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By Marcus Hoy
July 7— A new law designed to enable Dutch employees to report workplace misconduct took effect July 1. The Whistleblowers' Center Act (34105/7) contains new reporting obligations for employers and establishes a public body charged with providing guidance and investigating reports of wrongdoing. Approved by parliament April 1, the law expands coverage under the existing Corporate Governance Code, which requires listed corporations to implement whistleblowing policies, to all companies with more than 50 employees
Affected companies are now obliged to formulate official policies that allow employees to report workplace breaches such as unsafe conditions or corruption. While companies will be allowed some flexibility in the wording of their policies, they must all offer a description of the mechanisms that allow alleged breaches to be reported. Employers will be required to handle reports confidentially and allow employees to receive advice in confidence. In most cases, whistleblowers will initially be obliged to raise their concerns within their organizations, although employers will be required to provide their employees with information on how a suspicion of wrongdoing can be reported externally if necessary.
A so-called Whistleblowers' Advice Center, which officially opened July 4, has the power to investigate cases and provide legal protections for employees. The center's investigatory branch will rule on whether a complaint merits investigation and, if it does, conduct an investigation and compile a report. While the recommendations of the reports will be nonbinding, they may potentially trigger criminal enforcement.
In a July 3 statement provided to Bloomberg BNA, Rik van Steenbergen, labor policy advisor at the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions, said that he expects an unofficial “grace period” to be applied under which companies that have not yet implemented the required policies will receive no official sanction. He added, however, that a lack of implementation may still entail a risk for companies in situations where an employee is unable to report wrongdoing internally due to a lack of reporting procedures.
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For more information on Dutch HR law and regulation, see the Netherlands primer.
The Advice Center for Whistleblowers has published English-language guidance for affected companies availablehere.
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