Social elections 2020: Homeworkers can vote from their ‘home office’
More and more employees structurally work from home (with fixed homeworking days). Assuming the social elections date falls on an employee’s regular homeworking day, such an employee no longer needs to go to the company premises to vote. Due to some changes in the 2020 Social Elections Act of 4 April 2019, it is now possible to vote electronically from home.
E-voting in the past
The option for employees to vote electronically is not new and was implemented for the first time during the 2012 social elections. Since then, the employer and the competent employee representative body/bodies could unanimously decide on the principle of voting electronically by means of an IT-system that meets certain legal requirements. Until recently, any employee who wanted to vote electronically could only do so in a voting office located at the company’s premises.
The 2020 Social Elections Act of 4 April 2019 has introduced two significant changes in the applicable legal framework.
First, a unanimous decision is no longer required to agree on the principle of e-voting. As of now, the regular decision-taking modalities as set out in the internal rules of the works council or health and safety committee apply, implying that such a decision may be taken by a simple majority of votes.
More importantly, the legislator has provided that a remote e-vote is now possible. The works council, the health and safety committee, or in their absence, the employer in agreement with the trade union delegation, may decide that employees use an e-vote from their usual work place, provided that the e-voting system is linked to the secured company network and that certain technical requirements are met.
The agreement includes, amongst other things, a definition of the usual work place. The freedom for the competent employee representative body/bodies allows a tailor-made definition, aligned with company specific employment situations. The parties can therefore decide that the usual work place also covers an employee’s home office, in which an employee uses the company laptop and is connected with the company’s IT-system. It is also recommended to agree on what cannot be considered as a usual work place, e.g. the employee’s company car used to travel from client to client, even if this is an employee’s usual place of work.
Conclusion and practical recommendation
We expect that more and more employee representative bodies will use the increased flexibility offered by the legislator to implement an e-voting system in which employees can vote electronically from their home office. This may encourage employees to participate in the 2020 social elections and will most likely result in an increased number of voting employees.
When implementing a remote e-voting system, we advise employers to anticipate the possible technical issues requiring the support of flying IT-technicians, who, if need be, can travel from one home office to another to solve possible IT-issues.
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