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Employment Background Checks in Belgium: Legal Guidelines and Best Practices

The Kingdom of Belgium is a Federal Monarchy in Europe with a high-income economy and a GDP of 599.88 USD Billion in 2021, where the service sector generates the maximum contribution. It offers a highly educated, skilled, and productive workforce, making it a lucrative destination for finding talented employees.

Employers looking to hire from Belgium can follow responsible hiring practices to avoid financial and legal liabilities. An employment background check is a crucial part of responsible hiring practices. An employee screening ensures employers find the best candidate for their company from the talent pool and maintain an accountable and productive workplace. 

Here is how employers can conduct an employment background check in Belgium that is compliant with the local rules and regulations.

What is Employment Background Verification?

An employment background screening refers to employers verifying employees’ personal and professional information like criminal records, education, work experience, etc., while hiring. 

Employers and companies looking to hire trustworthy talented employees often opt for a background check. Conducting a background search ensures that the workforce remains accountable and that there are no potential legal risks. Verifying a candidate’s work and education history ensures they have the necessary qualifications and skills to handle the responsibilities of the job position. 

Employers can legally conduct an employment background check in Belgium on potential employees. The process can be slightly time-consuming and costly. Companies can hire an HR department or go for third-party firms like Multiplier to conduct a background check in Belgium to stay compliant with the local rules and regulations for background verification. 

Benefits of Background Checks in Belgium

An employment background screening in Belgium helps employers find the best talent suited for their company and whether they possess the necessary skills required to handle the responsibilities that come along with the job. Here are some benefits of conducting a background check in Belgium. 

Maintaining the standard of job applications

  • Some job applications may have fraudulent information about the candidate. 
  • When a job requires a background check, the applications have fewer discrepancies, and employers get authentic applications. 
  • Many employers have noted that when a job posting mentions an employment background screening, the quality of the job applications improves significantly. 

Hiring the best fit for the company

  • An employment background search in Belgium verifies a candidate’s academic qualification and work history. 
  • It ensures that the candidate is the right fit for the position. 
  • An employee screening is beneficial for higher-level positions in the company. This is because choosing the wrong person can lead to potential financial losses. 

Maintaining an accountable workforce

  • A pre-employment background check in Belgium ensures that employers have a robust workforce.  
  • Some sectors also require a criminal background check to maintain safety in the workplace and minimize employee turnover. 
  • Moreover, hiring the right candidate also ensures that the employers can focus on strengthening their team instead of requiring them to fill in the same vacancies repeatedly. 

Optimum use of time and resources

  • The entire hiring process is time and resource-draining, and employers cannot afford to go through them constantly. 
  • While hiring the right candidate with the necessary qualifications and experience,  companies do not have to deplete the company resources repeatedly. 
  • A background search on potential employees can confirm whether they are the best candidate for the job and will not have to be replaced again and again. 

Practicing responsible hiring processes

  • In some sectors like security, an employer may be exposed to legal liabilities if they haven’t conducted a background check on the employees before hiring them. 
  • Therefore, companies in some industries must conduct criminal background checks on their potential employees to avoid negligent hiring processes. 

Employers can legally conduct a background check in Belgium for potential candidates. However, there are restrictions on what information can be verified in a pre-employment background check. 

Belgium is part of the European Union; therefore, it complies with the GDPR. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was set up to provide better privacy protection to citizens. It provides citizens greater control over how their personal data is used. It also has its own rules and regulations to protect employees’ privacy. Therefore, employers who want to conduct an employment background check in Belgium are required to ask for consent and mention the purpose per GDPR. 

Employers must inform their employees before conducting a company background check in Belgium. Moreover, as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) no. 38 of Belgium, employers can only ask for the information relevant to the job description. The applicant also has the right not to provide details that are not relevant to the job or violates the right to privacy. Also, extensive background checks are not at all a common practice in Belgium. 

Moreover, the Belgian DPA (Data Protection Authority) was established, replacing the Privacy Commissioner in December 2018. The primary objective of the DPA is to ensure compliance with the GDPR. Any violation of the GDPR or other privacy and data protection regulations of Belgium, like the CBA no. 38, can result in the imposition of heavy fines. 

Things to Know When Performing a Background Check in Belgium

There are certain restrictions on what background checks employers can conduct in Belgium. An extensive background check is not usual in Belgium as employers can verify only information strictly relevant to the job description.  

The following section reviews the aspects of a routine pre-employment background check in Belgium and whether they are allowed. 

Criminal record

  • A criminal background check is required in specific sectors where it is relevant, like the security sector, child care, and finance. 
  • Employers outside the relevant sectors cannot verify a candidate’s criminal records as it is not necessary to the job description. 
  • Candidates are bound to disclose their criminal records only if they are related to the sector in which they are applying for jobs. 

Credit report

  • Employers can no longer ask candidates their financial history or credit report. 
  • Belgium prohibits discrimination based on financial history, so employers cannot request credit reports for a background check.

Employment history

  • Employers can verify a candidate’s work experience as part of the employment background check in Belgium as it is pertinent to the job profile. 
  • Employers must ask for the candidate’s consent before contacting the references from their previous workplaces.  
  • Verifying a candidate’s employment history ensures they will be the right fit for the company and the team. 

Education history

  • A candidate’s education is relevant to any job profile. Therefore, employers can conduct a background check on all the academic qualifications mentioned by the candidate in their resume. 
  • A background search on the employee’s academic qualifications helps employers analyze whether the candidate has completed the relevant qualifications and can handle the responsibilities of their job description. 

Social life

  • An employer can access a candidate’s information on social media platforms if it is publicly available or after the applicant’s permission. 
  • Understanding a candidate’s social life during an HR background check can help recruiters understand their views and behavioral traits.
  • However, companies cannot access data that is not publicly available as it is a violation of the GDPR.   

Information Essential for a Background Check in Belgium

Employers in Belgium must treat all job applicants equally and not discriminate based on their characteristics. Here are some of the things employers are required to know before conducting a background check in Belgium. 

  • An employer is required to inform the candidate before conducting a background check.
  • The pre-employment background check should primarily be related to the potential employee’s job position only. 
  • A criminal background check is prohibited except in specific sectors like security. 
  • It is unlawful to ask employees for their financial history in any sector or declare their political views. 
  • Employers can ask potential candidates for a work permit if they are Non-EEA nationals. The EEA nationals include individuals from the EU, Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein countries. 
  • Employers can conduct a medical check within a strict framework of Act 28. A medical check is allowed for job profiles with specific safety requirements. Genetic testing or testing for AIDS is expressly prohibited. 
  • General drug testing is prohibited in Belgium. However, employers can request these tests under specific circumstances. Employers are required to maintain a detailed drug and alcohol testing policy. Only a physician can access these tests to determine whether the candidate can work properly. The employer is not to access the drug and alcohol test results. 

Process Involved in Background Checks in Belgium

There is no defined framework outlined to conduct a background check in Belgium. Here are some steps employers can follow for conducting an employment background check. 

  • The employers are required to inform the candidate and ask for their consent for the background check. 
  • Once the employees have been notified, employers can begin verifying a candidate’s education, work history, and social media information.

Step 2: Determine the information to verify

Once employers get the consent, they can start enlisting the information they need to verify. It can be the following: 

  • Employment history
  • Educational qualifications
  • Criminal records
  • Social media presence

Step 3: Gather necessary documents

  • Gather and organize all the necessary documents to quicken the screening process. You can ask applicants to share relevant and authentic documents.

Step 4: Perform a background check

  • Employers can now start the background check in Belgium about the documents and details available. 
    1. Academic qualification: Employers can verify whether the employee has obtained the level of education and other certifications they have disclosed in their resume.
    2. Work experience: Employers can review the client’s work history and verify whether they have worked in the mentioned places
    3. Social media: Companies can publicly analyze the candidate’s social life from the information available on social media platforms in compliance with GDPR.
    4. Other aspects: Criminal background checks or medical checks are prohibited except for some sectors. Hence, if the employers work in sectors where these checks are allowed, they can access the criminal records and check whether the applicant is fit to do the job. 

Industries and Situations That are Most Suitable for Background Checks in Belgium

Conducting an extensive background check in Belgium is not a common practice. According to the GDPR and the CBA no. 38 of Belgium, employers can only verify the information strictly relevant to the job position that the applicant has consented to. However, there are some situations where a criminal background check and medical background checks are relevant. 

Verifying a candidate’s criminal records is necessary for positions like security agents, private detectives, real estate agents, taxi drivers, and child care.

A medical and health check is required for positions where the candidate may come across food, driving motorized vehicles, operating cranes and hoists, etc. 

Apart from this, even if it’s not mandatory, employers are highly encouraged to conduct a background check on the employee’s qualifications and work experience for all positions to maintain the integrity and quality of the workforce. 

How Does Multiplier Help With Background Checks?

Employers looking to hire globally must comply with the local rules and regulations for hiring procedures and team management. 

Organizations and employers must note that extensive background checks are not a common practice in Belgium. Employers in Belgium are required to inform their employees before conducting a company background check and ask for information relevant to the job description only.

To avoid misreading the latest rules and regulations regarding background screening in Belgium, global companies can partner with third-party solutions like Multiplier. 

Multiplier is a PEOEOR firm with a team of experts that draft legally compliant contracts, distribute employee benefits per local regulations, and manage payrolls for 150+ countries. Multiplier provides practical ways to reduce legal risk and maintain compliance with the local laws revolving around hiring and managing employees in Belgium.

Frequently Asked Questions

As Belgium is a part of the European Union, it abides by the GDPR. Therefore, employers are required to follow the privacy and data protection regulations mentioned in the GDPR while conducting an employment background check in Belgium.

According to GDPR and the CBA no. 38 of Belgium, employers must ask employees for information strictly relevant to the job profile.

For example, academic qualifications and past work experiences are a standard part of a background check in Belgium. A criminal background check in Belgium is only required in specific industries. Companies can also view a candidate’s information on social media as long as it is a public record. Medical tests are allowed for particular sectors as long as they do not involve genetic or AIDS testing.

However, employers cannot ask for credit or financial history from the employees.

Depending on how detailed the background check is, it can take up to 15 days to complete the screening process.

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