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Last Call to Implement Electronic Voting and/or Voting by Letter for Covid-Proof Social Elections 

by Philippe De Wulf, Esther Soetens

Published: October, 2020

Submission: October, 2020

 



 In principle, the decision to vote electronically should have been taken as early as February 2020, at a time when few had ever heard of Covid-19. Companies that did not do so at that time but, as a result of Covid-19, would like to do so now for security reasons or because their staff still (mostly) work from home, have been given the opportunity to still introduce electronic voting. However, they have to reach an agreement on this issue at the latest on day X + 56 (i.e. between 13 and 26 October, depending on the new election date). Voting by letter can also be an option in these Covid-19 times. The deadline for doing so is also day X + 56.


Electronic voting


What? Electronic voting can happen from the usual workstation (the own PC) of the employee at the company’s premises. However, as from the 2020 elections, also remote e-voting, from the employee’s home office is possible, provided that the employee uses the company laptop, the e-voting system is linked to the secured company network and that certain technical requirements are met.


Deadline? An agreement must be reached at the latest on the new day X + 56, i.e. between 13 and 26 October 2020 depending on the new election day (day Y after the resumption of the elections).


Procedure? An agreement on electronic voting must be entered into with all representative trade unions that have put forward candidates for the workers’ categories concerned (blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, etc.). So even if your company does not have any works council or health and safety committee in place yet, an agreement on electronic voting can be entered into.


The agreement includes, amongst other things, the categories of employees for whom electronic voting will be used, the special conditions guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote, the arrangements for the proper functioning of the polling station with particular attention to the method of identifying voters and a definition of the usual work place (e.g. it can be agreed that this location also covers an employee’s home office). 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.


Publication and notice. This decision will have to be notified immediately by means of an information note rectifying the information about the initial day X, either by posting or electronically, e.g. via the intranet, if all employees have access to it during normal working hours.


The form must also be sent to the Employment Ministry (FOD WASO, SFP Emploi) via the web application or, if not, by post to the various representative unions. 


Voting by letter


Another option for organising your social elections in a safe way is to arrange for voting by letter.


Voting by letter is only allowed in a limited number of circumstances, which include ‘the situation that staff are significantly dispersed’.


Yet, according to the Employment Ministry (FOD WASO / SPF Emploi), the Covid-19 telework measures implemented on a large scale in companies may involve a considerable dispersion of personnel, justifying, for the categories concerned, the use of voting by letter.


Other options for calling upon voting by letter include:


  • In the case of suspension of the employment contract.
  • In the case of night work, provided that the following conditions are met: the number of workers employed between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on the election day (i) does not exceed 5% of the total number of workers employed on the election day; and (ii) does not exceed 15.
  • In the case of workers who are not working during the opening hours of the polling station.

As is the case for the extended Covid-19 electronic voting regime, an agreement on voting by letter must be reached with all representative trade unions that have put forward candidates for the workers’ categories concerned, at the latest on day X + 56, i.e. between 13 and 26 October 2020 depending on the election day.


 



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