A new Social Criminal Code (the Code) has been introduced into Belgian law.

The Code is an exhaustive summary of existing criminal and administrative sanctions for breaches of employment, social security and industrial relations laws, which were previously scattered throughout Belgium’s various laws. The Code co-ordinates, harmonises and simplifies the spectrum of sanctions that may be imposed following a breach. It classifies the complete range of violations and introduces four levels of corresponding sanctions, with minor infringements being decriminalised (but still punishable by administrative fines) and major infringements being punishable by imprisonment. Both criminal and administrative fines will now be multiplied by the number of employees affected by the breach (up to a maximum number). The Code also provides for specific procedural rules on the investigation process and subsequent prosecution (eg establishing a specialised chamber at the Court of First Instance and Courts of Appeal that will exclusively rule on breaches of social criminal law).

The date on which the Code will come into force is still to be determined by Royal Decree, but at the latest it will come into force on 1 July 2011 (with some exceptions, such as breaches of national collective bargaining agreements, in respect of which the Code will become effective in two years’ time at the earliest).