Since the start of the COVID-19 countermeasures, the combination of mass teleworking and homeschooling has put a strain on a lot of households. The Belgian government, recognising the difficulties in keeping a sound work-life balance in the current circumstances, has introduced a so-called “corona-parental leave” for the period from 1 May 2020 until 30 June 2020 (with the possibility of extending this period by Royal Decree). The Special Powers Decree no. 23 of 13 May 2020, in which the principles of this new type of parental leave have been laid down, was published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 14 May 2020.
The corona-parental leave is a new, temporary, type of parental leave that will exist alongside the regular parental leave and shares the majority of the latter’s characteristics. However, differences exist on a number of important levels; the corona-parental leave has less stringent eligibility conditions, but requires the employer’s consent, and comes with an increased allowance from the National Employment Office (NEO) and a faster application procedure. Also important to point out is the fact that periods of corona-parental leave will have no impact on the employee’s outstanding balance of regular parental leave.
The corona-parental leave can be taken up either by reducing the working time by 1/2nd or by 1/5th and is applicable during the period from 1 May 2020 until 30 June 2020. Depending on the evolution of the pandemic, this period can be extended beyond 30 June 2020 by Royal Decree.
During this period, the corona-parental leave can be taken up as follows:
either in one continuous period;
or in one or several periods of one month (consecutive or not);
or in one or several periods of one week (consecutive or not);
or in a combination of options 2 and 3.
Corona-parental leave is only applicable for employees who are parents of at least one child under 12 years old. For disabled children, the age-threshold is in principle set at 21 years of age, except in certain specific circumstances, where no maximum age is applicable. The corona-parental leave is equally applicable for adoptive or foster parents, with the same age-thresholds.
In order to be eligible for the new type of parental leave, the employee concerned must have at least one month of seniority with his employer. To be able to apply for the 1/5th corona-parental leave, the employee must work full-time; to be able to apply for the 1/2nd corona-parental leave, the employee must work at least 3/4th of a full-time occupation.
In this respect, it’s important to point out that the corona-parental leave requires the employer’s consent. This is contrary to the regular parental leave, which - safe from the possibility for the employer to defer the request for leave for justified reasons related to the functioning of the company - in principle cannot be refused by the latter.
The employee who’d like to take up corona-parental leave must inform the employer in writing, at least 3 working days in advance. This can be done either by email - if there’s a confirmation of receipt by the employer -, by registered mail or by handing over the request on paper and having the employer sign a copy for receipt.
The employer must reply within maximum 3 days and at least before the requested start date of the corona-parental leave. The reply - containing the approval or refusal of the application for leave - must be done in writing or via email, however, using email requires a confirmation of receipt from the employee.
Once the employee receives approval from the employer, he must apply for a corona-parental leave allowance with the NEO. The request for an allowance must be made at the latest 2 months after the start of the corona-parental leave and can be done online.
During the period(s) of corona-parental leave, employees are entitled to an allowance from the NEO to compensate for the loss of professional income. The amount of the allowances is equal to the amount of the allowances for regular 1/2nd or 1/5th parental leave, increased by 25%.
The corona-parental leave legislation contains specific provisions for employees who are currently already enrolled in the system of regular parental leave or a system of time credit, career interruption or thematic leave.
Employees who are currently enrolled in the system of regular parental leave can, for the period during which the corona-parental leave is applicable and after agreement of the employer, suspend their regular parental leave and instead request corona-parental leave. If they were enrolled in a system of 1/2nd or 1/5th regular parental leave, they can convert this to the corresponding fraction of corona-parental leave. However, it’s also possible to adjust the fraction of the regular parental leave and e.g. go from full-time or 1/10th regular parental leave to 1/2nd or 1/5th corona-parental leave. After the period of corona-parental leave, the regular parental leave will resume until the initially envisaged end date. Because, as mentioned above, the periods of corona-parental leave will not be subtracted from the employee’s outstanding balance of regular parental leave, the remainder of the initially applied for regular parental leave can still be taken up at a later date.
A similar mechanism has been adopted for employees who are currently enrolled in a system of time credit, career interruption or thematic leave.
If you need more information on this new, temporary, type of parental leave or require practical guidance with the implementation thereof, don’t hesitate to get in touch.