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Business leaders critical of new corona bonus

Nathalie Arteel © Arteel Groep

The ‘corona bonus’ that companies are now able to pay employees misses its target and displays an approach that is ‘hopelessly outdated,’ one of the country’s leading business people has said.

Nathalie Arteel is one of the directors of Arteel Group, a company that specialises in employee experience and company loyalty. This weekend she published an open letter in De Tijd criticising the new bonus, co-signed by 25 other business leaders.

The corona bonus, which comes into force today although it was negotiated back in May during talks on pay between unions and managers, is intended to allow companies that have successfully weathered the storm of the pandemic to reward their employees with a (tax-deductible for the company) bonus in the form of a consumption cheque worth up to €500.

The bonus is valid for spending in shops of all kinds, but not for online purchases, and was intended not only to reward employees but also stimulate the local economy. If applied, it should be applied at a company level, available to all employees.

One of the difficulties was that the definition of a company that had done well through the crisis was left entirely up to management.

The approach, Arteel comments in her letter, misses the crucial point that not all employees are alike, and a reward with blanket coverage ignores that fact.

You do not get involvement by giving more wages or extra vacation days. The effect of this is not permanent and many will soon take it for granted,” she writes.

Moreover, employees become trapped in a golden cage: they no longer want to lose the many benefits, so that they stay, but are therefore not more involved or engaged.”

According to research by the Antwerp Management School and the employers’ federation FEB, one in four employees is currently actively looking for a new job. The issue of retaining staff is of crucial importance to business, Arteel agrees.

I advocate a simple solution that companies can use to be able to value every employee who has delivered an exceptional performance, ‘on the spot’ and individually,” she writes.

The way to stimulate entrepreneurship and encourage the right mindset among employees, she argues, means making it possible for managers to reward their people when they have done something well – not just once a year and not only collectively.

The Belgian system is hopelessly outdated. On the one hand, the law does not allow for quick and tax-friendly valuation of people, and on the other hand, our companies are still bound by laws of the last century,” she concludes.

There is an urgent need, especially in these post-home working hours, for a tax-exempt payment to quickly and easily reward employees for good work during the course of the year. Appreciation is one of the basic needs of every human being, and now is really the time to start this dialogue and take action.”