Better protection for whistleblowers approved by ministers

Better protection for whistleblowers approved by ministers
Credit: Belga.

The Council of Ministers has approved safeguards for those who report irregularities in businesses and institutions, Le Soir reports on Friday.

While the European Union has passed legislation to protect whistleblowers in recent years, no such law exists in Belgium.

Until now, those who dared make public major flaws within their company faced being transferred or even fired from their jobs.

As a result, the Council of Ministers have agreed to protect whistleblowers from any repressive measures, making it easier to speak out against one's employer.

Three part protection

Any potential whistleblower will now have three options available. Firstly, if a company has more than 50 employees, an internal whistleblowing channel must be established. A whistleblower will also be appointed by the company.

This role entails receiving and responding to any written or in-person complaints within three months. The aim is to allow the organisation to deal with these issues internally without jeopardising their reputation. Even if these alerts are confidential, they cannot be anonymous unless the company employs more than 250 staff.

The Federal Ombudsman mediation service will also establish its own external channel for any whistleblowers dissatisfied with their company's internal response. Whistleblowing can be anonymous in this case and is also open to all former employees.

Finally, if neither of the first two options is successful, this new regulation will allow whistleblowers to go to the press.

Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Federal Minister of Employment, told Le Soir that this option will be available when these allegations "pose an immediate threat to the public interest, or where there is a risk of retaliation or destruction of evidence."

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In any case, the whistleblower will be protected by the government. Dermagne confirmed that any company that attempts to sanction the whistleblower may be ordered to pay the person concerned up to six months' salary, in addition to redundancy payments.

The Federal Institute for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights will also provide professional, legal, and psychological assistance to any whistleblower who requests it.

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