On 1 April 2009, the temporary part-time unemployment scheme was introduced. The aim was to retain skilled workers who would otherwise be laid off due to the economic recession. Employers can file requests after approval by the trade unions.
Part-time unemployment benefits are basically granted for a period of three months. Subsequently, the period can be extended twice for a period of six months. Labour contracts remain valid and employees do not have to search for a job elsewhere, nor do they have to participate in a re-integration track. During their period of unemployment, employees forfeit rights they have acquired up in the past, but they also build up new rights over the hours they work under the part-time unemployment scheme. The part-time unemployment benefit scheme is the substitute for the special scheme for reduction of working hours, which expired on 21 March 2009. The part-time unemployment benefit scheme abolished on 23 June 2009, when the entire budget of 375 million euro had been spent.
Since 20 July 2009, employers can use the new more rigid scheme. The Minister of Social Affairs wants employers to consider more carefully before they file a request. As a result, more employers will be able to benefit from the scheme and abuse will be discouraged. The budget has been raised from 375 to 950 million euro. Employers must reduce working hours of their employees by at least 20 percent and have the intention to use the scheme for a period of at least six months.