Luxembourg to ease access to work permits for trailing spouses

Moving to Luxembourg will be made easier for highly skilled foreigners as trailing spouses will get easier access to work permits under proposals made by the government on 13 December Photo: Shutterstock

Moving to Luxembourg will be made easier for highly skilled foreigners as trailing spouses will get easier access to work permits under proposals made by the government on 13 December Photo: Shutterstock

The government plans to make it easier for so-called trailing spouses to receive a work permit as part of measures to boost Luxembourg’s economy and talent pool.

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) and members of his cabinet on 13 December met with social partners for a so-called tripartite meeting. The talks with employer and employee groups were first introduced during the 1970s steel crisis and form part of the country’s crisis management toolbox.

As part of Monday’s talks, the government said it would make it easier for the partners of people moving to Luxembourg for a job to receive a work permit.

Details of the scheme are yet to be unveiled but labour minister Dan Kersch (LSAP) said labour law would have to be changed accordingly. This means the government must propose a bill to parliament, which is then discussed in committee before moving to a vote, a process that usually takes several months.

Bettel said the lack of options for spouses to work in Luxembourg is a barrier to attracting highly skilled staff. The government also plans to make it easier for companies to employ people with refugee status, the prime minister said.

The discussions around skills will have to continue, Bettel said. The government had previously commissioned a study on the topic with the OECD, the results of which are yet to be revealed.

Partial unemployment, business aid until February.

All parties agreed that partial unemployment payments should continue until February to companies in sectors impacted by the pandemic and covid-19 restrictions. Under the scheme, the government pays 80% of wages for staff working reduced hours in a bid to prevent companies from laying off employees.

For staff working on minimum wage, the government pays the full salary. While saving staff costs, businesses must still pay social security contributions.

Aid scheme previously prolonged until the end of the year have also been extended until February, Bettel announced.

Under the costs not covered scheme, companies can get money to pay for expenditure, such as operating expenses, payroll, financial and other external charges. This aid applies for companies with a turnover of at least €15,000 who suffered a loss of turnover of 40% or more. At least one self-employed person must be affiliated with Luxembourg’s social security system.

Under the recovery aid programme, businesses can get up to €800,000 or 85% of the loss of turnover over the course of six months based on the number of employees they have. Companies must have a valid business licence and must have suffered a loss of turnover of at least 25%. The two schemes are mutually exclusive.

Meeting next year

Labour unions ahead of the meeting had said they wanted to discuss the financial situation of households and purchasing power. Finance minister Pierre Gramegna (DP) is set to address this topic during his speech about the 2020 budget on Wednesday, Bettel said.

However, the premier also added that the government and labour unions did not agree on the numbers, for example regarding public investment. Bettel said unions had a “long list of demands”, from housing and student loans to taxation and healthcare.

“A number of them are difficult to envision,” Bettel said, adding that the national tripartite should not replace meetings dedicated to issues such as housing or climate throughout the year. “The tripartite is important to highlight the subjects that are important to get through this crisis,” he said.

Issues tabled by unions will be forwarded to the relevant ministries and another tripartite meeting will take place next year before the summer holiday.

The government called a meeting of the tripartite last year in July after labour unions for weeks had demanded for the three-party talks to take place. The LCGB already back in May this year had demanded renewed talks.

There was no sign of tax reform measures that labour unions had demanded. “None of us expected the covid crisis,” Bettel told reporters during a press conference following the talks. The cost of partial unemployment and aid programmes alone was €1.5bn to date, he said, not including other costs of the pandemic, such as testing or vaccination drives.