The all-powerful Social Inspectorate
The criminal trial of a well-known restaurant owner has once again drawn attention to the very broad inspection powers of the social inspectorate. The employer refused to allow the social inspectorate to enter his restaurant. Nevertheless, social inspectors are legally entitled to freely enter all possible workplaces at any time of the day or night, without prior notice!
Entering without knocking
Unlike the judicial police, social inspectors do not require prior judicial authorisation to visit a workplace. They only need to prove that they reasonably suspect that people are employed at a given location. A light turned on at night in a building or cars in the car park are sufficient justification. If people live at the premises in question, the inspectorate only has limited access, (for example when offenders are caught red-handed). Social inspectors can also carry out identity checks on any person they consider relevant to their inspection (employees, employers, customers, etc.) and question all these persons.
Limited right to consultation with lawyer
Only in the most serious category of social security offences, such as employing illegal immigrants or child labour, does the employer have the right to confidential consultation with a lawyer, for a maximum of thirty minutes prior to the questioning. However, social inspectors are allowed to actively detect and investigate all possible carriers of social security information (e.g. individual accounts and employment contracts) without a prior court order. They can only request that other information be submitted to them.
Social inspectors can also confiscate assets such as documents and computers, regardless of whether the employer owns them or not. They can also take samples and record photographic or video material. If a person obstructs the inspection of the social inspectorate by, for example, denying access, this can result in an expensive fine. The fines range from €4,800 to €48,000, multiplied by the number of employees involved, and in addition, a possible prohibition of activities or closure of the business.
Right to remain silent
Of course, no one can be forced to make statements in which they incriminate themselves. As such, the right to remain silent does not fall within the definition of obstructing an inspection.
Announced inspections in 2020
The Social Security Intelligence and Investigation Service (SIOD) has announced flash inspections in the following sectors for the current year 2020:
|Electrical engineering and construction sector:||March|
|Taxi and transport sector:||May|
|Agriculture and horticulture sector:||July|
No date has been set yet for the ‘horeca’ sector.
The actions are primarily informative and preventive, but the inspectorate will take action and issue fines if they find serious violations. So it’s best to make sure everything is in compliance in advance.
The SIOD has published the complete list of inspections, with a handy checklist per sector. Consult the list via this link: read more (only available in Dutch and French).