by Anneleen Wydooghe
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities introduced a system of temporary unemployment due to coronavirus force majeure. This easing of the rules was intended to offer companies some financial breathing room and prevent dismissals. Though initially, an employee’s notice period continued while on furlough as usual, the legislators have now decided to suspend this period until the employee has resumed work. Who will be affected by this new law?
Initially, in cases involving dismissal, the employee’s notice period was not suspended while on furlough and they did not receive notice or redundancy pay as normal, instead receiving lower temporary unemployment benefits from the government.
The law of 15 June 2020, published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 22 June 2020, rectifies this situation. In the event of a dismissal while on furlough due to COVID-19, the notice period will now be suspended for any periods of ‘coronavirus-related unemployment’. This means the notice period stops for a bit and then resumes as soon as the employee goes back to work. That is to say, the full notice period is retained.
The law applies to previously started notice periods from 1 March 2020 and to newly started notice periods, if:
For notice periods that started before 1 March 2020, the previous regulation remains in effect. Having served notice before this date is not sufficient, however. The notice must have started before 1 March 2020.
Even if the notice period had already concluded by 22 June 2020, suspension of this period is no longer possible.
Furthermore, this legislation applies only in the event of dismissal by the employer. Employees who resigned do not qualify for suspension; their notice period will proceed as usual during any coronavirus-related unemployment.
In our opinions, we rely on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from disputing them or from changing existing interpretations.
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