New Recommendations Concerning Workplace Bullying

Author:Ms Catherine Longeval
Profession:Van Bael & Bellis

On 14 July 2011, the House Committee on Social Affairs of the Belgian Parliament adopted a proposal (the "Proposal") containing a number of recommendations to strengthen the fight against workplace bullying by making changes to the existing legal framework and in particular to the Law of 4 August 1996 on the wellbeing of employees in the performance of their work (Wet betreffende het welzijn van de werknemers bij de uitvoering van hun werk/Loi relative au bien-être des travailleurs lors de l'exécution de leur travail) (the "Law on Wellbeing at Work")

The Law on Wellbeing at Work obliges each company to appoint at least one person of trust whom employees can turn to for assistance and advice, when confronted with bullying. The Proposal recommends that this individual be required to follow training, without specifying who should bear the costs for such training. The Proposal also recommends that the training of the prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects (Preventieadviseur psychosociale aspecten/Conseiller en prévention aspects psychosociaux) be reviewed in order to better reflect the needs of the prevention advisors in the field.

Moreover, in accordance with the Law on Wellbeing at Work, an employee who believes to be the subject of violence, bullying or sexual harassment at the workplace can initiate an internal procedure, file a complaint with the supervisory officials or initiate court proceedings. The Proposal clarifies the distinction between informal and formal internal procedures and the different steps in each procedure.

An employee who filed a substantiated complaint is protected against dismissal. This means that the employer must not terminate the employment contract or modify unilaterally the working conditions, except for reasons that are unrelated to the complaint. In case of a dismissal in violation of this protection, the employee is entitled to compensation of six months' gross salary. Moreover, the Committee suggests that when an employee leaves the company...

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