Coronavirus: €1,450 bonus for front-line hospital staff
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    Coronavirus: €1,450 bonus for front-line hospital staff

    Finance minister Alexander De Croo © Belga

    Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other front-line hospital staff are to receive a one-time bonus of €1,450, the government has decided.

    The government of Sophie Wilmès is currently working on a plan to get people back to work as quickly as safely possible, so as to get the economy turning again.

    The principle is to allow those who are able to work and who can do so safely to return to work, while vulnerable groups remain protected.

    Under a plan presented by federal finance minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), businesses would be allowed to offer employees a bonus of up to €1,000 for going back to work (and for those who have continued working throughout, such as supermarket workers).

    The bonus would be free of tax or social charges.

    The government itself would pay the bonus to medical staff, at an estimated cost of €14.5 million, assuming 100,000 applications. Added to that would be the bill for a lowering of social security charges, estimated at €44 million.

    Another idea would be to allow other sectors to adopt the system used in the hospitality industry for paying overtime. In bars and restaurants, overtime hours cost employers less, because of a change in the rate of social charges.

    Workers in vital sectors would also be granted two additional holidays, to thank them for the efforts they have made in the last three weeks and will certainly have to continue making in the weeks to come. Like many other measures, this one has no budgetary implications. Those measures that do have an impact on the federal budget are in addition to the aid package of €50 billion announced by the government earlier.

    To advance the aim of getting people back to work, the government is prepared to drop its objection to zero-hours contracts temporarily, and to allow more flexibility in the use of timetables and the so-called gig economy, where staff are treated similarly to freelance operators.

    Finally, a platform will be created to allow students easier access to sectors of the economy other than food and drinks service. In addition, the hours spent working on those jobs would not be counted against their annual limit.

    The package of measures will be discussed tomorrow when members of the government sit down with party presidents to consider the country’s next steps.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times