in place a collective closure.

The decision regarding when and for how long a collective closure is in place is discussed and taken during an employee meeting within your company. This employee meeting is attended by union representatives or with a majority of employees, depending on the setup within your company. There is no fixed date before which you must agree the dates of the closure; in principle, this is possible right through the year.

Once a decision has been taken, you must notify the employees of this by displaying a message in a location used frequently by employees (e.g. in a canteen). The closure dates must then also be included in the company regulation.

Source: Acerta

One of your employee’s family members is hospitalised with coronavirus and the employee has to self-isolate. What happens now?

In this case, everything depends on the employee’s preference. He or she may, for example, ask to take leave. However, the employee may also ask, insofar as he or she is entitled to, to take back overtime hours or to accumulate or take back hours under working time reduction arrangements. The important element in this case is that you should always accept the request, otherwise the employee is legally absent without reason (with all the consequences which that would entail).

However, in this situation an employee often makes a request to take leave for compelling reasons. Every employee is entitled to 10 days of unpaid leave per year (in some companies or sectors, a higher number of such days may be authorised, or part payment for these days may or may not be agreed. In this case, you do not have the right to refuse the absence. If the maximum number of days of leave had been set for compelling reasons, you can always authorise the employee to continue to be absent without pay. It is advisable to draw up and sign an agreement to cover this arrangement.

Source: Unizo

In the context of an investigation led by FPS sante carried out to identify individuals who have been in contact with one of my employees, who is a carrier of the virus, can i pass on details about the employees who have been in contact with him or her?

Yes, the data requested is not classified as “sensitive information” by GDPR. Moreover, the following lawful bases permit the processing of employee data:

  • Vital interest
  • Performance of a contract
  • Legitimate interest

Source: 1890

Corona crisis and homeworking: Do I have to pay an allowance to my employees?

Many employers are asking what allowance they should pay to their employees who, as a result of the measures taken by the government to combat Covid-19, are temporarily working entirely from home.

The aforementioned office allowance of 126.94 EUR per month which covers heating, electricity, office consumables, etc. may be granted without incurring social security contributions to all employees who work from home, and even to employees who were not working from home before the Covid-19 measures were introduced and with whom the employer had not formally agreed a homeworking agreement.

For further explanations about this office allowance, refer to the administrative instructions provided by ONSS.

In addition to this allowance, the employer may reimburse the following expenses:

  • Use of the employee's own PC – a maximum fixed sum of 20 EUR per month is accepted
  • Use of the employee's own broadband connection – a maximum fixed sum of 20 EUR per month is accepted

If the homeworker has to incur other expenditure (use of a landline/mobile phone, purchase of a monitor or scanner, etc.), the employer may also reimburse these expenses. For these items there is not fixed sum; the reimbursement must be made based on the actual costs.

Employers who, prior to the introduction of the measures to combat Covid-19, reimbursed their homeworkers’ expenses on the basis of 10 % of the gross remuneration for homeworking services as set out in the homeworking agreement (refer to the administrative instructions – same link as above), may continue to pay this allowance in the same way on a prorated basis for which provision is made in the homeworking agreement (e.g.10 % of 2/5th of the monthly remuneration if the agreement specifies two days of homeworking).

An allowance of 10 % of the total gross remuneration cannot therefore be accepted for employees who are temporarily working entirely from home as a result of the measures taken to combat Covid-19 and whose homeworking arrangement is not as set forth in Title VI of the law of 3 July 1978 relative to employment contracts, and neither are they “homeworking” in the true sense of the term.

An allowance of 126.94 EUR may, in all circumstances, be paid instead of the prorated 10 % of the monthly remuneration, in the event that the latter is a lower amount.

EXCEPTIONALLY

Due to coronavirus, it is exceptionally possible to ask for the amount set by ONSS to also be applied for tax purposes for everyone who has to work from home as a result of the measures taken.

If the employer wishes to pay temporarily this homeworking allowance of 126.94 euros to all his or her homeworkers and it is considered as a reimbursement of the employer’s own expenditure, the employer must submit a request for an anticipatory ruling to FPS Finances.

template has been made available by FPS Finances. It must be completed and emailed to dvbsda@minfin.fed.be (no email correspondence is currently being accepted).

Sources: https://www.rsz.fgov.be/ & Securex - Update: 26 March

4. Operation of the company

What should I do if I have to temporarily cease trading due to a supply problem ?

Factories in China have closed in an attempt to contain the epidemic and we have felt the consequences of this in Belgium. Some companies currently have no work for their employees because, in the short term at least, deliveries are no longer guaranteed to arrive.

The Federal Minister of Employment has confirmed that the situation is considered as a case of force majeure. You are not required to pay the wages of employees affected in this way: they are entitled to temporary unemployment benefit. The employer must, however, demonstrate that the cause of the temporary cessation of business is a force majeure due to coronavirus.

Source: Agoria

I have very specific questions about the sector of activity in which my company operates (food, logistics, etc.). who can i contact?

Many sector-specific employer organisations, such as AgoriaFeviaFebelfin, etc.) provide specific information about their sector and can answer questions about market conditions (procurement issues, stock levels, substitutes, etc.). Employers may find it useful to have a look at their websites.

Beci, the Brussels chamber of commerce, provides also useful information on its site.

Source: 1819

Can I cancel contracts with suppliers at no cost to myself if they are unable to deliver on time ?

Sometimes, but not always. It is advisable to check the details of the agreements you have in place with your supplier, e.g. as set forth in contracts or general terms and conditions. The key decision to make is whether it is best to terminate the contract definitively or simply suspend it temporarily.

For a termination the following rules apply. In principle, late delivery constitutes a breach of contract; this breach may not be sufficient to justify terminating the contract, but rather as a gross failure. There are three points to consider. Firstly, the contract may stipulate that delivering later than agreed (up to a specified limit) is not considered as a gross failure or does not constitute sufficient reason for termination. Secondly, the contract may consider certain conditions to be a case of force majeure. In accordance with the law, you can only invoke a force majeure if you can prove the following: i) unforeseeable circumstances; ii) which occur outside of the control the party and iii) which make it impossible to fulfil the obligation (more difficult, more expensive, etc. is not sufficient). The contract may give a broader definition of these circumstances and designate other situations as cases of force majeure, even if they do not strictly satisfy these three aforementioned conditions. Thirdly, there are often procedures for dealing with failures to perform (e.g. prior putting in default and a grace period). Termination is only justified if these procedures have been followed. If you do not follow these steps, the termination is at your risks and may incur your liability.

suspension is more straightforward. If the supplier is temporarily unable to deliver to you, you are temporarily not required to comply with your contractual obligations. We recommend, however, that you inform the opposing party as soon as possible in writing (to establish evidence), in order to avoid the need for subsequent discussion. You can mention explicitly that you consider that the contract is suspended and you can indicate which obligations you will no longer be fulfilling until further notice (e.g. payment or exclusive delivery).

In both cases, there is also an obligation to limit the head of damages suffered by the parties concerned. Even if the other party is liable and must compensate you for the damage you suffer, you must make reasonable efforts to limit this damage wherever possible

Source: Agoria

Can I put in default suppliers or carriers?

You can put suppliers or carriers in default if they fail to deliver at the time specified. Once again, we recommend that you check the agreements that you have in place with your supplier. The contract may actually clarify the situation, since certain contractual failures may be allowed, e.g. limits on how late a delivery can be, or by designating the current situation as a case of force majeure.

Moreover, this putting into default may also be settled contractually. For example, there may be provision in the contract for grace periods (whereby the supplier is not put into default unless it has failed to deliver after an extended period of time) or procedural means (by registered letter, e-mail, language, recipient, etc.). In order to avoid the need for subsequent discussion, you can also state, when putting the opposing party in default, the steps you are considering taking if the supplier or transporter continues to fail to fulfil its obligations. The contact may also specify rules with regard to this.

Source: Agoria

The price of my raw materials has gone up because of coronavirus. Can I adjust my prices?

In principle, it is up to you, as an entrepreneur, to set the prices that you ask your customers to pay. If the price of your raw materials increases, you can therefore, in theory, decide to increase the prices you charge (although there are clearly commercial considerations to consider).

Note that you will need to set up a new contract to allow you to adjust the prices you charge. With regard to fulfilling current contracts and orders, you are not permitted to increase your prices unless you meet certain terms and conditions. You can only adjust your prices if you made provision for the possibility of a revision of your prices in the contract’s terms and conditions, and if you clearly indicated how the prices could be increased based on an increase in the cost of raw materials. And even if these provisions are in place, you must examine any variation you might introduce into the increase in prices and, once again, find a commercial compromise between the repercussions of a price increase and your relationship with the customer.

Source: UNIZO

i’ve had an order cancelled. Can I keep the advance payments already paid?

The answer to this question depends on whether or not a “force majeure” can be invoked and on the situation. 

YOU OR YOUR CUSTOMER CANCEL AS A PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE

If you or your customer cancel as a precautionary measure (and not out of necessity), the party which cancels shall bear the costs.

Consider an example. Imagine that you are organising a festival and: 

  • You decide that it is preferable to cancel the festival, even though the government has not obliged you to do so. In this case, you have to bear the costs. You must, therefore, return to your customers the money they paid for the tickets. However, you would not need to return this money if you had included a specific provision for a case of force majeure in the terms and conditions of sale, since in some cases, the general terms and conditions of sale stipulate that in cases of force majeure, payment already made by customers shall not be reimbursed.
  • You decide to let the festival take place, however, some customers cancel because they do not consider it to be safe. In this case, these customers will have to bear the cost. They cannot ask for the cost of their tickets to be repaid (unless you had made provision for this in the terms and conditions of sale).

YOU (OR YOUR CUSTOMER) CANCEL(s) BECAUSE YOU (THEY) ARE OBLIGED TO DO SO

If the government obliges you to cancel an order, the situation is slightly different. If you are obliged to cancel, this constitutes a case of force majeure. Imagine once again the festival scenario.

  • Customers who have not yet paid: you can no longer fulfil your obligations. You cannot, therefore, demand that your customers pay.
  • Customers who have already paid (an advance payment or the full amount): they cannot demand a reimbursement.

Of course, once again, you must always check that you have not included some other provisions in your terms and conditions of sale.

Source: UNIZO

5. Health Advice

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large group of viruses which induce symptoms ranging from a simple cold to more serious disease such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus which until recently had not been identified in humans.

The common signs of infection are high temperature, coughing, shortness of breath and dyspnoea (difficult or laboured breathing). In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Older adults and those with existing long-term conditions appear to be more vulnerable to the severe symptoms.

The standard recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus include: regular hand-washing, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. You must avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms of respiratory disease, such as coughing or sneezing.

As an employer, you cannot stop an employee coming to work simply because you think they may have COVID-19. You can ask the unwell employee to go and see a doctor for the safety of his or her colleagues; however, the employee is not obliged to follow this advice.

Source: Coronavirus information

What should i do if i suspect that one of my employees has caught covid-19?

  • If one of your employees becomes unwell at the workplace and COVID-19 is the suspected cause, you must move him or her to another more isolated location to reduce or avoid contact with other employees.
  • Offer the unwell employee a face mask since this can help to prevent the spread of viral particles ejected by coughing or sneezing.
  • Notify the local health authorities.
  • Anyone who has been in contact with an unwell employee must stay at home and self-isolate if they develop a mild cough or high temperature (>37.3°C).

With regard to the place of work used by the employee suspected of having COVID-19:

  • It may be shut-down temporarily or designated as “out of service” (for a minimum of one week).
  • Perimeter: three metres around the desk/workstation of the unwell employee.
  • Any points of possible contact and washrooms/toilets used should be cleaned thoroughly and, if possible, disinfected or designated as “out of service”.
  • Alcohol (ethanol 60-90 %) or chlorine can be used as a disinfectant.

Source: BECI

What hygiene and safety measures should I introduce on my premises?

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WORKPLACE

  • Ensure that the premises are well ventilated. Open windows and doors. Although we do not know the survival time of coronavirus on surfaces, this measure can reduce its airborne spread inside the premises.
  • Regularly clean objects touched frequently by several people.
  • Clean shared work equipment after use (keyboards, mice, telephones, tables and the armrests of office chairs) or limit the sharing of equipment in the workplace.

Clean smooth surfaces which are touched regularly:

  • Door handles
  • Handrails on stairs
  • Offices, tables, keyboard, telephones, etc. which are in regular use
  • Toilets
  • etc.

Products used:

  • The cleaning products commonly used for these purposes are sufficient. Disposable, single-use, cleaning wipes may be provided for the cleaning of keyboards and telephones.
  • Wash up crockery and cutlery carefully with water and detergent after every time they are used
  • Avoid using shared tea towels

Provide clear instructions to cleaning personnel and provide protection for them

  • Ensure that a clear cleaning plan is in place
  • Ensure that you have a sufficient quantity of cleaning products and cloths.
  • Wash the cleaning cloths used frequently at the highest possible washing temperature.
  • Brief cleaning personnel about how the virus spreads and how to prevent infection.

Source: BECI

How can I avoid passing on the virus to close family or friends? How can I avoid catching the disease if one of my close family or friends has coronavirus?

The info-coronavirus.be website offers advice for people who are self-isolating and those close to them. This advice is presented in their brochure.

6. Useful telephone numbers and websites providing information

Where can I find more information ?

FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC

  • For general information about coronavirus, have a look at the official website for Belgium: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/fr/.
  • www.coronavirus.brussels:  provides the latest information about the coronavirus epidemic and the telephone number for the dedicated call centre. You can also download from the website posters in 10 different languages (French, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, Classical Arabic).  
  • Telephone number for FPS Public Health: 0800 14689.

EMPLOYMENT

INFORMATION ABOUT ECONOMICAL ISSUES:

  • Telephone numbers:
    • FPS Economy: 0800/120.33
    • The 1819 information service: call answered every day from 9 am to 5 pm: dial 1819
    • Telephone number for INASTI (national institute for the social security of the self-employed - NISSE). Calls answered from Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm: 0800 12 018
    • BECI (chamber of commerce): 02 533 40 90
    • For the ASBL: Ideji ASBL hotline available on Mondays and Thursdays, from 2 pm to 4 pm and Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 12 noon.
  • Many sector-specific employer organisations can provide more detailed information about their sector (e.g. AgoriaFeviaFebelfinHoreca Brussels, ...). Employers may find it useful to look through their websites. 
  • Beci, the Brussels chamber of commerce, also provides information on its website. As do Unizo, UCM and SDI.
  • The FPS Economy website.
  • Brussels-based exporting companies can send any questions they may have to Laurent Lamberts (llamberts@hub.brussels) at hub.brussels.

HEALTH:

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