Quarantining red-zone travellers not entitled to unemployment benefits

Quarantining red-zone travellers not entitled to unemployment benefits
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People returning from a red travel zone after the Christmas holidays and cannot telework during their mandatory quarantine are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

People whose job cannot be done remotely will have to take time off work for the mandatory quarantine, but they will not receive benefits during that temporary unemployment period, the National Employment Office (NEO) said.

"The employee knew when they left that they would have to quarantine upon return," Geert Vermeir, legal adviser at SD Worx social secretariat, told Het Nieuwsblad. In such a case, the NEO will refuse the application for benefits, or reclaim it afterwards.

"After all, teleworking where possible is compulsory, and in that case, an employee can continue to work during their quarantine," he said.

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Workers who have to quarantine will receive a so-called 'quarantine certificate' from the contact tracing centre. That way, the employer can put the employee on temporary unemployment.

"The system stands or falls with the honesty of the employee," said Vermeir. "An employer does not have the right to ask whether the employee has been to a red zone. That is part of the employee's privacy."

This system does not apply to civil servants, however, as they have to take leave to bridge the quarantine period. Teachers, who do not have additional paid leave days outside the holiday periods, are forced to take unpaid leave.

From 18 December, people coming to Belgium from a red travel zone - which is currently almost the whole of Europe - are required to quarantine for ten days, with a test on day seven.

Controls will also be carried out to check if returning travellers are actually respecting the quarantine measures. The Consultative Committee is expected to discuss specific rules for quarantine enforcement during this afternoon's meeting.

Last week, the Belgian Federation of Enterprises (FEB) and business advisor Liantis already warned employers to be cautious about how they navigate and implement the rules, ad the mandatory quarantine period could "cause problems."

The organisations encouraged employers to find alternatives and possible options "in advance, in order to avoid problems," such as scrapping off paid days off from the next year "when the quarantine period falls in 2021," or to turn to telework by assigning different tasks to the employee.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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