On 1 September 2014, one of the last achievements of the outgoing Minister of Work Ms. Monica De Coninck entered into force: the new legislation on “psychosocial risks at work”. The meaning of this new terminology and the changes it implies to the company’s compliance procedures and work rules, are explained in these Headlines.

The new legislation on psychosocial risks at work reforms the existing legal rules against violence, moral harassment (bullying) and sexual harassment at work. By using this new terminology, the legislator wants to emphasise that psychosocial risks at work are not limited to the aforementioned behaviour, but also encompass other situations which can be harmful to the psychological and physical health of the employees, such as stress, burn-out and interpersonal conflicts.

In order to tackle this problem more efficiently, the new legislation extends the scope of the well-known ‘internal complaint procedure’ against violence, moral harassment and sexual harassment at work to all (other) cases of psychosocial risks.

Henceforth, an employee who considers to be suffering damage caused by psychosocial risks at work, will be able to file a “request for an informal or formal psychosocial intervention” (and no longer an ‘informal or formal complaint’). Through the informal psychosocial intervention, the employee will seek an informal solution for the problem (through dialogue with the management, reconciliation in case of conflict, etc.) while being assisted by the prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects (‘PAPA’) or the person of trust (if appointed). By choosing a formal psychosocial intervention, on the other hand, the employer will be actually requested, with the assistance of the PAPA, and, as the case may be, in consultation with the committee for prevention and protection at work (‘the committee’), to take the appropriate measures.

This enlargement of the internal procedures to all psychosocial risks at work is, however, not fully applied: for instance, only the employee who has filed a request for a formal intervention relative to facts of violence, moral harassment or sexual harassment at work, benefits from a protection against dismissal.

The employer needs to determine the specific procedural rules of these interventions, with the agreement of the committee or, in the absence thereof, of the trade union delegation or, in the absence thereof, of all individual employees (through the procedure of ‘direct participation’).

Subsequently, these procedural rules, together with the coordinates of the PAPA and the person of trust (if appointed), must be taken up in the work rules. For the amendment of the work rules, the approval of the works council or the requirement to post the work rules is not applicable. The amendment must be carried out on 1 March 2015 at the latest.