Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Luxembourg, many companies have implemented measures to increase the use of the telework. However, working from the home for cross-border workers may have consequences for their affiliation to social security under the provisions of European legislation for the coordination of the social security systems of Member States.
Romain Schneider, Minister of Social Security, from the beginning of the crisis contacted his Belgian, German and French counterparts to find an agreement to avoid an affiliation change if a certain threshold was exceeded (a 25% according to the EU regulation) for workers and employees affected. Following these contacts, it was decided that, in view of the current exceptional situation, the days of telework due to the COVID-19 crisis would not be taken into account for the determination of the social security legislation applicable to the workers in question, and therefore would have no influence on your affiliation to social security.
This agreement has just been extended with Belgium until August 31st, 2020. With regard to France and Germany, an official response should soon arrive.
Romain Schneider points out: “The extension of this agreement is a strong gesture of solidarity from our neighboring countries. Telework is an important tool in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, so companies and employees must be able to continue without suffer any undesirable consequences. I am sure that France and Germany will also support this approach by extending the agreement that we have had so far”.
Communicate of the Ministry of Social Security
Press release by Sophie Wilmès, Prime Minister
The National Security Council extended with the Ministers-presidents of the regions, agreed for a transition to phase 4 of the de-escalating since July 1st, based on the agreement of the GEES experts that is based on the good evolution of the epidemiological situation.
The six golden rules are still in force:
- Respect for hygiene rules.
- Prioritize outdoor activities.
- Take extra precautions for those at risk.
- Respect for safety distances.
- The “extended bubble” rule that increases from 10 to 15 different people per week in addition to the co-living. As a reminder, this right is individual.
- Group activities cannot exceed 15 people, children included. This applies to all unsupervised meetings, regardless if they take place at home or outdoors.
It will now be possible to open under certain conditions:
- Pools and wellness centers.
- Amusement parks and indoor playgrounds.
- Theatres and cinemas.
- Casinos and game rooms.
- Conference rooms.
- Reception and party rooms with a maximum of 50 people.
Among the conditions is the application of protocols. In addition, the general rules that are already in force for other activities will be applied, such as the mandatory respect of safety distances, the establishment of time slots and crowd management, the cleaning of infrastructure and the use of mouth masks, which continues to be highly recommended.
Activities that cannot be restarted at this stage:
- Nightlife activities such as disco clubs.
- Massive events.
However, it will be possible to organize activities from July 1st in front of an audience, under certain conditions established in the protocols.
For regular events organized in permanent structures such as theaters, cinemas, galleries, congress halls, protocols will be drawn up with competent ministers and experts from GEES.
For specific events in the public space, an online tool will be available on July 1st and will serve as a reference for local authorities in granting authorizations for these events. Specific rules should also apply.
For all these events, there is a capacity limit set at:
- 200 people inside.
- 400 people outdoors.
This capacity limit will be re-evaluated in August to 400 people indoors and 800 outdoors maximum if the health situation allows it. An exception can be requested for permanent infrastructure with a public sitting to exceed this limit, respecting health regulations.
The maximum number of outdoor participants will also apply to demonstrations. These should always be subject to a request for authorization from local authorities. In any case, they must always be static and take place in a place where safety distances can be respected.
At the same time, in addition to the resumption of these activities, certain protocols will be relaxed as of July 1st:
- Possibility of going to the stores with people from your contact bubble and without time limitation. The safety distance will continue to apply.
- Elimination of the limit on the number of positions for the markets. Health protocols and regulations must continue to apply.
With respect to the next National Day, it was decided that the traditional military and civil parade would take another form exceptionally to meet health standards. In fact, different artistic performances in symbolic places will highlight our country and its artists and will be broadcast on television. Detailed communication will be made later on this topic.
On the longer-term perspective, the start of the school year is already in full swing. The ministers of education, in collaboration with the GEES experts, have established a colour code system that indicates how the school should be organized according to the health situation. Education ministers will explain the plan in more detail at a press conference.
COVID-19 has had a very different impact in Belgium and Luxembourg marked by a light lockdown and strong determination by public administration to support its business and protect employment. This health crisis has been without any doubt a mayor disruptive factor that highlighted some existing tendencies already putting in place in both markets. That is why, despite the limited uncertainty, some opportunity window seem to be opening in the next months in Belgium and Luxembourg in the upcoming months making them two very interesting destinations for internationalization strategies for Spanish companies.
In this context, during the next weeks, the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg will have the opportunity to present the possibilities and characteristics of Belgian and Luxembourgish markets through a collaboration with the different territorial Chambers. During these webinars we will try to make closer Belgium and Luxembourg reality by a brief analysis of the post-COVID situation in addition to the measure taken by both governments. The characteristics of both markets will be seen in addition to the opportunity sectors for Spanish companies. Last but not least, some general lines will be drawn regarding comercial strategies and contact networks development in Belgium and Luxembourg.
Here are the dates:
- In collaboration with Cámara de Comercio de Pontevedra, Vigo y Villagarcía de Arousa, Friday June 26th at 10:00
- In collaboration with Madrid Network, Tuesday June 30th at 12:00
- In collaboration with Cámara de Comercio de Zaragoza, Thursday July 9th at 9:00
- In collaboration with Cámara de Comercio de Mallorca, Friday July 10th at 10:30
The webinar will be presented by Marta González Benguria, Secretary General and Javier Rincón Cruz, International Trade Advisor of the Chamber.
On Friday night, an agreement was reached within the “superkern”, the Federal Government and the ten parties that support the special powers destined to fight Covid-19, after several hours of meeting. The text was not validated by the N-VA. The Flemish nationalist party did not sign the joint statement sent shortly before 22:00.
“Today’s agreement reinforces the social and environmental measures taken last week. The nonsense proposals pushed by the N-VA have been completely rejected”, Ecolo co-chair Jean-Marc Nollet said on Twitter.
On June 6th, the ten parties approved a first set of measures. Later it was agreed to identify in a second step what could complement this system. That was the work that was carried out during the meeting this Friday.
The new support measures, protagonists of the agreement can be classified into two categories, indicates the press release signed by the government parties (MR, Open Vld and CD&V), with the support of the Socialists (PS and sp.a), environmentalists (Ecolo-Groen), CD&V, cdH and Défi.
The first category refers to investment support.
- The superkern has decided to establish a new temporary Covid-19 tax shelter system until the end of the year, open to all SMEs that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
- An investment deduction increased by 25% is provided for investments made between March 12th and December 31st, 2020.
- The nine parties have also decided to increase the deductibility of expenses related to the organization of events and catering from 50 to 100% until December 31st.
- The superkern has also decided to suspend the payment of VAT from December 2020 and increase from 10 to 20% the share of net income that can benefit from the reduction of subsidy taxes.
- At the same time, the tax reduction for donations made in 2020 to approved institutions will decrease from 45 to 60%.
The second category refers to the organization of work, according to the statement.
- The nine parties have decided to create adapted Corona unemployment, which consists of a transition between temporary unemployment due to the force majeure Corona and classic economic unemployment. This transitional economic unemployment can be used if the company shows a 10% drop in its turnover. The worker will follow two days of unemployment training per month and will continue to receive 70% of their last maximum salary.
- It was also decided to offer companies in restructuring or in difficulties the possibility of reducing working hours pending the resumption of normal activity and to avoid layoffs, either through a collective reduction in working time, either through the time credit system, or through the time credit at the end of the degree, whose accessibility will be reduced from 57 to 55 years.
- In addition, the Corona parental leave will run until September 30th with a subsidy increased to 150% for single parent families and families with a child with a disability.
- It was also decided to facilitate the reimbursement of the costs incurred by teleworkers, up to a maximum of 127 euros per month.
In addition to these measures, an agreement was also reached to release funds of 100 million euros for the CPAS to be dedicated to people in difficulties in order to extend the benefit of the social measures decided during the previous meeting to a more public comprehensive, especially from the point of view of energy poverty. To cover the operating costs linked to an additional workload, the CPAS will receive an additional aid of 10 million euros.
Under the joint presidency of Dan Kersch, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity Economy, and Franz Fayot, Minister of Economy, the social partners represented on the one hand by OGBL President Nora Back and LCGB President Patrick Dury, and on the other hand by the President of UEL, Nicolas Buck, agreed on June 9th the new modalities to grant partial unemployment to companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
With the end of the crisis state, the emergency procedures established to help companies through a special mechanism of partial unemployment by “force majeure COVID-19” will expire. The meeting agreed that companies affected by the health crisis should continue to receive support through partial unemployment, preserving as many jobs as possible.
Taking into account that a good number of companies will continue to suffer the negative effects of the health crisis beyond the end of the crisis state, it has already been decided to continue supporting them with the instrument of partial unemployment until the end of the current year.
To take into account the fact that certain sectors have been more severely affected and will delay the return to the same level of activity as before the health crisis or will not achieve it in the near future, four possible ways of benefiting from the agreement were agreed upon partial unemployment:
- Industrial companies will continue to benefit from the cyclical scheme of short-term unemployment to be able to react to shocks in international markets. By applying the system of partial unemployment from cyclical sources, industrial companies undertake not to fire workers for economic reasons.
- The social partners have recognized the particularly difficult situation of companies in vulnerable sectors that continue to be strongly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, companies in the hotel, tourism and events sectors will be able to benefit from rapid access to partial unemployment from a structural source, without limiting the number of employees who will be entitled to it. If necessary, these companies may resort to economic dismissals within the maximum limit of 25% of their employees until December 31, 2020. The social partners have explicitly insisted on the fact that the provisions of general jurisdiction provided for by the Code of the Labour Law relating to collective dismissal remain fully applicable. The social partners have agreed that, in the event of a return to an improvement in activity, the companies that have carried out layoffs must, in the event of subsequent recruitment of staff, rehire their former laid-off employees as a matter of priority.
- Companies affected by the health crisis, in addition to industrial companies and those from vulnerable sectors, can also resort to short-term work from structural sources along the accelerated route provided, however, without dismissing workers. This measure aims to preserve the jobs in the companies involved as best as possible. In this case, however, the number of employees covered by partial unemployment cannot exceed 25% in the months of July and August, 20% in September and October, and 15% in November and December. In this context, an employee is defined as each employee who has been declared partially unemployed during the current month, regardless of the number of hours of partial unemployment.
- Finally, the demands of companies in vulnerable sectors that lay off more than 25% of their workers, as well as those of all the other companies that want to make layoffs, must submit a “traditional” application for partial unemployment.
In fact, it was agreed in these situations that admission to the partial unemployment regime could only be granted if the companies proceeded to establish restructuring plans. These plans will be established in the form of a recovery plan in the case of small companies of less than fifteen people, respectively, and in the form of a job retention plan in accordance with the provisions of Article L. 513-1 et seq. Labour Code for companies that employ more than fifteen employees.
The social partners expressed their willingness to negotiate as far as possible the sectoral plans for job retention to use the temporary labour loan instrument.
All these proposals for partial unemployment were approved by the Government in the Council.
The Economic Committee also reserves the right to give negative notice to requests from companies that are clearly not affected at all or only slightly by the health crisis.
The secretariat of the Economic Committee is in the process of implementing, in collaboration with the services of the State Center for Information Technology (CTIE) and ADEM, computer applications to send applications as described above electronically through the myGuichet.lu platform.
Accurate information for business, staff and employee delegations will be quickly prepared and made available on the Guichet.lu website.
Communicated by the Ministry of Economy / Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social and Solidarity Economy
Following the meeting of the restricted Council of Ministers, extended to the ten political groups supporting the Federal Government, a series of support measures were agreed for the third part of the Federal Plan for Social and Economic Protection.
The first “package” refers to the measures that had already been adopted by the federal government and that will be extended beyond their initial deadline. The most important measures are:
- Temporary unemployment due to force majeure “Corona”
- The transition right for self-employed workers
- Parental leave Corona
These measures are extended until 31st August.
Other measures are also extended, such as the suspension of the progressive reduction of the unemployment benefits, the package of measures destined to artists, the subsidy of 3 million euros to the CPAS in the framework of food aid and the allowances linked to the donations of IT material for schools.
Four specific support measures have been identified for the sectors in difficulty, including HoReCa, to cushion the socio-economic consequences of a gradual recovery in their activity. These are:
- An extension and upgrade of the transition right until 31st August 2020 and extendable until 31st December 2020
- At the same time, an extension of the temporary unemployment until 31st December 2020
- In order to enable hotel and restaurants to improve their financial situation, a reduction of VAT to 6% until 31st December 2020 on all provisions of services, except alcoholic drinks
- In the most affected sectors that have been forced to use the temporary unemployment, an agreement has been reached to grant a partial exemption from the payment of the withholding tax on salary income for the next three months, in order to encourage the return of workers who are currently in temporary unemployment.
With respect to the solvency of companies, the bank guarantee measure will be extended. The arrangements for extending the scope of the intervention to SMEs will be discussed in the Parliament shortly. The proposals for supporting artists will also be discussed next week.
The purchasing power of Belgians was also at the centre of the discussion. The intention of the meeting parties was to create a positive dynamic, first of all in favour of citizens, but also in favour of the country’s economic activity.
- The employer may grant a 300 euro Consumption voucher to the sectors most affected by the crisis to buy goods and services in sectors such as the hotel industry, culture, etc. This voucher will be 100% deductible and tax free.
- A complementary social aid of 6×50 euros (monthly) to the beneficiaries of a social integration income, disabled people and pensioners who benefit from the Grapa. This exceptional aid to the most vulnerable families will enable them to cope with their difficulties.
- All residents in Belgium can benefit from a 10-trip rail pass (SNCB) valid from 1st July to 31st December 2020. The additional cost of the bicycle will be temporarily cancelled.
In addition, it has been agreed to provide additional support to the CPAS through a further temporary increase in the refund rate of 15% on the federal intervention.
In addition to this first package of measures that has been agreed, the ten parties agreed to continue discussions to identify additional support measures that could usefully complement this first package.
The Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg is a non-profit association whose main objective is the development of trade and investments between Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Chamber offers to the companies a wide range of commercial and promotional services as well as professional contacts and facilitates business networking among its partners.
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