Workplace safety is (thankfully) becoming increasingly important in our society. Due to recent developments at large firms, this topic is rapidly coming up for discussion. So too in politics. The second chamber has tabled an accelerated bill. In it, having a confidential advisor will become mandatory for all companies, with the aim of preventing such abuses in the workplace. A vote took place in the second chamber on 23 May 2023, with a majority in favour of making it compulsory for companies with more than 10 employees to have a confidential advisor. It is now waiting for the first chamber to agree to this as well.
Why make a trustee a legal requirement?
Employers, large or small, are legally obliged under the Working Conditions Act to provide a safe working environment for employees. Paying attention to employees' psychosocial workload is covered by the Working Conditions Act. The submitted bill obliges employers to appoint a confidential advisor, regardless of the size of the company. By doing so, the Lower House wants to strengthen the legal position of the confidential advisor in organisations. The proposal should contribute to behavioural change, resulting in a safer workplace for all employees.
A confidential counsellor is an internal or external person with whom employees of a company can talk confidentially about undesirable behaviour or lack of integrity. This includes, for example, reporting bullying, (sexual) harassment, discrimination, but also abuse of power, fraud or theft. These issues can have unpleasant consequences for your employees, so it is nice if they can discuss this confidentially with an independent person. The role of a trustee is to accommodate and guide the employee and then educate and inform them about the possible next steps.
What options are available to employers?
Once the change in the law is implemented, as an employer you basically have two options. Appointing an internal confidential advisor, or appointing an external confidential advisor. Both options are covered by the change in law and, as an employer, you can make that choice yourself.
Appointing an internal confidential advisor involves assigning an employee within your organisation the role of confidential advisor. In that case, this employee is a confidant in addition to his/her own function. To perform this role as well as possible, the employer must train the confidant. In fact, it is compulsory to obtain a number of courses and certificates as a confidant. This is a costly investment for both parties, not only of money but also of time. Bear in mind with this that this employee may also quit his/her job, resulting in you having to reinvest in an in-house confidant. There may also be a situation where the internal confidant has a conflict with an employee, or vice versa. In this case, solving the problem internally becomes difficult.
When you choose to use an external confidential advisor, you hire a certified, independent confidential advisor. This confidant is often affiliated with an organisation that specialises in this. This saves you a lot of time and training costs. Your employees can call on the confidant when necessary. This can be about a report of undesirable behaviour, but also of acts of lack of integrity. When you engage an external confidential advisor, you are assured of professional help and the most up-to-date knowledge.
Read here more on the differences between internal and external confidential counsellors.
What are the implications for employers without a trustee?
The works council or employee representative, as well as employees, can file a complaint with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment if this legislation is not complied with. In case you as an employer do not have a protocol for any problems in the workplace, the conclusion can quickly be that the organisation has not done enough to prevent undesirable behaviour. Appointing a confidential advisor and having a protocol for undesirable behaviour helps employers avoid liability and/or legal problems.
Benefits of obligation of trustee
The consequences of sexual harassment can have a major impact on your employees. Victims not only become unhappy, but also less productive. In addition, they may call in sick, look for another job or even become disabled. Research by Arbobalans from 2020 shows that work-related psychological complaints account for 64% of the 6 billion in absenteeism costs. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as an employer, you are obliged to take good care of your staff. You must protect them not only from physical complaints, but also from psychological and social complaints. Hiring a confidential counsellor helps create a safe working atmosphere for your employees.
Because whether you have a large or small business, people work. These people experience all kinds of things on the shop floor. These can be nice things, but unfortunately also not so nice things. It is vital that your employees can talk confidentially to an independent person and feel heard. It works to everyone's advantage to make a confidential advisor mandatory. Not only for your employees, but also for you as an employer, it is nice to have a protocol in place.
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Many companies are struggling to comply with this new legislation, when a trustee becomes mandatory for all companies. For this reason, we have designed membership for SMEs. This ensures that you comply with the new legislation and always have an external confidential advisor at your disposal. Want to know more? We would be happy to help.
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