Dutch gov't to cover 90% of salaries lost for work hours reduction: Report

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Stock photo of the Netherlands flag, cash in euros, and a calculatorphoto: Zerbor / DepositPhotos

The ruling Dutch Cabinet said it would expand a program to provide relief to employers who have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The program concerns businesses in crisis that want to temporarily reduce their salaried workers' contracted hours and adjust their pay accordingly. The scheme currently provides government funding to cover 75 percent of the lost wages, paid directly to the employee, with the employer covering the remainder.

That is set to increase to a 90 percent maximum guarantee from the government, reported broadcaster NOS based on anonymous sources. The move is in addition to the expanded BMKB financing program for small and mid-sized businesses, where a credit facility is provided by the bank with the government committing to repay up to 90 percent of the money lent if the company is unable to repay.

The government has also said it would provide further assistance for over a million self-employed people. More details of all three programs were expected to be released Tuesday night.

Any expansion of these programs would demonstrate commitment from the Dutch Cabinet after Prime Minister Mark Rutte promised no entrepreneur would be left stranded as coronavirus forced several new restrictions on Dutch society and the national economy. Speaking to the country's entrepreneurs large and small, Rutte said, "The Cabinet will do what it takes to support you."

It contrasts against statements made by Economics Affairs Minister Eric Wiebes, who spoke of the social restrictions in a weekend interview. "It will mean a decline in income for many freelancers. They also opted for this themselves." He then explained, "The freelancers have said themselves that they do not want permanent employment. These people have consciously taken that risk themselves."

As of Tuesday evening over 54 thousand businesses have requested permission to reduce employee work hours, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs. Normally, just a few hundred companies apply for the permit in any given year.

Dutch flag carrier KLM was one of the companies to apply to the ministry for permission. It planned to slash the hours of 70 percent of its staff as it reduced its passenger schedule down to just 10 to 20 percent of normal operations.

The large number of applications caused the Ministry's website to slow down significantly, and to crash on ocassion.