Your Belgian payroll administration in Q3.2023
Although the corona crisis has been behind us for some time now, it continues to have an impact on our economy and the measures taken to boost it. This is reflected in our third-quarter newsletter.
1. WAGE NORM SET AT 0%
As has been known for several months, the government has set the wage norm for 2023-2024 at 0%.
The “wage norm” is the maximum margin by which the average wage cost of companies is allowed to increase. Specifically, a wage norm of 0% means that employees’ wages may not increase in 2023 and 2024, except for indexations and/or pay scale increases.
So are you not allowed to reward your employees for exceptional efforts? Of course you are! After all, there are bonuses and premiums that do not count towards the wage norm, such as:
- the purchasing power premium;
- The CLA No 90 bonus;
- the profit premium;
- the innovation premium;
- a contribution in a supplementary pension scheme.
Do you have a concrete question regarding the introduction of a bonus system? Then do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.
2. SIMPLIFIED ECONOMIC UNEMPLOYMENT PROCEDURE
Unlike in the case of blue-collar workers, for the white-collar workers a very cumbersome procedure applies to the introduction of temporary unemployment for economic reasons (“economic unemployment”). This is because the company that wants to use this system must first be accredited as a company in difficulty. If nothing is provided for at sector level, this can be done by concluding a company collective labour agreement (if there is a trade union delegation), or drawing up a business plan (if there is no trade union delegation).
To facilitate one and all during the corona crisis, this cumbersome procedure was simplified. Thanks to the simplified procedure, the company no longer had to draw up a collective labour agreement or a business plan. However, the company still had to prove that it was effectively in difficulty by demonstrating a decrease of at least 10% in turnover, production or orders.
The 10% decrease must have taken place in one of the four quarters preceding the first use of economic unemployment and this compared to the same quarter in one of the two calendar years preceding the application.
The possibility to invoke this simplified procedure would normally end on 30 June 2023, but has since been extended to 30 June 2025.
If temporary unemployment is granted on the basis of the simplified procedure, the employer must pay, in addition to the unemployment allowance, a supplement of 6.22 euro for each day the white-collar worker is unemployed (amount indexed annually on 1 January).
Attention: if your company also employs blue-collar workers and they receive a higher allowance in case of economic unemployment, you will also have to pay this higher allowance to the white-collar workers. Even if you do not employ blue-collar workers, you will have to check what the joint committee for blue-collar workers would provide in case of economic unemployment. If there is a collective labour agreement there that grants a higher allowance to blue-collar workers, you will have to follow it for your white-collar workers as well.
You can use economic unemployment for your white-collar workers for up to 16 weeks (full suspension) or 26 weeks (partial suspension) per calendar year.
3. MODIFICATION OF NOTICE PERIODS
On 28 October 2023, a law will come into force aimed at eliminating some differences of interpretation on the length of notice periods.
Notice given by the employee. The transitional regime in the Unitary Statute Act introduced the well-known “two-step rule” for calculating the notice period of employees already employed before 1 January 2014. The total notice period of these employees is equal to the sum of:
- the notice period calculated on the basis of seniority acquired up to 31 December 2013; and
- the notice period calculated on the basis of seniority acquired from 1 January 2014.
As from 28 October 2023, this transitional arrangement will no longer apply in case the notice is given by the employee. For calculating that notice period, the Employment Contracts Act now stipulates that that notice period can be a maximum of 13 weeks.
Dismissal by the employer of high level white-collar workers. The amendment to the Unitary Statute Act also abolishes the special provisions in case of dismissal by the employer of a high-level white-collar worker.
From then on, the notice period for high-level white-collar workers will be at least three months per five years of seniority, compared to one month per year of seniority now.
To do? If your employment regulations explicitly mention the notice periods, this will need to be updated. Of course, we are happy to help you with this update.
4. CROSS-BORDER WORKERS AND TELEWORK
In our last quarterly newsletter we already briefed you on the arrival of the Framework Agreement determining the applicable social security legislation for cross-border workers who telework on a regular basis.
This Framework Agreement allows the social security legislation of the member state of the employer’s place of establishment to continue to apply to cross-border workers who:
- telework on a regular basis from their country of residence, other than the country in which their employer has its registered office; and
- spend less than 50% of their total working time teleworking.
To benefit from the scheme, both countries must have signed the Framework Agreement. We can already inform you that, besides Belgium, currently the Netherlands, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Croatia, Malta, Poland, Spain and Sweden have already signed the agreement.
As mentioned earlier, this agreement only applies to social security. To determine the division of taxing power between the various countries, we still have to refer back to the various double taxation treaties.
To do? If you wish to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Framework Agreement, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to advise you.
5. RELANCE-HOURS. BACK AFTER BEING BRIEFLY GONE
To boost the economy after the corona crisis, the 2021-2022 social agreement provided for the possibility of performing 120 additional voluntary overtime hours per year, known as relance or recovery overtime.
The relance hours allowed to perform overtime hours, exempt from social and tax deductions (gross = net), without granting compensation rest and without payment of an overtime hours surcharge.
The measure expired on 31 December 2022, but was resurrected with the 2023-2024 interprofessional negotiations.
Although the legislative process is not yet fully completed, the application of the measure will already be accepted from 1 July 2023. This was confirmed by both the FPS ELSD and the NSSO. The situation is slightly different for the tax authorities: pending the entry into force of the law, the wage withholding tax must still be transferred to the tax authorities. Subsequent corrections will then be necessary.
It is important to note that, as with ordinary voluntary overtime hours, employees must always give their written agreement prior to the period in which the relance hours will be performed. Such an agreement is valid for only six months, but can be renewed.
6. INDEXATION: A FOREWARNED EMPLOYER IS WORTH TWO
Indexation on 1 July 2023:
- in the metal sector (JC 111 and JC 209), the minimum wages and actual wages were indexed by 6.05%;
- in the construction sector (JC 124), the minimum wages were not This is due to the negative index which was neutralised by the sector. When there is a positive index at the next indexation period, the negative one will be deducted from it first. We will, of course, keep you informed.
- in the additional joint committee for white-collar workers (JC 200) an indexation of 1.67% is forecasted on 01/01/2024 and
- in the joint committee for independent retail trade (JC 201) an indexation of 2% is forecasted on 01/03/2024.
7. MILEAGE ALLOWANCE
For the second quarter in a row, the maximum exempted amount of the mileage allowance experienced a slight decrease. In the third quarter, this allowance, for both commuting and professional travel, amounts to 0.4237 euro per kilometre (subject to publication in the Belgian Official Gazette).
8. SECTOR AGREEMENT JC 200
A sectoral agreement for 2023-2024 was reached by the joint additional committee for white-collar workers (JC 200) late last month. We are not yet in possession of the final text, but according to the information currently available to us, the agreement -among other things- includes the following arrangements:
Purchasing power premium
The purchasing power premium will be granted, in the form of consumption vouchers, to employees of companies that achieved high or exceptionally high profits in 2022.
If the ratio of a company’s profit (code 9901 in the annual accounts) to the balance sheet total in 2022 was 25%, 50%, or 100% higher than the average of the same ratio of the three previous years, the purchasing power premium would be 125 euro, 250 euro and 375 euro, respectively. An additional condition would be that the profit is at least 5% of the balance sheet total.
As from 1 July 2024, the bicycle allowance will be increased to 0.27 euro per kilometre effectively travelled. However, the maximum mileage per working day will remain 40 km, corresponding to a maximum daily rate of 10.80 euro.
Commuting by private car
The amount of the annual gross wage as a ceiling for the allowance for commuting expenses is raised to 34,148.00 euro.
If the employment contract is terminated by mutual agreement, the employee retains the right to the end-of-year bonus, provided the employee has at least five years of seniority.
Individual education right
The social partners have supposedly agreed to provide for an individual education right of five days per full-time employee in companies with more than 20 employees only by 2028. However, the Labour Deal Act had envisaged 2024.
Once we have the final text of the agreement, we will further inform you of the concrete modalities of the measures taken.