On 1 July 2010, the long-awaited Social Criminal Code was published in the Belgian official journal of laws.
This Code aims to harmonise the existing social criminal sanctions that are dispersed throughout the various employment and social security laws – Belgium indeed does not have one unified "social code" - and to simplify the range of criminal sanctions and administrative fines that may be imposed.
Important new items are:
- the more active role of social inspectorates;
- the extension of the range of penalties:
- the limitation to 4 clearly defined penalty levels;
- the generalisation of the administrative fine: minor breaches are decriminalised and made subject to administrative penalties. This might mean that, where previously such minor breaches were overlooked or discharged, it could be more likely that administrative penalties will be imposed;
- introduction of new penalties, including the closure of a company and the prohibition to execute an activity;
- more emphasis on the rights of the defence.
A Royal Decree will determine when this new Social Criminal Code will enter into force. But according to the law, this will be on 1 July 2011 at the latest.