21 May Corona special | Amendments to NOW regulation
On 20 May 2020, the Cabinet presented the broad outlines of the extension of the financial support package. A number of adjustments have also been made to the current NOW scheme as it applies up to and including 31 May 2020. In this newsletter, we have listed the main lines of the extended support measures for you. We will inform you as soon as further details of the schemes become known.
Seasonal companies, Zero declaration
Employers with a zero wage bill in January 2020, or no wage bill in January 2020 and November 2019, and who do have a wage bill in March 2020, may still be eligible for the current NOW 1.0 scheme as a result of the above amendment. If they have previously received a negative decision for this reason, they will be approached by the UWV. This will be particularly helpful for seasonal businesses.
In addition, in the NOW scheme of the second emergency package, the fixed (lump-sum) surcharge for, among other things, holiday pay, pension contributions and other employer charges will be increased from 30% to 40%. In this way, the NOW will also contribute to costs other than wage costs in order to support employers even more in maintaining employment.
The NOW is a subsidy. The government uses public money as transparently as possible. The name of an applicant, including the advance payments made and the grant determined, can be made public without first having to request an opinion. The Minister of Social Affairs and Labour has asked the UWV to make this information public. It will be published on the UWV website per the end of June. This only concerns information for which it is not necessary to request an opinion.
Sometimes companies that have recently been taken over cannot or can insufficiently use the NOW. This can be solved for part of the businesses by using the existing provision in the NOW for start-ups in situations of business transfers in 2019 until 1 February 2020. The scheme for business start-ups assumes that a business has been started by 1 February 2020 at the latest, otherwise there will be no relevant reference month for turnover. Changing the wage bill provision for seasonal businesses (see above) may also offer a solution in the event of business takeovers.
The government had previously decided to make an auditor’s report compulsory in some cases when the NOW subsidy was finally determined. In order to determine to which organisations this applies, two limits have now been set. For the NOW, the auditor’s report will be made compulsory for companies that have received an advance payment (80% of the grant amount) of €100,000 or more. In order to prevent an applicant from receiving a low advance payment but still receiving a grant that is (much) higher than €125,000, without the need to submit an auditor’s report, an auditor’s report will also be required for an established grant of €125,000 or more. Companies and institutions that have received an advance of less than €100,000 will have to estimate for themselves whether the subsidy will be set at €125,000 or more, which means that they too will need an auditor’s report. An online calculation tool will be made available for this purpose.
This means that in situations where an auditor’s report is not required, an audit will take place. The employer is responsible for the information he provides when applying for and determining the subsidy. The employer must manage the turnover and wage bill in such a way that it is possible to check afterwards whether a subsidy has been granted correctly. Requests for approval not requiring an auditor’s report shall be checked on a random basis.
In addition, if no auditor’s report needs to be submitted, the request for determination of a subsidy with an advance above €20,000 or a fixed amount above €25,000 must be accompanied by a statement from a third party confirming the decrease in turnover. This could be, for example, an administrative office, a financial service provider or a branch organisation. The Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) also requests such a third party statement in the event of deferred payment in special circumstances.
Opening period for application
The Now-1 application period is extended from 31 May to 5 June. This is linked to two new possibilities included in the NOW: the possibility to include the months of March, April and May in the calculation of the wage bill and the possibility to determine turnover in a different way in the event of a transfer of undertaking (see above). As a result, employers who initially did not qualify for an allowance under the NOW may still be able to apply successfully. The changes will apply retroactively from the time the letter is sent. Employers can therefore make use of these new possibilities in the current scheme from now until 5 June.
Employers who have paid out a thirteenth month in January are therefore sometimes insufficiently eligible for the NOW because this may result in a flattened wage bill. Where this can be found in the policy administration, the UWV filters it out in the final invoice.
The following changes only apply to NOW emergency package 2:
In addition to the above amendments to the NOW schemes, the government also considers the following amendments for NOW scheme 2.0 to be appropriate in the second economic emergency package. This NOW 2.0 can be applied for as of 6 July 2020.
Bonuses, own shares and dividend
A company that makes use of the extension of the NOW may not pay dividends to shareholders for this year, and not pay bonuses to the board and management, or repurchase its own shares. Bonuses to ordinary employees, which are part of the normal remuneration system, are permitted. For groups of companies, such a condition already applies to the first NOW-scheme.
Employers applying for the NOW 2.0 will be obliged to encourage their employees to undergo further training and schooling to enable them to adapt to the new economic situation. Employers will make a statement about this when applying for the NOW 2.0. To help employers and employees with this, the government is allocating EUR 50 million to the crisis program “NL leert door”, where as of July 2020 people will be able to follow online training and development and get advice free of charge.
Dismissal due to economic reasons
In the NOW 2.0, the correction to the subsidy in the event of dismissal is maintained, but the scheme will be adjusted. In case of redundancies of less than 20 employees the fine of 50% will lapse under NOW 2.0. There is an additional provision included in the NOW 2.0 to prevent abuse in the event of dismissal for commercial reasons. In the event of larger dismissal applications under the Act on the Reporting of Collective Redundancies (dismissal for business economic reasons for 20 or more employees), a reduction of 5% of the final NOW subsidy will be imposed, unless an agreement on the dismissal applications has been reached between the employer and the interested trade unions (or, in the absence thereof, another representation of employees), or, if this is not the case, mediation has been requested by these parties from a committee to be set up by the Labour Foundation.