Specific information related to third parties in the workplace

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    The concept of third parties

    While performing their work, workers may come into contact with persons other than those in their own company, such as clients, suppliers, service providers, benefit recipients, pupils and students, and workers from external companies.

    These persons are referred to here as third parties. Third parties are persons who do not have an employment contract with the company in which they are present, for whatever reason.

    Please note that the following persons are considered ordinary workers in the company or institution and must not be considered third parties:

    • students and pupils whose study programmes include a type of work that is carried out in an educational establishment are, at the time they are carrying out this type of work, considered workers in this educational establishment and are not therefore third parties;
    • trainees who are working in a company during their traineeship are considered workers in this company;
    • temporary workers have the same rights in the company in which they are working as the workers in this company. The user is responsible for the application of the social laws that apply in the workplace during the period in which the temporary worker is working for them;
    • if a company makes its workers available to a second company, the second company is also liable with regard to the social legislation that applies to the workplace.

    If the aforementioned persons believe that they have suffered damage as a result of psychosocial risks at work, they can only use the internal procedure of the user (in the case of the workers available to a second company and the temporary workers) or of the employer (in the case of the trainees).

    Third parties may be private persons but can also be workers from another company who are practically permanently present in the workplace (e.g. workers from a maintenance company) or who are present occasionally in the workplace (e.g. workers from a company who come to carry out painting work once).

    In these cases, a company contract is concluded with the employer of these workers. This means that the worker or contractor who issues the mission to carry out the work has no authority over the workers of "the entrepreneur" to whom they have end d the performance of the work.

    Specific prevention policy

    An employer whose workers come into contact with third parties is required to have a prevention policy that takes account of this specific risk factor. To give substance to the prevention policy, it is necessary to have a global view of the abusive behaviour that workers believe they are suffering from third parties. The register of third party facts exists for this purpose.

    If a worker is a victim of violence committed by third parties, their employer must ensure that the worker receives the appropriate psychological support from specialised services and institutions.

    Violence and moral or sexual harassment by or with regard to third parties

    Internal procedure

    It is important that a solution be found in the event of abusive behaviour between workers in the company and third parties. There are several possible solutions.

    A private third-party suffers abusive behaviour from a worker in the company

    The private third party may communicate their problems to the worker's employer so that a solution can be found. In principle, however, they cannot use the internal procedure and submit a formal or informal request for psychosocial intervention. The private third party can only use the external procedures (see 'Legal action' below)

    The employer can take disciplinary sanctions against the worker. If there is a contract between the private person and the employer, the employer can state in this contract that the internal procedure may apply. This is not legally mandatory and depends on the initiative of the employer.

    A third-party worker from an external company suffers abusive behaviour from a worker employed by the contractor.

    If this worker works occasionally for the contractor (for the performance of a limited task in a short period), they may submit a formal request for psychosocial intervention due to acts of violence or moral or sexual harassment at work to the Prevention Advisor for psychosocial aspects of their own employer.

    In this case, their employer must consider, with the contractor, the way in which the request can be examined.

    If the worker is permanently carrying out activities for the contractor (e.g. under a subcontracting contract), they may apply the employer's internal procedure or use the internal procedure of the contractor. If they submit the request to the Prevention Advisor for psychosocial aspects of the contractor, this Counsellor may carry out an examination immediately and submit their advice to the contractor. The contractor may then take the necessary measures with regard to the worker under suspicion over whom they have authority and make any useful contacts with the applicant's employer with regard to the measures to be taken in relation to the applicant.

    A worker from the company suffers abusive behaviour from a private third party

    In this case, the worker can contact the confidential counsellor or the Prevention Advisor for psychosocial aspects. However, the success of the reconciliation or the formal procedure will depend on the goodwill of the private person in taking part in the internal procedure and the employer's ability to take measures in relation to this person.

    Provided that contracts are concluded with these persons, these contracts can contain practical information on what can happen if abusive behaviour is established (e.g. the decision to terminate the contract).

    If a practical solution with the private person is not possible, the employer will still have to consider taking collective preventive measures with regard to all the workers facing the same risk.

    A worker from the contractor suffers abusive behaviour from a worker from an external company.

    This worker can apply the internal procedure with their own employer.

    If measures have to be taken with regard to the worker from the external company, both employers must make any useful contacts to ensure that these measures can be taken.

    These may be measures to ensure that the worker under suspicion is involved in the procedure or measures that the external company will take against the worker.

    In the latter two cases, the employer cannot impose any sanctions on persons who are from outside their company and over whom they have no authority. They can take protective measures to help a worker who has experienced such forms of violence. The employer can examine whether, in view of the circumstances, the current contractual link with this third party can be extended in the future.

    Legal action

    A third party (private person or worker) who has suffered abusive behaviour by a worker and a worker who has experienced abusive behaviour by a third party (private person or worker) can:

    • legal recourse:

      contact the legal bodies at the criminal level by submitting a complaint to the police, labour inspectorate or investigating judge to have the perpetrator of the abusive behaviour sanctioned by the law;
    • civil recourse:

      launch legal proceedings at the employment tribunal at the civil level to request:
      • compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the abusive behaviour. They can choose between compensation for the harm actually suffered or the fixed compensation set out by law. However, the private third person cannot request the fixed amount. They must therefore provide proof of the extent of the harm and the causal link between the act and the harm;
      • order the perpetrator of the violence, or moral or sexual harassment at work to put an end to their behaviour within a given deadline. The perpetrator may be taken to court if they do not follow this injunction;
      • impose certain measures on the employer to ensure that they put an end to the abusive behaviour of the worker.