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Temporary unemployment benefits supplements in Belgium

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Claeys & Engels offers reassurance in the full range of human resources matters and fast, efficient and pragmatic legal advice.
In the context of the coronavirus crisis, many employers in Belgium are providing for the payment of a supplement to compensate temporarily unemployed employees for their salary loss. The NSSO has just specified the conditions under which such a supplement is exempt from social security contributions.  

In principle, employers’ supplements to temporarily unemployed workers are exempt from social security contributions as a supplement to a statutory social security benefit, namely unemployment benefits.

However, in its ‘Instructions’ on the coronavirus crisis, the National Social Security Office (NSSO) states that in order to be exempt from social security contributions, the amount of the supplement paid by the employer may not result in the employee receiving a higher ‘net’ than if the employee was actually working.

In this respect, the NSSO has just clarified that for the calculation of the supplement, ‘net’ is to be understood as the ‘taxable gross’, i.e. the gross amount less the 13.07% personal social security contributions (if applicable), but before deduction of the withholding tax.

In concrete terms, it is therefore necessary to check whether the taxable income of the employee during the period of temporary unemployment (consisting of the unemployment benefit paid by the National Employment Office (NEO), any supplements paid by the NEO or an Existence Security Fund and the supplement paid by the employer) does not exceed, on a monthly basis, the employee’s last gross taxable monthly remuneration (that is, the gross monthly remuneration minus personal social security contributions).

The NSSO also specifies that account must be taken of the remuneration subject to social security contributions. Benefits such as luncheon vouchers cannot therefore be taken into account in the calculation of the supplement. Furthermore, if the employee receives a variable remuneration, the average remuneration of the previous months should be taken into account, according to the NSSO.

The NSSO also points out that the employer must treat all employees within the same category equally, but that the employer can do so either by compensating up to a certain percentage of the gross taxable remuneration or by paying each employee a lump sum (without exceeding the last gross taxable monthly remuneration).

Finally, the NSSO specifies that if the supplements calculated for the month of March are too high, the employer may compensate thereafter by reducing the amount of the supplements for the next few months (bearing in mind also that the final amounts of unemployment benefits are not yet known).

It should be pointed out that the NSSO could claim payment of social security contributions on the total amount of the supplements granted by the employer if these exceed the above-mentioned limits.

Action point for employers: Check whether the calculation of temporary unemployment benefit supplements complies with the NSSO guidelines and, if necessary, adjust it for the following months.

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