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Staffing firms in Belgium have had a tough year in 2012 with activity levels in the recruitment industry falling for months. Even large players like Randstad and Adecco could not avert the downturn and are now forced to encourage some of their consultants to take “temporary unemployment.”
The Belgian newspaper Standaard today reports that deteriorating market conditions have led to some staffing companies signing a collective agreement which will see hundreds of recruitment consultants staying at home for one or, in some cases, two days a week.
This is known as “part-time temporary employment”, allowing staffing firms to avoid layoffs. Only employees who volunteer to take part in the scheme will be affected by it. The temporary unemployment programme can be used by employers when they temporarily face economic troubles. The employees are then entitled to unemployment benefits.
The newspaper reports that both Randstad and Adecco have signed up to the scheme. PR manager at Randstad Belgium, Renaud Dechamps, said: “We do this just for this quarter. We hope that after all the activity picks up again this summer.” According to him, hundreds of employees have volunteered to participate in the scheme. According to the latest market forecasts by Staffing Industry Analysts, the Belgian staffing industry is poised for marginal growth after last year’s slump but with anticipated growth coming during the second half of the year.
Temporary unemployment can be invoked for companies that have seen their turnover fall. Randstad reported in February that revenue per working day in Belgium fell -8% during the fourth quarter. Similarly, Adecco saw fourth-quarter revenue in the Benelux countries, which includes Belgium, drop by -6%.
Herwig Muyldermans from the Belgian association of staffing companies said that firms want to retain their staff and are keen to avoid restructuring. The Belgian union LBC-NVK accepted the scheme, and said that it was the only option to avoid restructuring.