EU Whistleblowing Directive – BelgiumREAD THE FULL BILL (FR, NL)
Last update 21 February 2023
Whistleblowers protection already in place
Before the introduction of the EU Directive
Belgium didn’t have a general framework for whistleblowers protection. However, two specific whistleblowing regimes existed for the private sector: an anti-money laundering Directive, and a a sectoral whistleblowing regime for reporting infringements of the financial legislation to the National Bank of Belgium and the Financial Services and Markets Authority.
Whistleblowers in Belgium didn’t have any procedures they had to follow to make a report, neither did they have any specific protection.
Current implementation status
After the introduction and adoption of a new whistleblowing law partially transposing the EU Direcrtive in December 2022, Belgium introduced its final federal and regional whistleblowing rules.
The first draft bill passed on November 28th, 2022 only applied to protecting whistleblowers in the private sector. Legislation for the public sector was passed on December 8th, 2022.
The new Whistleblowing Law came into effect on February 15th, 2023.
All entities employing at least 50 employees must introduce a local reporting channel by February 15, 2023. Companies up to 249 employees have until December 17, 2023 to do so.
For companies with less than 50 employees, the implementation of reporting channels allowing employees to report violations and the company to follow-up is not mandatory, but encouraged.
A broader scope of protection
The transposition of the EU Directive into Belgium law adds to the original text with two particularities:
- Belgium has added the area of fight against tax and social fraud to the areas mentioned in Article 2 of the Directive
- Companies with more than 250 employees must also process anonymous reports, while those with less than 250 employees don’t have an obligation to accept such reports
Implementation procedures of an internal reporting channel
The reporting channel can but put in place only after consultation with “social stakeholders”.
The Belgian Act defines the social stakeholders as follow:
- Either the representative organizations of the employees (referred to in Article 3 of the Belgian Act)
- Or the representatives of the workers within the works council or, failing that,
- The trade union delegation or, failing that,
- The comittee for prevention and protection at work or, failing that,
- The employees of the enterprise or,
- The representative trade union organizations whitin the meaning of the Belgian Act
For organizations with less than 100 employees, the consultation will be carried out within the committee for prevention and protection at work (“Comité pour la prévention et la protection au travail”).
Scope of reporting matters
There are no limitations regarding the scope of topics that can be reported through a Whistleblowing system.
This makes the material scope of application of the Belgian whistleblowing policy broader than that intended by the EU Directive as it also concerns tax/social fraud and tax evasion.
The Whistleblowing law concerns all employees or officials who have obtained information in a work-related context.
Self-employed consultants, trainees, ex-employees, directorrs, shareholders will also be protected if they report a breach in good faith. The Act also applies to workers that did not start yet if the information is obtained during the recruitment process.
Centralized group channels are not enough
Multinationals and global organizations operating in several regions muust adopt local channels in EU countries and cannot solely rely on their centralized group channels.
However, for subsidiaries at the local level with less than 250 workers, the group can give the option to make available the investigative capacity of the parent comapny. This can only be an option that the whistleblowers has agreed to, and only for the puurpose of carrying out the investigation.
Language and follow-up requirements
The internal policy as well as the Whistleblowing system itself must at least be available:
- In Dutch if the employer is located in Flanders
- In French if the employer is located in Wallonia,
- In French or Dutch depending on the language of the employee if the employer is located in the Brussels region (bilingual region)
An acknowledgement of receipt of the alert must be sent to the whistleblower within 7 days of receipt.
A feedback must be given within a reasonable time limit, not exceeding 3 months from the acknowledgement of receipt.
Measures to prevent retaliation against Whistleblowers
Anonymous reports must be processed by companies with more than 250 employees. Other companies don’t have to accept anonymous reports but can do so.
Wether or not an organization accepts anonymous reports, it must guarantee confidentiality. Measures must be provided, including:
- Comprehensive and independant information and advice, which is easily accessible and free of charge, on the procedures and remedies available, on protection against retaliation, as well as on the rights of the person concerned, including his or her rights with regard to the protection of personal data; the whistleblower must also be informed that they can benefit from the protection measures provided by the law
- Giving technical advice about any authority that is concerned by the protection of the whistleblower
- Giving legal assistance in criminal and civil proceedings
- Support measures, including technical, psychological, media and social support
- Giving financial assistance for whistleblowers in the context of judicial proceedings
Get a Head Start
Having a flexible platform that can adapt to any legislation and regulations can give you a great head start. With Whispli, you can build up your solution according to your current needs, and modify it at any time.
You can start by complying to the minimum requirement of the EU Directive today and adjust to your local legislation later.
Get in touch with one of our expert and get a guided demo to see how Whispli can help your Organization to comply with the Directive.
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