The terror threat - Are employees entitled to salary?

23 Nov 2015

The current terror threat in our country can have an important impact on your company in the event it has to close or your employees cannot reach the office (on time).

Are companies obliged to remunerate their employees  in these situations?

Normally, an employer has to remunerate an employee who travels to work but does not arrive (on time) totally beyond his control. This also counts for an employee who does arrive at work but cannot commence or continue work because of force majeure.

Therefore an employee, who did for example not arrive at all or arrived late at work last Saturday, because of the sudden shutdown of public transportation, has the right to his/her salary. However, as from this week the situation is different: since the employees were informed in advance about the problems with the public transportation, they are expected to have taken the necessary precautions. An employee who does not arrive to work (on time) today (Monday 23 November 2015) because of the problems with the public transportation, should in principle not be paid.

Employees who do not have the right to a salary can temporarily claim unemployment benefits in the event there would be a force majeure. The Minister of Work has confirmed that the following situations can be qualified as a force majeure:  

  • because of the sudden closure of schools in Brussels, the employees do not have day-care for their children and they are obliged to stay at home;
  • the company is closed by order of the government;
  • it is impossible for an employee to reach the place of work because the absence of a means of transportation.

However, the Minister of Work has added that force majeure means that the work can under no circumstances be executed. The Minister has specified that there is in principle no force majeure if the work can be done from an other location, for example if the employee can work from home or from another office, if a meeting can be held at elsewhere, ... 

It is up to the National Employment Office to decide whether a particular case can be qualified as a force majeure. As an employer, you need to request a recognition of the situation of temporary unemployment for the employees concerned from the National Employment Office.

> Action point
For employees who do not have the right to salary, you as employer need to inform the National Employment Office about the situation in order to try to ensure that these employees receive temporary unemployment benefits. The employer must also look for alternative solutions, for example by asking the employees to work from home.