The government has taken a number of exceptional and temporary measures with the aim of ensuring that the continuity of critical and vital sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic is not jeopardised. Indeed, in these sectors there is a shortage of workers, while workers in other sectors are often inactive.
The “critical sectors” are the crucial and essential sectors that were enlisted and are assumed to continue their activities during the lockdown measures (health care, food sector, transport, financial sector, etc.). The “vital sectors” are limited to agriculture, horticulture, forestry and temporary agency work provided that the temporary agency worker is employed in one of the previous sectors.
Increase in voluntary overtime
In the critical sectors, the number of hours of voluntary overtime is increased to 220 hours for the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020. Workers in critical sectors may therefore work an additional 100 voluntary overtime hours during this period. These overtime hours do not entitle workers to overtime rest or overtime pay. The worker will only be entitled to the payment of his or her salary.
Employment of foreign nationals
Asylum seekers who lodged their application for international protection no later than 18 March 2020 will – during the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020 – no longer have to wait 4 months to be allowed to work, provided that they can obtain from their employer a place to stay.
Successive fixed-term employment contracts
In the critical sectors, from 1 April to 30 June 2020, successive fixed-term contracts of at least 7 calendar days may be concluded in order to allow workers to be recruited in a flexible manner. These successive contracts will not be reclassified as an employment contract of indefinite duration.
Derogation from the prohibiting of lease of personnel
Without prejudice, among others, to the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’, the lease of permanent workers to users in critical sectors during the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020 will be subject to fewer procedural requirements. For example, employers who want to lease their permanent workers to users in critical sectors will not be required to obtain the prior consent of the labour inspection. However, a tripartite agreement must be concluded.
The first 475 hours worked by students are not subject to ordinary social security contributions, but only to a solidarity contribution. However, the government has decided that the hours worked during the second quarter of 2020 will not be taken into account for the calculation of the annual quota of 475 hours.
Temporary employment in vital sectors
The government has taken a number of measures relating to temporary employment in the vital sectors for the period from 1 April to 31 May 2020 (but an extension until 30 June 2020 is possible).
As a result of these measures, workers with career breaks, time credit or thematic leave may:
- Either go to work for their own employer in a vital sector by suspending, by mutual agreement with this employer, the current interruption or reduction of work performance. During this suspension, the worker is not entitled to interruption benefits;
- Or go to work for another employer in a vital sector. The government has ensured that the worker is entitled to 75% of his gross interruption benefit.
The government has also stipulated that the company allowance granted to persons enjoying the unemployment with company allowance regime who temporarily resume work with their former employer is exempted from ordinary social security contributions.
Keep in mind that temporary and exceptional measures apply in the critical and vital sectors.