• Working from home in times of corona
Articles:

Working from home in times of corona

29 April 2020

During this corona crisis, companies are obliged to organise telework as a prevention measure for all employees whose position allows them to do so. 

Mandatory homeworking or ‘teleworking’ distinguishes itself from the structural or occasional telework which is already known in many companies. As it is a new concept without an existing legal framework, there are some important aspects to consider and some tips that can optimise the organisation of work.

Obligation

Normally, employers cannot obligate their employees to work from home, nor can employees claim it. It is clear, however, that in the given exceptional circumstances, the employer can impose this obligation, insofar as the employee's function allows this.

Agreements

When the situation continues for a long(er) period and the distance between the employer and the employee becomes larger, good agreements are necessary to avoid discussions. Think for example about agreements concerning availability, accessibility, tools, reporting and control with respect for privacy, cost reimbursement and working hours.

Regarding availability and working hours, it could be important for some companies to respect the usual timetable as much as possible. For others, it may be perfectly possible to be flexible with starting and ending hours.

As for structural telework, the agreements can be attached to the employment contract as an annex. The modalities of telework can also be incorporated in a company policy or internal regulations.

Tools and costs

In principle, the employer must provide the equipment (laptop, mobile phone, etc.) and infrastructure (Internet, communication) that the employee needs for teleworking.  He must also provide facilities related to technical support. If the employee can/might also use these tools for private purposes, a fixed benefit in kind ("BIK") must be taken into account. More specifically:

  • 6 € per month for a PC, laptop and auxiliary equipment
  • 5 € per month for an internet or mobile data subscription
  • 3 € per month for tablet, smartphone or mobile phone
  • 4 € per month for a telephone subscription

This BIK is considered as part of the salary and therefore subject to social security and income taxes. For the employer it is tax deductible .

Alternatively, the employer could pay an allowance for the cost of using the private laptop and internet connection of the employee, and/or other office expenses to the extent that they are used for professional purposes.

The employer may temporarily pay the following allowances to all employees who "telework":

  • 129.48 € per month as from 01-04-2020 (previously € 126.94 per month) as an office allowance (to cover the costs of heating, electricity, small office equipment, etc.),
  • 20 € per month for the use of employee’s own laptop or PC
  • 20 € per month for the use of  employee’s own internet connection.

Insofar as it concerns the reimbursement of costs that the employee has made for the benefit of the employer, these allowances do not qualify as a salary. No social security contributions are therefore owed on these amounts and they are exempted from taxes. These costs are fully deductible for the employer.

In order to obtain absolute certainty about the tax treatment of the allowance (exemption  for employee/deductibility  for employer), the employer must first obtain a tax ruling from the Service for Advance Decisions (DVB/SPA). In the context of mandatory teleworking during the corona crisis, the Service launched a fast-track ruling application procedure for the above-mentioned temporary office/homework allowance. If certain categories of employees were already entitled to a fixed homework allowance in the past, it is obvious that this cannot be cumulated with the allowance for telework as a result of the COVID-19 measures. However, if not yet done, this allowance can be temporarily increased to the maximum amount of 129.48 € as of 1 April 2020 (previously 126.94 € per month).

Important:
The allowance of a maximum of 10 % of the gross salary relating to the provided home performances in the telework contract will NOT be accepted for this telework due to the corona crisis. This can only be maintained if this was already foreseen before the corona crisis by the telework contracts concluded with the employees. In this case, the allowance may only be calculated on the home performances provided in the initial telework contract, not on the actual (often full-time) home performances.

Of course, it always remains possible to reimburse the actual value of the costs on submission of supporting documents instead of paying the above-mentioned fixed amounts. A higher reimbursement than the fixed amount of 129.48 € per month as of 1 April 2020 (previously 126.94 € per month) is therefore not excluded.

Regarding other cost reimbursements, it will have to be reconsidered whether they can still be granted. For example, it does not seem to be possible to grant a travel allowance when someone works completely from home and no longer travels. 

Tips

Would you also like some tips regarding:

  • Me and my team
  • Me as manager
  • Me and my business

Please fill in our telework survey: 

Take part in our survey


During this corona crisis, we provide the free opportunity for organisations to assess how their employees experience teleworking. In addition, we also offer a free report as a tool to start working with telework in a goal-oriented way, now and after the corona crisis.

The content of the survey is based on the underlying model:

 

(1) Bricks; aspects of the physical work- 
(2) Bytes; aspects of the use and application of IT and digital tools
(3) Behavior; aspects of leadership and organisational structure 
(4) Business; aspects of the agility of the business processes