Antivirus A Plus – improved support for closed businesses
On 14 October 2020, the government extended Regime A of the Antivirus programme until the end of the year, and at the same time launched Regime A Plus with retroactive effect from October 1. The new regime offers significantly more favourable conditions for the support of restaurant owners and other employers who were forced to restrict their operations. However, not all employers will qualify for A Plus.
Since April of this year, Antivirus, an employment protection programme, has been compensating employers for a portion of wage compensations they pay to employees not working due to ‘impediments to work’. While Regime A applies to ordered restrictions of operation and quarantine, Regime B covers associated economic difficulties faced by employers – such as a decline in demand for their products or services.
In October, both regimes were extended by the government until 31 December 2020. At the same time, along with new measures restricting business activity, the government adopted A Plus, a new regime of the Antivirus programme.
Regime A Plus is based on Regime A, but applies only to businesses that were ordered to restrict their operations; where employees are not working due to ordered quarantine or isolation, support has to be applied for under standard Regime A.
Also, support under Regime A Plus is more generous: while under Regime A the employer is entitled to reimbursements of 80% of the wage compensations and statutory premium payments amounting to up to CZK 39,000 per employee, under Regime A Plus the employer is entitled to the reimbursement of 100% of wage compensations, up to CZK 50,000 per one employee.
However, to qualify for support under Regime A Plus, additional conditions beyond those for the other regimes of the Antivirus programme have to be met, following from the rules for the provision of state aid in the EU stipulated in Article 3.1 of the Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy in the Current Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease, governing Regime A Plus.
The first requirement is that the aid be used to compensate losses of liquidity. For the purposes of Regime A Plus, a loss of liquidity is assumed and does not have to be proven in any manner. The second condition is that the sum total of all aid received by the applicant and its related undertakings under Article 3.1 of the Temporary Framework (in the Czech Republic also, for instance, COVID-rent, COVID-spa, etc.) shall not exceed EUR 800,000. For the fishing and aquaculture sector, this limit has been reduced to EUR 120,000 and for agricultural primary production to EUR 100,000. The third condition is that the aid applicant is not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ as per the European Commission’s definition.
In practice, applicants support their compliance with the conditions through an affidavit. To prove that they have not exceeded the overall limit for public aid, with each wage compensation statement they must submit a list of aid granted to them under Article 3.1 of the Temporary Framework, including the amounts. As the support under Regime A Plus itself falls within this category of aid, the list of aid has to be regularly updated for aid granted under A Plus for the past months.
Employers who have been ordered to restrict or close their operations but do not meet some of the additional conditions for participation in A Plus may still apply for support under standard Regime A. Both regimes may be combined in individual months and for individual employees.
For employers ordered to restrict their operations, Antivirus A Plus is undoubtedly more advantageous than Regime A. However, employers must first assess whether they meet the additional conditions to qualify. Given the complexity of the new rules, it may be difficult in practice for employees to assess whether they are eligible for support under Regime A Plus without professional legal advice.