Belgium protects whistle-blowers

The law of 28 November 2022 has been enacted to protect whistle-blowers in private companies who report violations of EU or domestic law. It enters into force on 16 February 2023. This law transposes European Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of 23 October 2019, OJ L 305, 26.11.2019, p. 17–56, that starts from the idea that workers are generally best placed to detect law infringements within their company. Until now, whistle-blowers had no protection, so that the risk of retaliation often withheld them from reporting a violation.

A whistle-blower is a person who has information that reveals infringements or fraud committed in a professional context. The new law sets up a legal framework that allows anyone to blow the whistle in three possible ways, granting them protection against retaliation in ten different areas.

Whistle-blowers in the Belgian private sector will be able to report infringements of rules governing public procurement, competition and state aid law, financial services, corporate tax rules, environmental protection, food, product and transport safety, public health, nuclear energy, consumer protection, privacy and personal data protection, network and information system security, social fraud and tax evasion.

At his own discretion, the whistle-blower can

  • Alert the company's managers that an offence is being committed within the company via the internal whistleblowing procedure set up within the company. Legal entities that employ 250 workers or more must set up such a channel by 15 February 2023. Legal entities who employ 50 workers or more, must set up an internal reporting channel by 17 December 2023.
  • Alert the competent authorities in the area where the offence is committed via an external whistleblowing procedure.
  • Make a public disclosure of the breach.

The law imposes strict conditions on public disclosures of breaches. Whistle-blowers are only protected if they have made an external report on which no action has been taken, or if they have reason to believe that the infringement may represent an imminent or obvious danger to the public interest, or that the violation is unlikely to be effectively remedied, due to the particular circumstances of the case.

In any case, whistle-blowers are protected by a general prohibition of any retaliation against them. People who retaliate will be open to new criminal sanctions.