The ‘Springboard to self-employment’ (‘Springplank naar zelfstandige’) benefit is a measure that allows for a person to perform a sideline activity as a self-employed person while still being entitled to unemployment benefits for a period of twelve months.
1. What are the conditions?
To take advantage of this measure, the following conditions must be fulfilled:
- When you start your sideline profession you inform the benefits agency thereof at the time you apply for benefits. If you are already receiving unemployment benefits, then inform the agency before starting the activity.
- Please note: if you do not inform them in good time, then there is a risk you will be required to repay the unemployment benefits and you will not be entitled to those benefits for a number of weeks. You could also be subject to criminal prosecution.
- You may not quit your job as a salaried employee just so you can take advantage of this measure. Your unemployment cannot be caused by quitting or cutting back on salaried employment for the purpose of obtaining the ‘Springboard to self-employment’ benefit.
- You cannot have performed your future sideline activity as a principal activity in the previous six years, with that time calculated from the date of the end of the professional activity to the date of the start of the sideline activity.
- You cannot have third parties perform your activity, such as by contracting or subcontracting somebody.
The following activities cannot be performed within the scope of the ‘Springboard to self-employment’ benefit:
- the profession practiced as a salaried employee;
- an artistic activity.
Moreover, you must fulfil the following additional obligations in order to make use of the measure:
- you must be registered as a jobseeker;
- you must be available to join the labour market. This means that you must accept every suitable position and accept requests from the regional job placement service;
- you must be fit for work;
- you must be resident in Belgium.
2. How long can this measure be used?
The ‘Springboard to self-employment’ benefit is awarded for 12 months, starting from the date upon which the activity is started or when the benefit is first applied for. The period cannot be extended.
3. Accumulated income as a self-employed person and from unemployment benefits
You may accumulate the income from the activity you perform together with your unemployment benefits under the ‘Springboard to self-employment’, but only to a limited degree. The daily sum you receive in unemployment benefits will be reduced by that part of the sum you earn daily from your sideline activity that exceeds €13.70. Bear in mind that the income will only be known two years later, and if it is determined at that stage that the daily sum was exceeded by a considerable margin, you may be required to repay your unemployment benefits in full. It is not inconceivable that, in that event, you will be penalised. For example: if the net daily income from your sideline activity amounts to €20, then the daily sum you receive in unemployment benefits will be cut by the difference between €20 and €13.70. Your daily income is calculated by dividing by 312 the net taxable annual income (= gross – expenses).
4. When does this status end?
As soon as you are effectively practicing a principal activity as a self-employed person, you are no longer entitled to unemployment benefits. If you cease your sideline activity you will still receive unemployment benefits. We recommend that you inform your benefits agency as quickly as possible if you quit. If you continue your activity after 12 months, you will no longer receive benefits. However, deviations from that rule are possible if, before taking advantage of this benefit, you already performed your sideline activity while unemployed with the permission of the National Employment Office (Rijksdienst voor Arbeidsvoorziening – RVA). In that event, please contact your benefits agency.
5. If you do not meet the conditions
If you submit an application to take advantage of this benefit and it emerges that you do not meet the conditions, you will receive a decision declining the application. You can lodge an appeal within three months against this decision with the labour court.
6. You can take advantage of this status more than once
You can take advantage of the benefit again after a period of six years, starting from the date it last ended, and if all conditions are once again met. If you have any further questions or seek assistance in taking advantage of this measure, then please get in touch with the team of our Legal Department.