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Inappropriate behaviour and integrity issues: a summary of legal obligations

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

We anticipate that a requirement for organisations to have a designated confidential advisor will be introduced. The bill is currently being deliberated in the House of Representatives. As part of their inspections, the Inspectorate of Social Affairs and Employment already verifies the presence of a well-trained contact person. Allow us to provide you with a comprehensive overview of other legal obligations in this domain.

Inappropriate behaviour in the workplace

Every employer is obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to implement a policy on psychosocial work conditions aimed at optimizing psychological and social work environments, including the prevention of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

Legally required for every employer are:

  • A Risk Inventory & Evaluation (RI&E)

  • An Action Plan

  • Both must be reviewed by a certified occupational health service or expert if you have more than 25 employees

In addition to the RI&E and Action Plan, organisations can:

  • Establish a code of conduct for (in)appropriate behavior.

  • Appoint a preferably external confidential advisor.

  • Implement a complaints procedure.

  • Conduct additional investigations if necessary.

  • Provide support, guidance, and aftercare for victims of inappropriate behaviour.

Currently, there is a pending legislative proposal that would make the appointment of an (external) confidential advisor mandatory regardless of the size of the company or organisation. It is expected that this legislative proposal, with or without amendments, will be adopted and the appointment of an (external) confidential advisor will become mandatory.

Integrity issues in the workplace

The Whistleblower Protection Act has been amended as of February 18, 2023. The changes are as follows:

  • Prohibition of detrimental treatment of whistleblowers (employees, civil servants, self-employed individuals, volunteers, interns, applicants, contractors, shareholders, directors, and suppliers, those who assist whistleblowers, internal investigators, and involved third parties).

  • Burden of proof on the employer to demonstrate that detrimental treatment is not a consequence of the report.

  • Indemnification of the whistleblower in judicial proceedings.

  • Internal reporting scheme.

  • Direct external reporting to an external confidential advisor is always possible.

  • Specific protection of the identity of the whistleblower applies to all reports, including those made to employers and other competent authorities.

  • Stringent requirements for internal reporting procedure; possibility of written and oral reporting, acknowledgment of receipt, feedback, obligation to register.

  • Specific requirements for external reporting procedure; possibility of written and oral reporting, acknowledgment of receipt, feedback, obligation to register, designation of responsible and adequately trained personnel, provision of sufficient information about the procedure and protection on the website, obligation to evaluate procedures.

  • Protection of whistleblowers reporting suspected wrongdoing, work-related reports of suspected breaches or risks of breaches of Union law or risks of breaches of legal provisions or internal rules of an employer, where there is a public interest involved.

  • Definition of detrimental treatment: any form of detriment such as suspension, dismissal, demotion, denial of promotion, salary reduction, change of work location, negative evaluation, written reprimand, discrimination, intimidation, harassment, exclusion, defamation, slander.

Organisations with more than 50 employees must adjust their internal procedure for reporting wrongdoing to the new law by December 17, 2023. Organisations with more than 250 employees must already comply with this requirement.

Organisations with fewer than 50 employees will also need to establish an internal reporting procedure as a result of the EU directive if they operate in the field of financial services, products and markets, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, civil aviation, maritime labour and port state control, and offshore oil and gas activities.

If you would like to know more about the legal obligations your organization must meet and how Partners in Vertrouwen can assist you as an external confidential advisor, please feel free to contact Partners in Trust. We are happy to help.

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