Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has relaxed the rules of the government’s wage support package for companies hit by coronavirus so that more will qualify for help.
So far at least 100,000 companies have applied for assistance under the NOW scheme, which covers up to 90% of payroll costs, if a firm can prove they have lost at least 20% of turnover.
Koolmees has now agreed to relax that figure, so that companies which have lost less than 20% of sales will also qualify. They will have to agree to make a deal with unions about keeping jobs and stop the payment of bonuses and dividends this year.
The minister has also said the scheme can apply to separate companies within a larger group which currently don’t qualify if the group as a whole has not been seriously affected. Here too, companies must commit to keeping jobs and refrain from paying bonuses and dividends in 2020, Koolmees said.
The current package expires at the end of May and the government has already said it will continue to help firms who are struggling to pay staff. But there has been mounting pressure from left-wing parties and unions for stricter conditions to be attached when the ruling is rolled over.
The news that hotel booking agency Booking.com had applied for NOW help to pay its staff in the Netherlands irritated many, not least because the company has spent billions of euros in profits buying back shares.
Koolmees also told MPs on Wednesday he is looking into what more can be done for people on flexible contracts, who currently don’t qualify for emergency aid, and for seasonal workers.
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