Can I still continue my activities or should I temporarily close down my company?


Esther Soetens

Managing Associate

Updated on Monday 20 April 2020- 4pm

In its Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020, last amended by the Ministerial Decree of 17 April 2020, the Belgian government adopted urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus/COVID–19. Some companies are obliged to close down completely, while others must organise telework and/or respect ‘social distancing’ measures.

What does this mean for your company?

As a general rule, three ‘categories’ of companies can be distinguished.

1. Category 1: Companies that are forced to close down

Certain companies executing ‘risk activities’ are forced to close down until 3 May 2020 (for the time being).

These include:

  • All shops and trading companies with the exception of: food stores, animal food stores, pharmacies, newspaper kiosks and newspaper stores, petrol stations (and fuel suppliers), do-it-yourself stores (DIY) with a general range selling mainly construction tools and/or building materials, garden centres and tree nurseries selling mainly plants and/or trees, wholesalers intended for professionals (and only for the latter's benefit), telecom stores (excluding stores that only sell accessories) and medical device stores, but the two latter only for emergencies where they may receive only 1 customer at a time and by appointment.

     Hotels may remain open with the exception of their restaurant/bar.

  • All companies and organisations belonging to the cultural, festive, recreational, sports and catering sector (‘horeca’). The delivery of meals and meals to take-away are, however, allowed.
  • Markets

2. Category 2: Non-essential companies can continue their activities but are obliged to organise telework/guarantee ‘social distancing’

The majority of the companies that are non-essential (i.e. they are not included in a list of ‘essential companies’ established by the government: see point 3 below) can continue to operate but are obliged to:

  • Organise telework for all functions for which teleworking is possible, whatever the size of the company. We recommend making clear arrangements about this telework with your employees.
  • If teleworking is not possible, the company should guarantee ‘the social distance’ between employees to avoid contamination. This means that there should be a distance of 1.5 metres between individuals.

If this social distancing cannot be guaranteed within the company, then the company must close down.

Companies that do not comply with these compulsory measures are subject to fines (and/or a closure).

It is advisable for companies to substantiate their approach (for which functions telework can be organised, for which functions social distancing can be respected and which activities should be suspended/closed down because social distancing cannot be guaranteed) by means of a risk analysis in which the risk, the evaluation of the risk and the measures for each activity/function are indicated.

3. Category 3: Essential companies and crucial sectors may continue to operate - telework/social distancing must only be respected ‘for as far as possible’

The government has established a list of ‘essential sectors and companies’ that is attached to the Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020, as amended by the Ministerial Decree of 17 April 2020.

These include, amongst others: crèches, supermarkets, pharmacies, payroll offices, medical and health care services, media, waste collection services, taxi services, hotels, vehicle breakdown and repair services, the chemical industry, the financial sector, etc.

Manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors of goods, works and services that are essential to the performance of the activity of these businesses and services will be equated with the companies of the crucial sectors and essential services.

Within these companies/sectors, teleworking and/or social distancing must only be respected ‘for as far as possible’. If this is not possible, then these companies will not be penalised.

If you have any questions or need assistance, the ALTIUS Employment Team is at your service (since we are considered to belong to a “crucial” sector ;-).

The above information is merely intended as comment on relevant issues of Belgian law and is not intended as legal advice. Before taking action or relying on the comments and the information given, please seek specific advice on the matters that are of concern to you.

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