Social elections take place every 5 years. At this time, employees vote to elect the members of the staff delegation in their business.
The elected persons belong to the staff delegation. This delegation must then appoint a health and safety representative and an equal opportunities officer, each of whom has specific roles within the business.
Who is concerned
The health and safety representative may be appointed from among the regular or substitute members of the staff delegation, or from among the ranks of the business' other employees.
The equal opportunities officer is appointed from among the members of the delegation.
How to proceed
Specific role of the health and safety representative
Once it is in place, the staff delegation must appoint a health and safety representative, from among its members or the other company employees.
Even if the health and safety representative is not an elected member of the staff delegation, they may attend any and all delegation meetings in an advisory capacity.
This representative must be consulted and informed by the employer – in particular, as regards:
- assessment of workplace health and safety risks, including for groups of employees who are especially at risk;
- protective measures to be implemented and equipment to be used;
- any employer action that could significantly affect health and safety;
- steps taken in terms of first aid, firefighting and evacuation of employees;
- on appropriate H&S training of all employees;
- on environmental protection measures taken when employee health or working conditions are affected.
The delegate may perform an inspection of the business' head office and worksites on a weekly basis, accompanied by the business manager or the business manager's representative. In government administrative departments, a maximum of 2 inspection visits per year is permitted.
The health and safety representatives record all their comments, which are counter-signed by the supervisor, in a special logbook that remains in the business' office. The members of the staff delegation and staff with authority from the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (Inspection du travail et des mines – ITM) may view the logbook.
If the inspection uncovers an issue requiring immediate response from the ITM, the health and safety representative may contact the ITM directly, but must notify the business manager and staff delegation at the same time.
To mitigate any risk for employees or to eliminate sources of danger, the health and safety representative may:
- ask the business manager to take appropriate action;
- submit proposals.
Specific role of the equal opportunities officer
The staff delegation must also appoint an equal opportunities officer from among its own ranks. The equal opportunities officer is responsible for safeguarding gender equality in the workplace as regards access to jobs, training and promotion, and pay and working conditions.
The equal opportunities officer may act independently or jointly with the staff delegation.
The equal opportunities officer may, in particular:
- issue recommendations and submit proposals in all areas falling within their jurisdiction;
- propose training initiatives, for the employees, to the employer;
- present the employer with any and all claims, both individual and collective, regarding gender equality;
- put forward a plan of action to the employer to promote equal opportunities for men and women;
- refer any complaint or comment to the ITM;
- prevent and settle any individual or collective dispute that may arise between the employer and employees regarding gender equality.
In order to successfully carry out their duties, equal opportunities officers have a specific time credit, not including the time credit they receive as a staff delegate.
This increase in time credits is determined as follows:
Number of staff
Time credit awarded to the equal opportunities officer
The equal opportunities officer is bound to professional secrecy for any information that is confidential and deemed as such by the business manager, with regard to company employees or third parties, unless these employees or third parties are also subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
If the appointed delegate is a substitute member of the delegation, they may attend any meetings of the delegation in question in an advisory capacity.
The equal opportunities officer and health and safety representative may not have an essential clause in their contract amended in any way.
Moreover, they may not be dismissed, even for serious misconduct, during their term of office or within the 6 months following the expiry or termination of their term of office.
However, employers have the option to suspend the delegate with immediate effect, citing serious misconduct on the delegate's part.
If the employer nonetheless dismisses the delegate or amends an essential clause in their contract, the delegate may lodge a summary appeal before the president of the Labour Tribunal to request that the dismissal or change to the employment contract be nullified.
Maintenance of salary level
The health and safety representative and equal opportunities officer are entitled to leave their workstations to perform their duties. They must notify the business manager of this beforehand, and this may not interfere with the company's operations. Under these circumstances, they may leave their workstations without losing pay.
The health and safety representative may not lose pay due to work-related absences for inspection visits or visits to help the ITM staff.
Training leave refers to the time the employer must offer the health and safety representative and equal opportunities officer so they can participate, during working hours, in training sessions organised by trade unions or special institutions and meant to help them advance their knowledge.
Training leave cannot be deducted from annual paid leave: it is treated as a period of ordinary work.
The equal opportunities officer and safety representative do not lose pay during their training leave.
The wage costs for the health and safety representative and equal opportunities officer during their training leave are covered by the State for businesses with fewer than 150 employees.
Amount of training leave for the health and safety representative
Training leave is 40 hours per term of office, plus 10 hours for the first health and safety representative to serve in the business.
If the health and safety representative is also a staff delegate, they are also entitled to training leave in the latter capacity.
Amount of training leave for the equal opportunities officer
Training leave is 2 half days of work per year of office.
If the equal opportunities officer is also a staff delegate, they are also entitled to training leave in the latter capacity.
Employers have certain obligations towards the health and safety representative and equal opportunities officer. In particular:
- informing the health and safety representative of:
- the health and safety risks and protection and prevention measures and actions that apply to the business in general and to particular positions, specifically;
- the protective measures to be implemented and, where necessary, the protective gear to be used;
- any change in absence rates.
- informing and consulting the equal opportunities officer on the status, structure an d likely change in employment in the business, particularly where jobs are under threat. In order to do this, the employer must, twice yearly, share gender-based statistics on recruitment, promotions, transfers, dismissals, pay and training;
- informing the equal opportunities officer about the establishment of employment support contracts and employment initiation contracts;
- providing the equal opportunities officer with adequate equipment and facilities.