Background and objective of current policy
Current policy is concluded in implementation of the Act of 28/11/2022 on the protection of reporters of infringements of European Union or national law established within a legal entity in the private sector (implementation of EU Directive 2019/1937). This law aims to improve the implementation of Union law and policy in specific areas by establishing minimum standards that ensure a high level of protection for reporters of breaches of
The purpose of this policy is to:
- list the procedural options based on which the existence of a potential infringement within etherna immunotherapies can be reported; as well
- to inform the persons to whom this policy applies about the protection afforded to a reporter of a particular infringement.
In this way, etherna immunotherapies wishes to provide transparency about how certain abuses can be raised within the organization, so that they can be further investigated and, if necessary, appropriate measures can be taken.
Scope of the policy
This policy applies to so-called “whistleblowers”. This means: anyone who identifies and reports (possible) violations in a work-related context. A “whistleblower” within the meaning of the current policy may include:
- Employees of etherna immunotherapies;
- Self-employed persons, contractors and subcontractors and their staff or appointees with whom etherna immunotherapies collaborates;
- Shareholders and persons belonging to the administrative, management or supervisory body of etherna immunotherapies (including members not involved in the daily management);
- Suppliers with whom etherna immunotherapies collaborates and their staff;
- Any (un)paid interns or volunteers;
- Any applicants;
- Employees of etherna immunotherapies who are out of service.
In addition, the current policy also applies to facilitators (= those who provide confidential assistance to the whistleblower), to third parties associated with the whistleblower who may also be victims of retaliation (e.g. family members, colleagues, etc.) as well as to legal entities owned by the whistleblower, for whom the whistleblower works or with whom the whistleblower is associated in a work-related context.
The following (possible) infringements identified by whistleblowers can be reported by them:
a. Any possible infringement (i.e. an act or omission) relating to:
- government contracts;
- financial services, products and markets, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing;
- product safety and product compliance;
- transport safety;
- environmental protection;
- radiation protection and nuclear safety;
- food and feed safety, animal health and welfare;
- public health;
- consumer protection;
- protection of privacy and personal data, and security of network and information systems;
- combating tax fraud;
- combating social fraud
b. This policy also applies to infringements affecting the financial interests of the European Union, as well as to infringements related to the internal market, including infringements of EU competition and state aid rules.
Procedure for registering notifications
Whistleblowers who wish to report a possible infringement within the organization can do so in writing and/or orally. If desired, the reporter can also make a physical appointment with the person or service designated for this purpose within etherna immunotherapies, who will be responsible for the further impartial follow-up and handling of the report. In addition to the option to report via an internal channel (“internal reporting channel”), the whistleblower has the option to report via an external channel, as provided for by the national government (Royal Decree of 22 January 2023 designating the competent authority). Authorities for the implementation of the law of 28 November 2022 on the protection of reporters of infringements of Union or national law established within a legal entity in the private sector).
However, whistleblowers are encouraged to first follow the internal reporting procedure described in this policy, to possibly provide an internal solution to the reported problem, before possibly reporting externally.
Internal reporting channel
If the whistleblower obtains information regarding a (possible) infringement regarding one of the above maters, he can take the following steps to report this (possible) infringement within the organization in a confidential manner.
Written notification: By email via the following email address: whistleblower[at]etherna.be;
The confidentiality of the identity of the reporter and any third parties mentioned in the report is always guaranteed. This data is only accessible to the person/service designated for this purpose, namely the person responsible for HR. Other persons or services will not be authorized to access this data. The competent person/department always guarantees neutral and independent follow-up of the report and the absence of any conflicts of interest.
The authorized person/service will always behave in a professional and honest manner, whereby the report will always be handled with the necessary discretion and careful follow-up and handling of the received report will be ensured.
Further follow-up of the report
The whistleblower will receive confirmation within 7 days of receiving the report. Within a reasonable period, and in any case no later than three months after confirmation of receipt of the report, feedback will be provided to the reporter regarding the planned or taken measures in response to the report as well as the reasons for this follow-up.
This may include:
- referral to other channels or procedures in the event of reports that exclusively concern the individual rights
of the reporter;
- termination of the proceedings due to insufficient evidence or for other reasons;
- the start of an internal investigation and, if necessary, its findings and measures to address the stated problem.
External notification channel
The whistleblower can either contact the external reporting channel designated by the government directly or after completing the internal reporting procedure. The notification can be made either verbally or in writing. Verbal reporting is possible via telephone or other voice messaging systems. At the request of the reporter, a physical meeting must even be possible within a reasonable period of time.
For this purpose, the whistleblower must contact:
- the Federal Ombudsmen who will act as federal coordinator for external reports
- the competent authorities mentioned in the Royal Decree of 22 January 2023 regarding the designation of the competent authorities for the implementation of the Act of 28 November 2022 on the protection of reporters of infringements of Union or national law established within a legal entity in the private sector
They are tasked to:
- receive external reports of integrity violations;
- verify whether they are admissible and whether there is a reasonable suspicion that the reported
infringements have occurred;
- and, if the later is the case, forward them to the authority competent to investigate the report.
In exceptional cases, such as when no authority is competent, the Federal Ombudsmen will act as the competent authority and will also investigate the report.
Follow-up of the report
As a whistleblower, you will receive confirmation of this within 7 days of receipt of the report, unless the reporter expressly requests otherwise or unless the Federal Ombudsmen/competent authority judge on reasonable grounds that sending such a confirmation would jeopardize the identity of the reporter.
Feedback will be provided to the reporter within a reasonable period, and in any case no later than three months after confirmation of receipt of the report. This three-month period may be appropriately deviated from in justified cases. In this case, feedback must be provided to the reporter within 6 months at the latest.
Finally, the competent authority must inform the reporter of the result of the investigations conducted following his report. For example, the competent authorities may also consider that the reported infringement is clearly of minor significance and therefore no further follow-up is required. This decision must be motivated by the competent
This policy also regulates the protection of whistleblowers who report a possible infringement through the press or other public media. However, the following conditions must be taken into account:
The whistleblower first made an internal and external report or made an external report directly, for which no appropriate measures were taken within the set period.
Duty of confidentiality
The identity of the whistleblower who reports in accordance with this policy via the internal reporting channel will not be made known, directly or indirectly, without his or her express permission, except to the persons who are authorized to handle and follow up on the report in accordance with this policy. This also applies to all other information that can be used directly or indirectly to determine the identity of the reporter.
However, an exception to this applies if it concerns a necessary and proportionate obligation under EU or national law in the context of investigations by national authorities or judicial proceedings, also to guarantee the rights of defense of the data subject.
Processing of personal data (GDPR)
Any processing of personal data by etherna immunotherapies following a report will be carried out in accordance with the applicable Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and the Belgian Act of 30 July 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data. Personal data that is clearly not relevant to the handling of a specific report will not be collected or, if collected inadvertently, will be deleted immediately.
For the rest, reference is made to the employment regulations regarding the processing of personal data.
Register of notifications
etherna immunotherapies will maintain a register of notifications, in which every notification received will be recorded. Confidentiality will always be guaranteed and reports will not be kept longer than necessary.
Protection and support measures for the whistleblower
Whistleblowers who report a possible breach in accordance with the provisions of this policy may not be subject to measures/retaliation such as (non-exhaustive list):
- suspension, temporary withdrawal from service, dismissal or similar measures;
- demotion or denial of promotion;
- transfer of tasks, change of location of work, reduction in wages, change of working hours;
- withholding training;
- negative performance review or employment reference;
- discrimination, disadvantageous or unequal treatment;
Any protected person (whistleblower, facilitator, third parties or legal entities associated with the reporter) who believes that he or she is a victim of or is threatened with retaliation may submit a reasoned complaint to the Federal Coordinator, who will initiate an extrajudicial protection procedure starts. This option is without prejudice to the right of the protected person to apply directly to the Labor Court.
However, whistleblowers are only protected against possible retaliation on the condition that:
- they had reasonable grounds to believe that the information about the infringements was correct at the me of the report and;
- the information reported falls within the scope of this policy;
- they reported this information internally or externally, or made information public in the ways stated in this policy.
Anonymous whistleblowers also enjoy protection under the above conditions if they are later identified and become victims of reprisals.
Changes to the policy
etherna immunotherapies reserves the right to unilaterally change the policy at any time.