2024 Social elections
In 2024, social elections will be organised again for the establishment and renewal of the works councils (WC) and health and safety committees (HSC) and the election of the employee representatives in those bodies. The rules governing the social elections are set out every four years by the legislator. For the upcoming 2024 elections, they were set out in the draft law amending the law of 4 December 2007 on social elections, the law of 20 September 1948 on the organisation of business and the law of 4 August 1996 on well-being of workers. The draft law was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, 1 June 2023 and will come into force from the day it is published in the Belgian Official Gazette.
The draft law essentially confirms the date of the 2024 social elections and contains some novelties, which we explain below.
Date 2024 social elections
The upcoming social elections will take place during the period from 13 to 26 May 2024. However, employers who meet the conditions to organise social elections (i.e. usually employing an average of 50 (HSC) or 100 (WC) employees during the reference period) must already take the first formal steps in December 2023. More specifically, a first written communication will then have to be made, indicating, among other things, the number of employees per category employed in the company at that time.
Conditions voting right for temporary agency workers and legal basis for exchange of personal data between temporary work agency and user
In the past only regular employees of a company were eligible to vote in their employer's social elections. However, since the 2020 elections, temporary agency workers have been allowed to vote in their user's social elections if a twofold seniority condition is met. Since in practice the wording of this condition led to many interpretation questions and application problems, it has now been simplified. From now on, temporary agency workers may vote in their user's social elections if they have worked 32 actual working days in the legal entity of the user or in the technical business unit (composed of the various legal entities) of the user during the three calendar months preceding the calendar month in which the election date is displayed. This means that temporary agency workers can vote if they have performed 32 actual working days between November 2023 and January 2024. The seniority of 32 working days includes both periods of interrupted and uninterrupted work. Only actually performed working days will be taken into account from now on.
Note: This only concerns a voting right, temporary agency workers can still not become candidates in their user’s social elections. In addition, there is no requirement for temporary agency workers to be working for the user at the time of voting.
As in practice questions have often arisen about the possibility for temporary work agencies to transfer personal data to users, the draft law now explicitly provides a legal basis for the exchange of personal data between temporary work agency and user. The transfer takes place in several stages. In the first stage, only the data necessary for the preparation of voter lists are transferred. After the day on which the election date is displayed, the data necessary for the continuation of the procedure can be transferred.
Facilitating alternative means of convening and remote electronic voting
While today voters are convened through a cascade system, where hand-delivery is always the first step, companies can henceforth agree, under certain conditions and insofar as they reach a unanimous agreement on this with the WC, or in its absence the HSC or the trade union delegation, to convene voters using alternative means (notably by e-mail) already in the first step. This agreement must be concluded no later than the day on which the election date is displayed. Moreover, as is currently the case, the employer must demonstrate that the convocation was sent and received.
Since the 2020 social elections, remote electronic voting has become possible for employees from their usual workstation in the company. However, for the 2024 elections, the principle that the voting software must be compulsorily installed on the company's network (and thus cannot be installed on the software of the manufacturer of this voting system) will be abandoned. After all, not all employees necessarily have a workstation connected to the secure company network. The prerequisite is that voting is done through an end-to-end encrypted network connection, ensuring reliable voter authentication. Even in this case, voting should still be done from the usual workstation.
Legal framework for digitalisation of certain procedural steps and new web templates
The draft law provides a legal framework for the further digitalisation of certain procedural steps in order to further ease the administrative burden of those involved in the procedure. In this regard, new templates are annexed to the draft law.
Collecting statistical data on voting rights for temporary agency workers and gender equality
Finally, the draft law provides for the collection of additional statistical data. In order to have a better idea of the impact of the voting rights for temporary agency workers, it is now possible to collect data on their voting rights. In addition, the statistics on gender equality will from now on also include data on employer representatives and thus not only on employee representatives. This information must be submitted to the WC, or in its absence the trade union delegation, over the course of the six months following the display of the election results.