Coronavirus and temporary unemployment of employees - AG Employee Benefits
business woman in times of temporary unemployment due to coronavirus

Published on 07/03/2022

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Full details on the extension of “temporary unemployment” measures

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In May 2020, we informed you about the law of 7 May 2020 on the exceptional measures in case of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19.​ These measures included the continuing of the supplementary pension and risk cover for your employees, as well as the option of deferring premium payments for the employer. In light of the ongoing public health crisis, extraordinary coronavirus-related measures were extended several times until 30 September 2021.

Update: 
Although these support measures were phased out in October 2021, the Belgian federal government decided to retroactively extend support for the second pillar until 31 March 2022. 

Under this legislation, you are still required to formally modify your pension plan regulations and/or your insurance policy. The pension regulations and/or insurance contract must clearly describe whether or not cover was still in force while an employee was temporarily unemployed as a result of COVID-19. The deadline for this is 31 December 2022. You will receive more information from AG about this in due course. 

Latest update: 07/03/2022​


Quick refresher: Under normal circumstances, what happens with contributions towards a supplementary pension and the different risk covers if your staff member has been temporarily laid off?

Temporary unemployment means that your staff member's employment contract has been suspended. This generally means that s/he stops accruing a supplementary pension and that the risk covers (death, hospitalisation, outpatient care, income protection and waiver of premiums) will also be terminated.

Under normal circumstances, as an employer, you must report the temporary unemployment to AG, and premium payments will then be suspended.

In some cases, however, the pension plan regulations and/or policy do allow for the continuation of supplementary pension contributions and risk covers in the event of temporary unemployment. In these cases, the policy terms and conditions continue to apply and the covers remain intact. There is no need for you to take any further action. It is therefore important to check the specific wording of your pension plan regulations or insurance agreement(s).

If you have set up a cafeteria plan for your staff members, then the various covers included in the plan will count a single commitment, and the suspension (or continuation during any periods of temporary unemployment) will apply to all of the covers.



What about temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis?

But circumstances these days can hardly be considered normal. Which is why Belgian lawmakers have made an important exception to the above principle, valid until 31 March 2022. If your staff members have been furloughed due to coronavirus (COVID-19), they will remain enrolled in the insurance plans (supplementary pension/death/hospitalisation/outpatient care/income protection/waiver of premiums) that you have taken out for them, and their covers will remain intact. In addition, the legislation allows you to defer premium payments until 31 March 2022.


A distinction can be made between three scenarios, where it will be checked whether you already apply the facilities for temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 to your group plans. 

SCENARIO 1: You already have coronavirus-related temporary unemployment measures in place for one or more staff members prior to 30 September 2021. Your commitments (supplementary pension/death/hospitalisation/outpatient care/income protection/waiver of premiums) and the covers you provide for your staff members have remained intact and continue automatically.

Covers that were in effect until 30 September 2021 will be continued retroactively from that date until 31 March 2022. AG will charge you premiums for these cases, applicable retroactively. You have the option to request a deferral for these premium payments.

You may also opt out of the (automatic) continuation within 30 days of receiving the information from AG. In this case, you will be legally required to notify your staff members of your decision and the consequences. Death benefit coverage will automatically be continued until 31 March 2022 (with the option to defer premium payment upon request).


SCENARIO 2: You haven’t made use of any coronavirus-related temporary unemployment facilities for your staff members prior to 30 September 2021. You made use of this option starting from 1 October 2021 or you intend to do so for one or more staff member.

In this scenario, you have two options: 

  • 1 - to continue the commitments (automatic default option)
  • 2 - to temporarily suspend the commitments​

1. You’d like to maintain the covers until 31 March 2022 at the latest (automatic default option)​

The supplementary pension plans, healthcare insurance plans (hospitalisation, outpatient care expenses) and occupational incapacity plans (income protection, waiver of premiums) will automatically be continued for furloughed staff members while they are temporarily out of work as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This applies to both full and partial coronavirus-related unemployment.

Under the new legislation, maintaining the covers is the default option. So there is no need for you to take any further action. You don't even have to report the temporary unemployment to us.

Premium payments will normally continue as planned, but as an employer, you have the option to defer premium payments (both employer and employee contributions) for furloughed staff members until 31 March 2022. This is stipulated in the legislation, and only during the period of temporary unemployment. 

If you would like to make use of this option, please call your usual AG contact person or e-mail us at corona.ebhc@aginsurance.be.

2. You want to temporarily suspend one or more covers

As an employer, you can also opt to suspend the covers during the period of coronavirus-related temporary unemployment, with the exception of death benefit coverage which must be maintained until at least 31 March 2022.

Any suspension of coverage will apply per commitment. If your staff members have their covers via a cafeteria plan, your decision will apply to all of the covers included in that plan. In any event, death benefit coverage will continue until 31 March 2022. Note that the option you select must be the same for the entire group of furloughed staff members. For example, you cannot choose to keep the covers for your Board members and suspend them for ordinary employees.

If you decide to suspend the covers, you must notify us within 30 days (after the start of the temporary unemployment) of your intention to suspend coverage for staff members that are temporarily unemployed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. If the first period of temporary unemployment occurred between 1 October 2021 and 31 December 2021, the 30-day deadline will be extended to 31 January 2022. ​We will jointly discuss the terms and procedures with you. We will then stop sending out premium notices, and all covers will be cancelled. 

This means that contributions will no longer be set aside for your staff member's supplementary pension during this period. In addition, s/he cannot make any claims against the policy(ies) you have taken out with AG and will not be entitled to any refunds or other compensation. It is important that you inform your employees of your decision to suspend coverage


SCENARIO 3: You claimed coronavirus-related temporary unemployment for one or more staff members prior to 30 September 2021. At that time, you opted to suspend one or more covers.


Your decision to suspend certain covers will continue to apply. The suspension of covers until 30 September 2021 will automatically remain in effect during the period of temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 until 31 March 2022.

Note, however, that you are required by law to maintain death benefit coverage until 31 March 2022, with no change in the terms applicable prior to the temporary unemployment. Premiums will continue to be due for death benefit coverage. You can, of course, make use of the option to defer premiums payments (see above).  


How can you inform us of your decision?

  • If you opt to continue contributions to a pension plan and to maintain the risk covers, there is no need for you to take any further action. Under the legislation, continuation and maintenance are the default options. 
  • ​​​If you wish to defer premium payment or suspend contributions to a supplementary pension and the risk covers for the period of temporary unemployment, you will need to call your usual AG contact person or e-mail us at corona.ebhc@aginsurance.be. Employer premiums paid to AG in the meantime will not be refunded.
  • ​​​Already informed us of your intentions? Then no further action is needed from you. ​

The options that you select must be expressly stipulated in the pension plan regulations by year-end 2022. We will be contacting you again later on this subject.


Very important: inform your staff members of your decision

Whatever option you select (to continue the covers or suspend them temporarily), make sure you communicate your decision clearly to your staff members as well as the consequences. The law requires you to inform your affiliated employees comprehensively about this matter.​

  • Do you want to continue contributions to a supplementary pension and maintain the risk covers? Then clearly explain what the consequences of this decision are on any individual contributions your staff members may have to make. Also be sure to clarify the conditions for withholding a portion of the staff member's salary and how the deductions will be spread over time.
  • ​​Rather not continue contributions to a supplementary pension or maintain the risk covers during the period of temporary unemployment?  Be sure to inform your staff members and explain the consequences to them (see 'As an employer, do you have to apply this solution?'). Also mention that death benefit coverage will be maintained until 31 March 2022.


What about family members who are also enrolled in the corporate-sponsored supplementary healthcare plan?

The legislation on maintaining the covers also applies to family members of furloughed staff members.

Have additional questions about this​ legislation and the extraordinary measures?

In that case, please get in touch with your usual AG contact person. Alternatively, you can send your question to our special coronavirus e-mail address: corona.ebhc@aginsurance.be.

On our website, you will also find an extensive coronavirus-related FAQ section.​​