Update: COVID-19 and international travel

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Date:
31 Jul 2020

In our previous Newsflash on the rights and obligations as an employee when travelling internationally, we indicated that the employee was entitled to temporary unemployment benefits on the basis of the then NEO guidelines if he or she was fit for work but had to go into quarantine after returning from a red zone (quarantine certificate). However, the NEO guidelines were amended yesterday, with the NEO taking the position that an employee is not entitled to temporary unemployment benefits after returning from a non-essential journey to a red zone.

In our previous Newsflash on the rights and obligations as an employee when travelling internationally, we set out the principles regarding the right to temporary unemployment in case of return from a red zone.

On the basis of the then NEO guidelines, the employee would have been entitled to temporary unemployment benefits if he or she was fit for work, but was obliged to go into quarantine because of “a government quarantine measure against the individual employee”. The then version of the NEO guidelines further stated that an employee could receive temporary unemployment benefits if the employee was able to submit a quarantine certificate and was unable to work (e.g., because teleworking was not possible). From this, it could be deduced that the employee was entitled to temporary unemployment benefits when returning from a red zone.

In the meantime, however, this position has changed. In its new guidelines, the NEO takes the position that the employee is not entitled to temporary unemployment benefits in the event of compulsory quarantine after a non-essential journey to a red zone when the government, at the time of departure, prohibited this.

Upon the return of an employee from a red zone and mandatory quarantine, the following principles apply, based on the new guidelines of the NEO:

  • The employee is not entitled to temporary unemployment benefits if he or she is fit for work, but is obliged to go into quarantine because of a return from a red zone (quarantine certificate) if this zone was already designated as a red zone at the time of departure (violation of a travel ban). According to a recent position of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, there is also no question of force majeure in this case and the employee will not be entitled to salary;  
  • The employee is entitled to temporary unemployment benefits if he or she is fit for work but is obliged to go into quarantine because of a return from a red zone (quarantine certificate) if this zone was not yet designated as a red zone at the time of departure (no violation of a travel ban);

The employee is entitled to guaranteed pay if he or she is not fit for work due to a coronavirus infection after returning from a red zone (medical certificate).

The NEO further indicates that it will carry out checks and will refuse temporary unemployment benefits or will reclaim them afterwards if the conditions are not met (as in the case of a travel ban on departure).

Action point

 Engage in clear communication with employees regarding a possible departure to a red zone and the associated risks regarding salary and temporary unemployment benefits.