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Social elections: Last minute modifications concerning electronic voting or voting by letter due to Covid-19

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The social elections, which have been postponed to the period from 16 November to 29 November 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are at date still being maintained, despite the increasing health crisis. In order to allow employees to elect their representatives in safe circumstances, the social partners reached an agreement on the framework for postal or electronic voting on 28 October 2020.

On 29 October 2020, the House of Representatives approved a legislative proposal on various social measures following the Covid-19 pandemic. Chapter 3 of this law legally ratifies the agreement reached between the social partners related to social elections.

The adopted measures retroactively enter into force on 14 October 2020 and can be summarized as follows: 

1. Extension of the deadline for concluding agreements on electronic voting, whether remote or not

Originally, the possibility to conclude an agreement on electronic voting was foreseen until X + 56 (from 13 to 26 October 2020). The law enables companies and organizations that have nominated candidates to continue using this possibility to enter into agreements regarding electronic voting. Although the law does not provide for a deadline, these agreements should logically be concluded before X + 80 (from 6 November to 19 November 2020), the date corresponding to the delivery of the convocation notice. 

In addition, and if the agreement reached requires so, the number of polling stations and the distribution of voters per polling station may be adjusted. It may be, for example, that fewer physical polling stations will be needed.

2. Introduction of a new hypothesis for voting by letter (postal voting) and extension of the deadline to conclude an agreement on postal voting

If it appears that voting on site cannot be organized in a safe way, agreements regarding postal voting may be concluded for workers present at the workplace on the voting day. This new hypothesis for postal voting has been added to the existing possibilities.

Again, the law does not provide for a deadline, but these agreements should logically be concluded before X + 80 (from 6 November to 19 November 2020), the date corresponding to the delivery of the convocation notice.

The number of polling stations and the allocation of voters also can be amended.  

3. Dispatch of the convocation notice and the ballot by ordinary mail

In the event of postal voting, the ballot is attached to the convocation notice and can be sent to the voter by ordinary priority mail.

Registered mail is therefore no longer mandatory. However, the employer must be able to provide the necessary proof of dispatch, e.g. by involving witnesses in the dispatch.

4. Extension of the deadline by a maximum of 5 days to consider a postal vote to be valid

In the event of postal voting, the companies and organizations that have nominated candidates can agree on considering the ballots valid if they have been received until the 5th day following closure of the voting. The aim is to anticipate possible overloads of and delays in mail distribution.

If such an agreement is concluded, the voting period shall be closed at the end of the 5-day period. The counting of the ballots will in that case of course also be postponed. 
 

TO DO: Considering the government’s new instructions that make telehomeworking mandatory, we advise companies to check whether they wish to make use of the possibilities of electronic or postal voting. If so, you will need to conclude an agreement with your trade unions and inform your employees.

If you have any questions on formalizing such an agreement, do not hesitate to contact us.

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