Employee background checks in Pakistan

A Guide to Employee Background Checks in Belgium

Hiring in Belgium? Learn the steps of running legal employee background checks, and enhance your candidate's hiring and screening process.

Michał Kowalewski
Written by Michał Kowalewski
March 29, 2024

Key takeaways

  1. In Belgium, background checks are legal but must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), requiring employers to inform candidates about the checks and obtain their explicit consent
  2. Some background checks in Belgium are restricted or illegal, such as unauthorized social media checks, political affiliation, religious beliefs, health information, genetic information, sexual orientation, and union membership checks, to ensure privacy and prevent discrimination
  3. Background checks are more common in sectors where integrity and trust are paramount, such as finance, banking, healthcare, education, public sector, and IT

In Belgium, including employee background checks in your recruiting process is a smart decision that can boost your organization's integrity and operational safety, especially with the country's thriving economy and skilled workforce.

Belgium, renowned for its advanced tech industry and rich talent pool, is an excellent locale for companies aiming to build robust teams. The country's sophisticated educational infrastructure ensures a steady flow of highly skilled professionals, particularly in technology and engineering sectors, making it a prime location for businesses looking to innovate and grow.

However, adherence to Belgium's strict privacy laws and GDPR compliance is crucial, requiring candidate consent and relevance to job requirements. Unlike in some countries, extensive background checks are uncommon in Belgium, with a focus on educational and employment verification. These practices ensure compliance and respect for privacy, contributing to a secure and reliable hiring process

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in Belgium 
  • What are the common types of employee checks in Belgium
  • Step-by-step process of a thorough employee screening
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in Belgium

What should employers know before running a background check in Belgium

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, ensuring the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

Belgium's approach to employee background checks is governed by a strong framework aimed at protecting personal data. Before running employment screening in Belgium, employers should be mindful of the following regulations and considerations:

  • General data protection regulation (GDPR): Belgium, as part of the EU, adheres to GDPR, which mandates informing candidates about the nature and purpose of background checks and obtaining their explicit consent. Confidentiality and purpose-specific use of the information are critical. It's crucial for employers in Belgium, especially in the capital region, to comply with these standards​​
  • Belgian Data Protection Authority (DPA): The Belgian DPA offers specific guidelines and recommendations that address various aspects of personal data processing, including biometric data, direct marketing, HR-related data processing, and more. Employers should familiarize themselves with these guidelines to ensure compliance with local interpretations and applications of GDPR
  • Framework Act Derogations: The Belgian legal framework, while aligned with GDPR, includes specific derogations for certain types of data processing, such as those for journalistic, academic, artistic, and literary purposes. These exceptions may exempt certain obligations under GDPR, including data subject rights and transborder data flow rules. Employers should be aware of these nuances when processing employee data in these contexts​​

Are background checks legal in Belgium?

Yes, background checks are legal in Belgium, but they are subject to strict regulations. Employers must ensure that their background check process aligns with GDPR guidelines and the Belgian Privacy Act. This includes obtaining explicit consent from the candidate, ensuring the data collected is relevant and not excessive, and transparently communicating the purpose and scope of the background check.

What types of background checks are illegal in Belgium?

In Belgium, certain background checks are illegal or face significant restrictions to safeguard privacy and prevent discrimination. Here is a simplified list of prohibited or tightly controlled types of checks:

  • Unauthorized social media checks: Inspecting private social media accounts without clear consent is off-limits due to privacy concerns
  • Political affiliation checks: Investigating a candidate's political opinions or affiliations is generally prohibited, except in very specific and relevant circumstances
  • Religious belief checks: Screening based on religious beliefs is restricted, reflecting the commitment to religious freedom and non-discrimination
  • Health information checks: Health-related screenings are limited and typically allowed only when they are directly relevant to job requirements
  • Genetic information checks: Using genetic information for employment decisions is heavily regulated due to privacy and ethical considerations
  • Sexual orientation checks: Inquiries into a candidate's sexual orientation are banned, recognizing the right to privacy
  • Union membership checks: Screening candidates based on union membership or activities is generally not permitted, unless directly related to the job's duties

Common background check industries in Belgium

Background checks play a crucial role in various industries, especially where the nature of the work demands a high level of trust and responsibility. Here's an in-depth look at some industries where background checks are commonly conducted, including specific considerations for Belgium:

  • Finance and banking: In this sector, background checks are vital due to the high risk of financial fraud and the need for integrity. Belgium's stringent financial regulations necessitate criminal record checks, credit history reviews, and verification of professional qualifications
  • Healthcare: Ensuring patient safety and confidentiality is paramount. Background checks for healthcare workers in Belgium typically include verifying medical credentials and criminal record checks to maintain a safe care environment
  • Education: The safety of students necessitates thorough background checks for educational staff, focusing on criminal records and verifying qualifications to ensure educators are fit for their roles
  • Public sector and government: Given the access to sensitive information, employees undergo checks to verify their trustworthiness and integrity, including criminal record reviews
  • Information technology (IT) and cybersecurity: The sector's focus on data protection requires checks on technical qualifications and any history of cybersecurity incidents to safeguard information
  • Transportation and logistics: Safety and reliability are crucial, with checks often including driving history and criminal records, especially for roles involving vehicle operation

Types of employee background checks in Belgium

Effective employment screening in Belgium covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of Check Common in Belgium Reason
Criminal record check Common Essential for assessing the suitability and integrity of candidates for certain positions
Employment history verification  Common Verifies the accuracy of a candidate's work experience and job responsibilities
Educational qualifications check Common Confirms the validity of academic credentials claimed by the candidate
Credit history check Less common    Generally used for roles that involve financial responsibilities, subject to consent and relevance 
Health screening Less common Subject to strict legal restrictions; relevant only if it directly pertains to job requirements
Social media screening Less common Used selectively due to privacy concerns and the relevance of information to job performance

Background check mistakes to avoid in Belgium

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in Belgium, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Neglecting data security: Handling personal data comes with the responsibility of protecting it. Employers must have robust measures in place to secure the data obtained during background checks to prevent unauthorized access, loss, or breaches. Failure to do so can lead to legal action and loss of trust
  • Not respecting data minimization: Collecting more information than necessary is a common mistake. The principle of data minimization requires that only data relevant to the job's requirements should be collected. Gathering excessive information can lead to regulatory scrutiny and potential breaches of privacy laws
  • Overlooking the right to be informed: Candidates have the right to know if any adverse findings from a background check may influence the hiring decision. This transparency allows them to address any inaccuracies. Neglecting this right can lead to unfair hiring practices and potential legal challenges
  • Ignoring the right to rectification: Individuals have the right to correct any incorrect or incomplete data held about them. Employers must provide a mechanism for candidates to dispute and rectify incorrect information found during background checks
  • Failing to train staff: Staff involved in the hiring process must be well-versed in the legal and ethical aspects of conducting background checks. Lack of training can lead to errors, such as mishandling personal data or inadvertently discriminating against candidates

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in Belgium

Global employers looking to recruit talent in Belgium should treat this list of steps as a guideline that will help ensure legal, effective, and thorough employee background checks.

  1. Obtain explicit consent: Secure clear, written consent from the candidate for the background check
  2. Define the scope: Clearly define what aspects of the candidate's background will be checked, ensuring it's relevant to the job
  3. Notify the candidate: Inform the candidate about the specific checks you'll conduct and why
  4. Use legitimate sources: Conduct checks using legitimate sources, such as the Belgian National Registry for criminal records or accredited educational institutions for academic verifications
  5. Respect privacy: Ensure the process respects the candidate's privacy, avoiding any unnecessary intrusion
  6. Assess relevance: Evaluate the relevance of any adverse findings in relation to the job role.
  7. Document the process: Keep detailed records of the consent, process, and findings, ensuring compliance with GDPR.
  8. Provide feedback: Offer the candidate a chance to discuss any adverse findings that may affect their employment prospects
  9. Make an informed decision: Use the background check findings alongside other evaluation criteria to make a well-informed hiring decision
  10. Review and update: Regularly review and update your background check policies to ensure ongoing compliance and relevance
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