Follow Eurofound

Short-time working schemes could be paramount for Europe’s long-term pandemic response

News   •   Mar 25, 2021 11:00 GMT

Short-time work or similar measures were implemented in all EU Member States during 2020, contributing greatly to limiting the rise in unemployment that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, and demonstrating their potential for the mitigation of job loss in future crises. However, the scope and level of income protection varied significantly between countries, with workers on casual contracts most likely to be excluded, followed by some groups of self-employed and some workers on temporary contracts – this according to Eurofound’s new report COVID-19: Implications for employment and working life .

The report focuses on assessing the first employment impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, including its effects across sectors and for different categories of workers. It also looks at measures implemented to limit negative employment impacts following the Coronavirus outbreak in Europe, including the development, content and impact of short-time working schemes, income support measures for self-employed, hardship funds and rent and mortgage deferrals.

In total, one-quarter of all Member States reserved access to short-time working schemes for employers experiencing a drop in revenue of more than 25% and/or with over 30% of the workforce impacted by a reduction in working time. The income replacement rate received by employees for hours not worked ranged from 60% to 100%, with the levels of income actually received sometimes significantly below this rate as a result of the cap applied to maximum payments granted. Duration of access for the schemes, assessed between March and October 2020, also varied, from 2 to 21 months.

During the first wave of the pandemic, approximately 20% of the workforce benefited from some of these measures at some stage, with at least 13 countries offering dismissal protection beyond the period of eligibility for short-time working allowances, ranging from 1 month to over 12 months. Five countries extended dismissal protection to an employer’s whole workforce.

Despite divergences in their implementation, and limitations in their coverage, short-time work or similar measures were successful in mitigating job loss and associated economic hardship resulting from the pandemic. The report recommends the permanent establishment of short-time working or similar systems that can be activated in future crisis situations.

Disclaimer: Please note that the COVID-19: Implications for employment and working life report was updated with revised data (specifically for Bulgaria) on 23 March 2021.


Download the report:


Relevant data:


More information: