The Dutch government is doing its best to control the effects of the coronavirus. It is also taking measures to help businesses that are affected by the crisis. You will probably have questions about these measures. See if your question is answered below. More information about the schemes can be found on the specific page.
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Running your business
The government has presented a re-opening plan for society in 5 steps. On 25 September, the 1.5-metre distancing rule was lifted. Corona entry passes are mandatory for hospitality, events, and sports matches for everyone aged 13 or over. Read more about the re-opening plan on the Government.nl website.
The article Rules for running your business offers a short summary of the rules for businesses, and links to the specific rules per sector. These rules were drawn up by the government together with relevant sector organisations. To find out if they do in yours, check the info on your safety region regularly (in Dutch). To avoid the spreading of the virus, there must be a good ventilation system in the place of work.
There is not enough money coming in, due to the corona crisis. You can no longer apply for NOW, Tozo, TVL, or TONK for the period after 30 September 2021. But there are still measures in place, depending on your type of business:
- The VLN is a compensation measure businesses that lose turnover due to the mandatory night-closing for hospitality. It opens mid-November.
- SMEs can make use of the extended SME credit guarantee scheme, BMKB-C.
- Small companies can also make use of the KKC, or bridging loans for small companies scheme.
- For agricultural entrepreneurs, there is the extended Credit Guarantee scheme for Agriculture (BL-C).
- Larger businesses can make use of the Business loan guarantee scheme, GO.
To help businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis, the SME credit guarantee scheme (BMKB) has been extended. This additional scheme is called BMKB-C. It came into effect on 16 March. The scheme allows companies to borrow (more) money more quickly from accredited financiers, such as banks. Entrepreneurs can use the BMKB-C for a bridge loan to meet their financial obligations, or to increase the overdraft limit (how much they are allowed to be ‘in the red’) on their current account.
The government wants to help businesses prevent liquidity problems due to the coronavirus. The BMKB-C means that the government stands as guarantor for companies that want to take out a loan, but are unable to offer their financiers (mostly banks) the financial security they want. In practice, this means that, using the BMKB-C, you can take out a bigger loan than you would be able to get based on your collateral. You can apply for the BMKB-C until 31 December 2021.
You cannot apply for the BMKB-C scheme yourself. You can ask an accredited financier, usually the bank, to make use of the scheme. Consult the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) website for a list of the accredited financing parties (in Dutch). Normally, the bank would apply to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for the scheme, but to speed up the procedure, the government and the banks have agreed to let the banks do the evaluation of applications themselves. The banks can use the BMKB-C scheme without consulting RVO.
Agreements must be fulfilled, that is the basis of our legal system. An appeal to force majeure is not often approved. You should not count on being able to make such an appeal successfully.
Whether or not force majeure is in play depends on the contract you have drawn up. Commercial contracts often feature a force majeure clause. This clause states under which circumstances force majeure applies, and what the consequences are if these circumstances occur. It usually features matters like government measures, strikes, sudden blockages to the infrastructure, or shortages in transport. So, you may be able to claim force majeure based on the government measures taken to stop the spreading of the coronavirus. It is also possible to include illness, epidemics or quarantine in your contract. The district court decides, if you have a dispute.
Does you agreement not contain a force majeure clause? Then check the applicable law. This may be either Dutch law, or the law in your customer’s country. Not being able to deliver is described in the law as ‘a shortcoming in the fulfilment of a contract’ in articles 74 and onwards of Book 6 of the Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek, in Dutch). Do you fail to meet your contractual obligations? Then you may ultimately have to pay damages.
Pandemic outbreaks, such as the coronavirus, are expected to be excluded from the terms and conditions of insurance policies.
The government has a scheme in place to co-fund travel organisations that offer vouchers to clients who cancel a package deal they had booked. For cancelled events, you can apply to the RVO for the Subsidy scheme for events cancelled due to corona measures.
It depends on the type of damage. If you miss out on income due to the coronavirus, that is a business damage, or trading loss. However, trading loss insurance only covers material damage, and the Insurers Association (Verbond van Verzekeraars) has announced (in Dutch) that income losses due to corona do not fall into that category.
When it comes to personnel, it is a different story. If your employees have to stay at home sick, you must continue to pay their wages. If you have taken out sick pay insurance, this will cover the obligation to continue wage payments. Is your employee unable to work, due to illness? Then the sick pay insurance will pay out, no matter what the illness. But if your employee has to remain in quarantine, or is unable to leave an area as a precautionary measure, the insurance company will not pay out.
What about you? If you decide not to work, because you don’t want to catch the virus, or if you are in quarantine, or unable to leave an area as a precautionary measure, your disability insurance will not cover it. Disability insurance only covers income loss due to illness or a (physical) inability to work, and that is not the case in the example described above. If you contract the coronavirus and become ill, the disability insurance will pay.
At this moment, the Dutch economy is picking up the pace. Businesses no longer have to close to comply with corona measures.
No. You cannot order your employees to come to work. If your employees do have to work on site, it is up to you to provide a safe working environment for your employees. This includes minimising the risk of them contracting coronavirus by providing the means to disinfect work stations, and proper ventilation. If the work cannot be done from home, make sure your employees are able to keep a safe distance. Even though 1.5 metres' distance is no longer required, it is still strongly advised.
The requirement to wear a facemask indoors and in a public space no longer applies. In the following locations, face masks are still mandatory: public transport, aeroplanes, and other forms of passenger transport, bus and train stations, and airports (after check-in).
Rijksoverheid.nl has prepared several information posters about the coronavirus, available in several languages.
If your staff cannot come to work as a consequence of mandatory quarantine, travel restrictions or other coronavirus-induced blockages, you will most likely have to continue paying them. However, which exact rules apply depends on the specific circumstances and the labour laws per country.
When your employees work from home, the Dutch Working Conditions Act (Arbeidsomstandighedenwet) applies. Communicate the agreements with your employees. Think of agreements about breaks, maintenance of computers and equipment of machines. You should also inform them of the risks they run, such as the risk of RSI or work-related stress. It is also advisable to check whether the workplace meets the working conditions requirements. You can find out by having your employee fill in a checklist. Does the workplace fail to meet the requirements? Then you have to facilitate a better workplace. Also read the article Employer during the corona crisis: what you can and must do.
Continue to ask your employees to work from home and in the office try to facilitate distancing. If your employees travel to work using public transport, make sure they wear non-medical face masks. You can reimburse them for the costs. If an employee displays any corona-associated symptoms, urge them to take a test and to stay at home. You cannot force them to take a test and you are not allowed to ask the result of a test, due to privacy.
Contact the RIVM directly if you have doubts about what to do in specific situations.
Self-employed (including zzp)
Here are some measures you can take yourself when you find your company is in stormy weather:
- Look for changes you could make to your business processes. Perhaps you could get deliveries from different suppliers, from other countries, or you could offer your services in a different region.
- Do you have outstanding invoices? See if you can get these paid. Or you could try factoring, a type of credit where you ‘sell’ your outstanding invoices to a third party, and quickly get your money.
- Discuss the possibility of a longer than usual payment term with your suppliers and other parties you owe money.
- Look into external financing. Always ask your bank first (for instance a current account) before considering other financing options (also see: SME credit guarantee scheme).
Take care! Flash credits may seem a quick and easy way to get money, but they come at a price – usually a high one. Is your company in debt? Read this article to see what you can do about it.
Yes. Self-employed professionals (zzp-ers) can make use of the BMKB-C if their legal business entity is a sole trader/proprietor, a general partnership (vof) or a private limited company (bv). Generally speaking however, zzp-ers have lower financing needs, and so do not often make use of this scheme.
TechLeap.nl offers the COVID-19 Startup Guide, a toolkit that contains resources, contact and information points, as well as analyses of the corona crisis.
The Netherlands Point of Entry advises all Netherlands Startup Visa holders to contact the RVO Startup Visa team directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Regional Development Companies (ROMs) may be able to help you out. Contact the ROM in your province or region. If you want to apply for a loan, fill out the form on the Techleap.nl website. An English translation (pdf) is available.
SMEs with relatively small financial needs may be eligible for a bridging loan of up to €50,000 under the Small Corona Credit Guarantee Scheme (Klein Krediet Corona Garantieregeling or KKC).
International business and travel
The government is taking several measures to protect international trade. The export credit insurance now also covers short-term projects that have been active for less than 2 years. In addition, options for domestic coverage are extended, national policies will become more flexible and coverage will be available for more countries. Procedures are also extended and accelerated, and a higher percentage of working capital is covered. For more information, visit Rijksoverheid.nl (in Dutch).
For cancelled travel plans, consult your travel organisation. Consult your insurance company for events and conferences.
For full and up to date details on who is and who is not allowed to travel into the Netherlands, check the Government.nl Visiting the Netherlands page.
It seems unlikely that Customs procedures for goods will be more stringent, since the virus does not spread that way. Do you run into problems at Customs? FME, the Dutch technology sector organisation, has opened a notification and information portal for entrepreneurs who have to deal with the negative impact of the coronavirus.
- If you were granted a payment extension for income tax, corporate tax, payroll tax, and turnover tax (VAT) before 1 October 2021, and you can prove that you are unable to start paying tax dues incurred after that date, you can request an extra extension until January 2022.
- If you were granted the special tax payment extension for one or all of the abovementioned taxes, you will have 5 years to pay, starting no later than 1 October 2022.
- You will not have to pay any fines for late payment. Also, it is not necessary to send in any proof straightaway. You will have more time for this.
Call the Tax Information Line
Since the information on the tax options offered to entrepreneurs during the coronavirus crisis is mostly only available in Dutch, it would be wise to consult the Tax Information Line if Dutch isn't your primary language. The number for resident entrepreneurs is +31 (0)800 0543; non-residents can call +31(0)55 538 53 85.
It is also a good idea to ask someone - your accountant, for instance - to help you.