19 June 2020

Early in the coronavirus crisis, it became clear that notice given by an employer was not suspended by law during the days of corona unemployment of the employee concerned. As a result, in principle, the employer had no obligation to pay remuneration for any days of corona unemployment during the notice period. This alleged loophole in the law has now been addressed by an Act dated 15 June 2020. Notice given by the employer that started on or after 1 March 2020 will be suspended for the days of corona unemployment as of 22 June 2020.

The veil was lifted when a retail company carried out a multiple dismissal at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. It became apparent that notice given by the employer was not suspended by law during the days of corona unemployment of the employee concerned. As a result, it would be possible for an employer to dismiss an employee during the coronavirus crisis "in a cheap manner", benefiting from the flexible corona unemployment regime based on force majeure. The National Employment Office would then pay the employee an unemployment allowance for the days of corona unemployment during the notice period, and the employer did not have to pay the employee's remuneration for those days during the notice period.

This alleged loophole in the law has been the subject of much discussion. A new Act of 15 June 2020 resolves the situation by providing that notice given by the employer is suspended during periods of corona unemployment. As a result, the notice period will no longer run during days of corona unemployment.

However, the Council of State blew the whistle on the originally envisaged retroactive application of the new measure. An amendment to the initial draft Act provides that this new measure only applies to notice given by an employer that started on or after 1 March 2020. Moreover, the new measure will only have effect as of 22 June 2020, which is the date of publication of the new Act in the Belgian Official Gazette.

The flexible corona unemployment regime has been extended until 31 August 2020.

The impact of the Act can be summarised as follows: