The Social Criminal Code Became Effective On 1 July 2011

Author:Mr Marcel Houben

The law introducing the Social Criminal Code became effective on 1 July 2011. By introducing the Social Criminal Code the legislator aims at establishing a clear and coordinated whole of the sanctions that may be imposed in case of violation of the employment and industrial relations legislation and of the social security legislation.

For a very large number of statutory and regulatory obligations laid down in the employment and industrial relations legislation and the social security legislation administrative fines or criminal sanctions may be imposed. The administrative fines have been bound together in the law of 30 June 1971. Nevertheless, this has not prevented a very vast variety as far as the amounts of the possible administrative fines are concerned. Possible criminal sanctions are even far less surveyable because each of them has been laid down each time separately in the laws concerned. The result thereof is a whole spectrum of criminal fines and prison sentences that may largely defer from each other. Also the rules regarding the procedures to be followed are spread over the Code of Civil Procedure, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the legislation relating to the inspection services.

The Social Criminal Code (apart from the modifying stipulations and the cancelling stipulations, 237 articles in total) aims at turning this obscure mess into a coordinated whole by

bringing together the stipulations relating to the three phases of the process leading to a possible implementation of sanctions (investigation – decision – prosecution); summing up all violations of the social criminal legislation exhaustively in a thematic classification; and subdividing the sanctions in 4 levels depending on the deemed seriousness of the violations. It needs to be taken into consideration that, as a result of the federal structure of the state, the Social Criminal Code punishes / may punish only violations of the social legislation falling within the competence of the federal authorities. As to the investigation phase, the inspection departments maintain their important role, as already expanded in 2006. Nevertheless, it is explicitly provided that they may use their competences only in order to track down violations included in the Social Criminal Code and that the means used for such tracking down must be in proportion to the needs of the investigation. Additional measures have been provided for aiming at the protection of the person or the...

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