This document emanates from NV Utexbel.
Within NV Utexbel, we believe that ethical, sustainable and transparent entrepreneurship pays off. We wish to realise this ambition ourselves and expect the same attitude from all our professional partners. For that reason, we want this document (hereinafter the ‘Whistleblower Policy’) to give any person who learns of wrongdoings in a work-related context the opportunity to report it confidentially or anonymously.
In this way, we aim not only to comply with certain legal obligations, but also to define a policy aimed at this ethical, sustainable and transparent entrepreneurship in general and the fight against fraud and other malpractices in particular as defined, among others but not exclusively, in (…).
Our Whistleblower Policy has been in force since 16.02.2023 and was last modified on 05.09.2023.
Persons who learn information in a work-related context are our employees, but equally self-employed employees, our shareholders or persons belonging to one of our administrative, management or supervisory bodies. Volunteer employees and paid or unpaid trainees are also targeted as is anyone working under the supervision and direction of our contractors, subcontractors or suppliers, regardless of whether our cooperation with these individuals has already been formally initiated or terminated.
We understand wrongdoings first and foremost as acts or omissions contrary to the purpose of national or international rules on public procurement; financial services, products and markets, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing; product safety and conformity; transport safety; environmental protection; radiation protection and nuclear safety; food and feed safety, animal health and welfare; public health; consumer protection; protection of privacy and personal data as well as network and information systems security; fight against tax and social fraud. It also includes breaches affecting the financial interests of the European Union or relating to the internal market (including competition and state aid).
In addition to these national and international rules, this Whistleblower Policy also visions as wrongdoings breaches of our own internal rules (such as the labour regulations and any other applicable code of conduct) and other unspecified legal obligations.
General complaints related to satisfaction with our products or services are outside the scope of this Whistleblower Policy.
We protect reporters of wrongdoings from any retaliatory measure provided that, at the time of the report, they had a reasonable suspicion that a wrongdoing had occurred or was highly likely to occur or that there were attempts to conceal a wrongdoing and that the reported information fell within the scope of this Whistleblower Policy.
Retaliatory measures are direct or indirect acts or omissions in response to a report that result or may result in an unjustified prejudice to the reporter.
This protection also applies to natural persons who confidentially assist the reporter in the reporting process and third parties connected to the reporter if they had reasonable grounds to believe that a report fell within the scope of this Whistleblower Policy.
If, after investigation, the report is found to be unfounded, this protection remains in place unless the report was made maliciously.
4. Procedure and powers
4.1 Before the report
Every incoming report is handled by our Whistleblower Officer. He can be reached at (website), (e-mail) or at (phone number).
The Whistleblower Officer acts as the main point of contact and person of confidence of a (potential) reporter and, in that capacity, is authorised to answer general questions about this Whistleblower Policy (e.g. if one is considering reporting, non-binding advice can be requested), receive and follow up on an effective report, maintain communication with the reporter, request additional information from him if necessary and provide final feedback.
Any report received (even in the case of non-anonymous reports) is treated in the strictest confidence unless explicitly agreed otherwise by the reporter. This does not prevent the reporter himself from being heard (like any other person involved) in a subsequent investigation (to which every employee is expected to contribute constructively). The Whistleblower Officer guarantees the independence of his position at all times and safeguards them from any conflicts of interest.
Notwithstanding the possibility to report wrongdoings (confidentially or anonymously), we encourage to use our usual reporting lines (also e.g. when the reporter believes that the Whistlebower Officer has a contrary interest) and to discuss specific suspicions in the first instance with a direct supervisor. If this does not seem possible or if these conversations do not lead to a solution, it can of course be reported to the Whistleblower Officer through the above-mentioned channels.
Each reporter is invited to provide, initially and if possible, at least the following information and, where possible, attach documents supporting this information:
- Which company does your report relate to?
- What issues does your report relate to?
- What is your position in relation to our company?
- Did you report the wrongdoing before?
Should this information or the supporting documentation not be available, this obviously does not prevent reporting. However, a reporter will comply with all legal provisions and internal regulations in this regard when obtaining this and other information or documentation.
4.2 After the report
4.2.1 Monitoring and research
The Whistleblower Officer will acknowledge receipt of the report to the reporter within 7 days. Unless where the report is manifestly unfounded or malicious, the Whistleblower Officer shall promptly submit the report to the general management. In exceptional urgent situations and/or when the Whistleblower Officer is required by law to do so, judicial authorities may also be contacted directly.
The Whistleblower Officer guarantees at this submission and at any later stage of the process (both direct and indirect) the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity except where the reporter still consents to his identity being disclosed or where required to do so by law. In this case, before his identity is disclosed, the reporter will be informed unless this would jeopardise a related investigation or legal proceedings.
The actual decision on investigative measures to be taken and, where appropriate, any other decision arising from the subsequent investigation (such as the decision to sanction the reported person and/or further judicial initiatives), is taken by the general management.
When investigating reports, we act in accordance with the applicable legal (in particular labour and privacy) provisions. In function of the provisions of our email and computer policy, this may imply the perusal of emails or other electronic data sent from accounts linked to us to or files stored in our electronic environment to the extent that this information is not explicitly labelled as private.
No later than 3 months after the sent acknowledgement of receipt, the Whistleblower Officer informs the reporter in general terms about the results of the investigation. This feedback may relate to how the report has been handled, what corrective general measures have been taken and/or other steps are being taken. The Whistleblower Officer does not release details relating to specific individuals.
Throughout the investigation and at the time of this feedback, a balance will be sought between the interests and rights of all parties involved. This presupposes the reported person’s right to information and a right of access to and correction or deletion of the data relating to him/her if they were incomplete or inaccurate, and this in accordance with the applicable privacy regulations. The reported person has no right to make copies of any document related to the investigation. The exercise of these rights may be deferred if the necessities of the investigation so require. In any case, the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity will be safeguarded by not communicating any information from which that identity can be directly or indirectly deduced.
4.2.2 Post-investigation measures
A maliciously expressed and unlawful report is not protected by this Whistleblower Policy. As mentioned earlier, an unfounded report is not necessarily malicious.
If upon initial receipt of the report, it appears to be manifestly malicious and unlawful or if it appears so after a subsequent investigation, sanctions may be imposed in accordance with our labour regulations and applicable regulations. When such a malicious and unfounded report is so serious that it makes any further professional cooperation immediately and permanently impossible between the person making the malicious and unfounded report and our company, this sanction may consist of dismissal for urgent reasons.
Reports that do turn out to be well-founded may equally give rise to sanctions against the person concerned that was reported in accordance with our labour regulations and applicable regulations. Under the same conditions, this sanction can also consist of dismissal for urgent reasons.
5. Retention of documents and processing of personal data
Subject to other legal obligations, personal data regarding reports that turn out to be unfounded will be deleted no later than 2 months after the aforementioned feedback is given. Subject to the same condition, personal data relating to reports that give rise to sanctions against the person concerned or reporter shall be kept until the sanction and/or related decision becomes final and/or any resulting legal proceedings become final.
6. External reports
We urge persons who encounter wrongdoings to report them preferably internally to our Whistleblower Officer so that the necessary measures can be taken. Nevertheless, we also recognise the possibility of reporting wrongdoings externally.
For more information, please refer to the Federal Ombudsman’s website (https://www.federaalombudsman.be/nl/centrum-integriteit/klokkenluiders).