What happens if my working hours are reduced?

Employers can apply for shorter working times for staff who are unable to work their full hours or work at all. Under EU legislation, you will then be classed as a ‘partially unemployed cross-border worker’. This means that you qualify for a benefit from the country where you work (or have worked) and are covered by social insurance. You will continue to be insured in that country for the duration of your benefit.

Employers can use the temporary unemployment benefit system by relying on 'force majeure' (circumstances beyond their control). The requirement concerning a minimum number of days worked does not have to be met. However, the employee must still be fit for work. 

If you are temporarily unemployed, you can apply for a benefit from:

  • the Unemployment Benefits Fund (Hulpkas voor Werkloosheidsuitkeringen, HVW)
  • the payment agency affiliated with the ABVV trade union (Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond)
  • the payment agency affiliated with the ACLVB trade union (Algemene Centrale der Liberale Vakbonden van België)
  • the payment agency affiliated with the ACV trade union (Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond)

You can apply for the benefit using the form ‘C3.2-Werknemer-Corona’ from the Belgian National Employment Office (RVA).

One-off payment towards the cost of water, electricity and gas.

If you are temporarily unemployed because of COVID-19, you can apply for a one-off payment of €202.68 from the Flemish government. This is an allowance towards the cost of utilities such as water, electricity and gas. The allowance is mainly directed at workers who are temporarily unemployed and living in Flanders. But temporarily unemployed workers who work in Flanders but live in the Netherlands can also get this payment. 

Most workers who are temporarily unemployed will receive the payment automatically in their bank accounts. Cross-border workers who are temporarily unemployed can submit an application to the Flemish government (Vlaamse Overheid) online as from 15 April 2021. 

NB: If you live in Flanders and work in the Netherlands and you are temporarily unemployed because of COVID-19, you should still receive your wages as usual. Your employer will receive an allowance from the Dutch UWV towards the cost of wages. This means you are not entitled to a benefit or a one-off payment.

Employers can apply to the Agentur für Arbeit for shorter working times for their staff (‘Kurzarbeitergeld’). They must first file a report with the Agentur für Arbeit.

Their employees will then receive approximately 60% of their net salary. Employees who have a minor child living at home will receive 67% of their net salary.

Employees whose working hours have been reduced by at least 50% will receive a higher amount in Kurzarbeitergeld as from the 4th month. Kurzarbeitergeld can be paid for up to 21 months.

Family situation Percentage of Kurzarbeitergeld in months 1 to 3 Percentage of Kurzarbeitergeld in months 4 to 6 Percentage of Kurzarbeitergeld as from month 7
Employees who do not have a minor child living at home 60%  70%  80%
Employees with a minor child living at home 67%  77%  87%

The Dutch government has introduced 2 temporary schemes:

  • Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW)
  • Temporary Bridging Scheme for Flexible Workers (TOFA)

The NOW scheme

The NOW scheme started on 1 March 2020. Under the scheme, workers remained employed and continued to receive their wages. Employers received compensation from the UWV for wage costs for the months of March, April and May 2020.

Temporary employment agencies and payroll companies could also use the NOW scheme. Employers based outside the Netherlands could also apply for support under the scheme, provided that the employee concerned was covered by social insurance in the Netherlands. 

The NOW scheme was extended by 4 months from 1 June 2020 so that employers could also get compensation for wage costs for June, July, August and September 2020. 

Under the extended NOW 2 scheme, some of the conditions changed. For example, employers received 5% less compensation if they dismissed 20 or more workers for economic reasons without consulting the trade unions.

The NOW 3 scheme covers 3 periods of 3 months each: 

  • 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020
  • 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021
  • 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021

Different conditions apply for each period.

The TOFA scheme

The TOFA scheme started on 1 March 2020. Under the scheme, workers with flexible contracts could apply for a benefit..

Flex workers living outside the Netherlands could also apply for a TOFA benefit, provided they were covered by social insurance in the Netherlands. 

Flex workers received €550 gross per month for the months of March, April and May 2020. It was possible to apply to the UWV for a TOFA benefit up to 26 July 2020. The scheme has now stopped.