The National Employment Office (Onem) has opened 1,692 investigations for possible abuse of the temporary unemployment system, while a total of 139,605 employers have made use of this measure since the beginning of the health crisis, Dutch-language newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen reported on Friday.
Only 461 checks were carried out on the ground since 8 April, when physical visits were allowed again, the newspapers added. “Out of a total of 1.26 million temporary unemployed people with almost 140,000 employers, that number of checks is almost negligible,” they wrote.
The rules on temporary unemployment due to ‘force majeure’ (an event out of one’s control), adopted in response to the new coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, make it extremely difficult to detect fraud. The conditions of access are so broad and the flexibility for the employer so great that it makes checks almost impossible, the dailies explained.
So far, Onem has received 370 complaints about possible abuses of the system, but it has also launched some audits on its own initiative.
In the same newspapers, N-VA deputy Björn Anseeuw called for a tightening of the conditions of access, now that the temporary unemployment system has been extended until the end of August. “The back door to fraud is wide open,” Anseeuw said.
“The corona system of temporary unemployment remains in force until the end of August. We’re not going to change the conditions,” Employment Minister Nathalie Muylle replied.