Mandatory Confidential Counsellor in the Netherlands.

In 2023, a new bill was passed with a convincing majority vote in the Dutch parliament, requiring employers with more than 10 employees to appoint a Confidential Counsellor in Dutch Vertrouwenspersoon. This bill will come into effect in July 2024 or in January 2025.

The Trust Counsellor is responsible to support employees in regard to undesirable behaviour such as discrimination, including sexual harassment, aggression, violence, and bullying.

Confidential Counsellor under Dutch Law

Under the current Dutch Working Conditions Act [Arbeidsomstandighedenwet/Arbowet], companies are obliged to implement a policy to safeguard the working conditions for employees and to appoint a Confidential Counsellor.

Employers have the primary responsibility for providing a situation whereby their employees can work under healthy and safe conditions.

A confidential counsellor fosters a culture of support and encourages employees to voice concerns without apprehension. It serves as evidence of the organisation’s commitment to fostering a positive work environment and prioritising employee well-being through proactive employment practices.

Providing employees with access to an advisor can reduce absenteeism, as the work-related psychological issues account for more than 50% of the work-related illness costs in the Netherlands.

Mandatory Psychosocial Workload Policy in the Netherlands

Every company is obliged by law in the Netherlands should have a policy aimed at protecting employees against sexual harassment, aggression, and violence and to pay attention to undesirable behaviour, referred to under Dutch law as Psychosocial Occupational Stress (PSA) [Psychosociale arbeidsbelasting].

This comprehensive policy addressing psychosocial workload is commonly referred to as a ‘PSA policy’.

However, what we often observe working with international organisations in the Netherlands is, that this policy is frequently fragmented into several policies, including a Code of Conduct, Bullying and Harassment policy, a Health & Safety policy and Grievance policy.

If you need insights or support with the draft of the HR policies, feel free to contact us.

What Is a Confidential Counsellor?

The Confidential Counsellor [Vertrouwenspersoon] is a designated professional providing confidential support to employees facing issues of unacceptable behaviour within the workplace in the Netherlands.

The counsellor is tasked with receiving, guiding, and advising employees, and if necessary, referring them to professional assistance.

In addition, the advisor is responsible for identifying bottlenecks in policy implementation and providing advice to the employer, works council, or staff representation.

Scope of Work

Employees could contact the counsellor for support in case of unacceptable behaviour, like intimidation, (sexual) harassment, aggression, violence, discrimination, bullying or stalking, or when faced with a conflict in your work situation connected to such behaviour.

Unacceptable behaviour is:

  • Discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Intimidation, aggression, and violence.
  •  Bullying and stalking.

Legal Job Responsibilities of the Confidential Counsellor

The job of a confidential counsellor entails listening, guiding, educating, and advising employees facing psychosocial workload issues. They offer support and help explore potential solutions to address the challenges at hand.

1. Support and Guidance

Offering support for employees experiencing psychosocial workload issues.

2. Education, Information, and Prevention

Sharing information with employees, management, and Works Council. Implementing preventive measures fostering a healthy work environment.

3. Advice

Identifying issues and subsequent providing advice to employee and/or management. Registering cases of inappropriate behaviour and assisting the Employee Complaint Committee.

How Confidential is Counselling?

The Confidential Counsellor in the Netherlands is required by law to keep information shared with them confidential. The obligation to maintain confidentiality is rooted in legal mandates established by Dutch law, article 272 Dutch Criminal Code [Wetboek van Strafrecht] and privacy regulations, including the GDPR.

The duty of confidentiality may be breached and thus information may be disclosed if there is a risk of serious harm to the employee or others or if the situation involves criminal activities or conflicts of duties.

Certification and Training Course Cost Confidential Counsellor

Despite the fact that some companies already have confidential advisors, it is not always clear what is exactly expected of a confidential advisor, and the quality and professionalism of confidential advisors vary greatly.

Therefore, the appointment of a Confidential Counsellor can be made from either within the organisation or externally. However, internal confidential advisors, without legal protection, may be vulnerable to pressure from management or supervisors.

While certification for a confidential counsellor is optional, it is advisable to partake in a Confidential Counsellor training programme to augment effectiveness in fulfilling the role and ensure consistent support for employees facing workplace challenges.

Reporting Obligations Confidential Counsellor

The appointment of the confidential counsellor is subject to Works Council’s Right of Consent / Right of Approval article 27 of the Works Councils Act.

The counsellor furnishes management and, if applicable, the Works Council with an anonymous aggregated report on an annual base.


What is the job of a confidential advisor?

The Confidential Counsellor [Vertrouwenspersoon] provides confidential support to employees in the Netherlands facing issues of unacceptable behaviour within the organisation.

What are the laws around confidentiality for a counsellor?

The Confidential Counsellor is required by Dutch law to keep information confidential in accordance with article 272 Dutch Criminal Code [Wetboek van Strafrecht] and privacy regulations, including the GDPR.

Is the Confidential Counsellor mandatory in the Netherlands?

The bill to requiring employers with more than 10 employees to appoint a Confidential Counsellor will come into effect in July 2024 or in January 2025.

More Information

Share this article