The war in Ukraine : consequences for the Belgian labour market
The war in Ukraine has left no one untouched: the consequences are now also being felt on the Belgian labour market.
Before the war, many Ukrainians were already employed on Belgian territory, especially in the construction sector, often through a Polish employer.
We now see, on the one hand, Ukrainians leaving to defend their country and, on the other hand, Ukrainians fleeing to Belgium in search of a safe haven.
In addition, a number of Belgian companies are having to scale down their production due to a shortage of raw materials and/or components from Ukraine.
Hereby, we inform you on how to employ a Ukrainian, but also explain how the government can support you if you need help yourself in the area of labour law.
My company wants to employ a Ukrainian: is this possible?
As mentioned, before the war, there were already many Ukrainians working in our Belgian construction industry.
At that time, Ukrainians, as third-country nationals, needed a work permit and residence permit to work in Belgium, unless they could invoke an exemption.
Ukrainians employed on Belgian territory generally made use of the Vander Elst exemption. This means that they have a work permit and residence permit in another EEA member state – often this is Poland – and were posted from there to Belgium by their foreign employer.
In view of the mass influx of refugees from Ukraine, the European member states decided on 3 March 2022 to apply Directive 2001/55. This Directive allows for immediate and temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of refugees from third countries who are unable to return to their country of origin.
Are eligible for this temporary protection:
- the Ukrainian nationals who resided in Ukraine before 24 February 2022;
- third-country nationals with international protection or recognised as stateless in Ukraine;
- the family members of the persons referred to in points 1) and 2):
- spouse and unmarried partner in a long-term relationship,
- unmarried minor children and
- other close relatives who lived together with the family and who were (mainly) dependent on the Ukrainian.
The temporary protection is not the same as international protection (the ordinary asylum procedure), which is not necessarily temporary.
The temporary protection lasts in principle one year and can be extended by six months at a time, up to a maximum of two years. After two years, a further extension requires a decision by the member states.
The person granted temporary protection must apply to the civil service of the municipality of residence. After a residence check, the municipality will register this person in the foreigners’ register and issue an electronic A card (and in the meantime, annex 15).
On the back of the A-card will be the following text: ‘labour market: unlimited’. With the A card, it is allowed to work in Belgium.
If you want to hire a Ukrainian, this will in principle only be a temporary employment under the status of temporary protection. It is best to adjust your employment agreement accordingly.
Due to lack of raw materials / COMPONENTS from Ukraine, I can no longer employ my employees: what now?
As a company, you may be in serious trouble because of the war in Ukraine, if certain raw materials or goods can no longer be supplied or export is no longer possible because of the international sanctions.
If, in these situations, it is no longer possible to provide your employees (= socially insured in Belgium) with sufficient work, the NEO will accept, until 30 June 2022, that you make use of the simplified procedure for corona unemployment. You read it correctly, the NEO will apply the same procedure for temporary unemployment resulting from the conflict in Ukraine as for unemployment resulting from the pandemic.
Please note that the simplified procedure does not mean that you no longer have the burden of proof. If the NEO decides to perform an inspection, you will have to be able to prove that the decrease in work is directly linked to the conflict in Ukraine. However, do not wait to collect these supporting documents until you are inspected, but compile your file from the time of application.