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COVID-19 measures extended until 1 March 2021

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Yesterday, a new Ministerial Decree was published in the Belgian Official Gazette, modifying the Ministerial Decree of 28 October 2020 on urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

This Ministerial Decree provides for an extension of the existing measures, but not for their easing (with the exception of the possibility to restart certain training courses, such as driving lessons and driving tests).

Below, we briefly discuss the most important changes. 

1. Extension of existing measures

The MD extends all measures until (at least) 1 March 2021. Of course, the Government (or the Consultation Committee) may rule differently earlier on.

For HR this means the following:

  • Telehomeworking remains compulsory for all companies, associations and services and for all staff members, unless it is impossible due to the nature of the function or due to the continuity of the business, activities or services; 
  • If telehomeworking cannot be applied, employers must take the necessary measures to ensure maximum compliance with the rules of social distancing;
  • Staff wo cannot apply telehomeworking must carry a certificate or other proof confirming the need for their presence at the workplace. 

The inspection services have announced flash inspections in the services industry throughout the month of January, especially regarding compliance with compulsory telehomeworking. We advise employers to take a preventive look at the checklist (only available in Dutch or French) used by the inspection services and to adapt their policy accordingly. Fines should not be expected, as the inspection is primarily preventive and coaching. It is expected that the inspection will give a certain period of time to become compliant. For employers who refuse to comply with the rules or in case of serious infringements, the inspectorate does of course not exclude the possibility of a pro justitia.

2. COVID-19 measures for foreign workers extended to all industries

Since 24 August 2020, specific obligations are being applied in the construction, cleaning, agricultural, horticultural and meat industries for employers or users who temporarily make use of an employee or self-employed person residing or staying abroad (with the exception of cross-border workers and persons residing in Belgium for less than 48 hours). 

Among other things, they are obliged to keep an updated register with certain data (i.e. identification data of the employee or self-employed person, his place of residence, telephone number and the persons with whom he works, if applicable). The current MD extends this obligation to employers of all industries.

In addition, employers wishing to employ employees or self-employed persons who live or reside abroad on a temporary basis must check whether they have completed the Passenger Location Form (PLF), if applicable, before the start of the work activities. Employers must therefore ask the persons concerned for proof of this and in any case ensure that the PLF has been filled in at the latest when work starts. 

Employees or self-employed persons who are called upon must be able to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken at the earliest 72 hours before the start of their work or activities. 

Furthermore, the obligation to comply with the COVID-19 measures as laid down by the competent authorities applies to any person present at a workplace (i.e. any place where work is carried out that is subject to the supervision of the social inspectorate).

All obligations can be controlled by the prevention advisers-occupational physicians, and by all services and institutions in charge of the supervision of the compliance with the obligations to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
 

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