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← Overview Database of Innovative Social Policies in Europe

Temporary lay-offs of white collar workers

Country of implementation
General short description of the innovation
This measure allows employers to suspend (partially or completely) employees? contracts when firms fulfill certain criteria. The worker receives a crisis-related daily allowance for each day of suspension equal to 70% or 75% of his or her salary from the National Employment Office complemented by an employer top-up. / / Before the measure can be applied, a firm has to be recognized as a ?firm in difficulty? and prove it has been negatively affected by the crisis. It must prove it has experienced a substantial fall in turnover or production, compared to the same period in 2008. Also firms which already make use of temporary unemployment for workers, can be recognized as a firm in difficulty and apply the measure. The firm must also be bound by a sector-wide or business-wide collective bargaining agreement or, in the case of businesses with no trade-union delegation, by a business plan approved by the tripartite committee. / / The duration is a minimum of one week and a maximum of 16 weeks, in the case of total suspension and a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks, in the event of partial suspension (minimum two days a week). As soon as the volume of work increases again, employees can be employed again. / / In 2012, an accountability contribution was introduced for the companies making extensive use of the system. /
Target group
Total Population
Policy Field
  • wage
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
The measure came into force mid-2009 and has been extended several time during the crisis period until it became permanent as of 1 January 2012
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: Temporary suspension of employees? contracts of employment became structural policy as of 1 January 2012.
  • Spatial coverage: national
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
This measure was initiated as a temporary anti-crisis measure and intended to extend the already existing scheme of temporary lay-offs for blue collar workers, which was no longer sufficient to stem job losses resulting from recession. By increasing flexibility in the labour force, firms are able to respond more quickly to temporary work shortages.
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • others (contra-dualisation )
Type of innovation
  • retrenchment or expansion of an existing/earlier policy
New outputs
  • working time (total or partial temporary suspension of employees? contracts)
Intended target group
Working age population
  • main source of income: paid work
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • central state (National Employment Office (RVA))
  • employers (organised or individual)
Intended output
  • working time
Did the innovation have any outcome related to job quantity?
the unemployment rate decreased less than in other countries, reflecting labour hoarding
Intended and unintended outcomes
number of beneficiaries / / Year Beneficiaries / 2009 210.846 / 2010 173.286 / 2011 140.847 / 2012 161.340 / Source: / / / The intensive use of reduced working time schemes to adjust the volume of work, presumably led to smaller increases in unemployment in Belgium compared to other countries. The number of employees increased to 5.6% of all employees, making Belgium among other OECD countries, first place in the use of partial unemployment1. According to OECD estimates the decline in employment that could have been avoided in the autumn of 2009 is about 1.3%, which corresponds to 0.9% of the employment rate. /
Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
Although these measures allow employers to respond more quickly to temporary work shortages, they become counterproductive if they become a permanent feature. This is because employees remain ?jobless? for too long while at the same time they are not available for jobs in other companies (Bulté & Struyven, 2013).
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