Employers in the Netherlands suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis are entitled to assistance in managing their pension liabilities. This article provides details.
At the very beginning of the COVID crisis in March, it was announced that pension providers would accommodate employers facing financial problems due to the COVID crisis as much as possible. The Dutch Labour Foundation, the Pension Federation and the Dutch Association of Insurers agreed on this.
Because the problems differ between sectors and employers, tailor-made solutions were offered based on the following options:
- payment arrangements at the employer’s request;
- temporarily extended payment terms in affected sectors (for example, the Metal Pension Funds (PME) temporarily extended their payment term from two to eight weeks (from March until June).
- eased collection policies, for example by postponing the use of collection agencies and/ or the imposition of administrative fines in affected sectors.
However, the Dutch government has also introduced temporary emergency measures to protect employment opportunities during the COVID crisis: the NOW scheme (see here for more details). The NOW scheme is intended for employers who are faced with a substantial loss of turnover as a result of COVID (at least 20% and at least 30% by January 2021). These employers can receive an advance payment as compensation for wage costs.
The NOW scheme also includes a fixed surcharge for, among other things, holiday pay, pension premiums and other employer’s contributions. This fixed surcharge was increased from 30 to 40% from 1 June 2020. This allows employers to continue their pension payments and limits the risk that employers are not able to meet their payment obligations. The Pension Regulator (Dutch Central Bank; DNB), is flexible towards pension funds who allow employer short-term delays, for example for the period until compensation from the NOW scheme has been awarded.
The NOW scheme will be extended with three periods of three months, effective 1 October 2020.
Employers who do not qualify for the NOW scheme or choose not to apply for the scheme may be able to (temporarily) lower the pension accrual, by changing the pension agreement. Employees’ consent is required, unless the employer has grounds for a unilateral change. We advise employers to take legal advice when considering implementing changes to pension agreements.