Employers who put their employees in danger by refusing to allow teleworking or making them work in unsafe conditions that fail to respect the rules on safe distances will be prosecuted, and the courts will treat the offences seriously, according to a statement from the college of prosecutors-general.
The auditors of the employment tribunals across the country will be instructed to close down businesses which fail to apply the rules, and even go as far as to bring a criminal prosecution, the college said.
If a worker has suffered damage as a result of the actions or non-actions of the employer, the option of prosecution is to be favoured, according to Danny Meirsschaut, auditor of the employment tribunal of Ghent and president of the national council of auditors.
That option would allow a possible prison sentence of up to three years, and allow the employee to pursue the company for damages.
According to figures collected by the office of federal economy minister Nathalie Muylle (CD&V), more than 170 complaints of non-compliance have been received, and seven businesses have been closed down by employment inspectors.
In the three days from 23 to 25 March, 176 complaints were received. Inspectors called around 245 businesses by phone, and later visited 96, of which 84 were found to be in breach of the rules.
As well as the seven businesses shut down on the spot, 77 received a warning, and risk being closed down if any more infractions are found.
“We know there are a great many businesses who carefully respect the prevention measures, but the complaints are alarming, and the results of our inspections are not good,” said Muylle.
“Going to work is very important, but it has to be done safely. The situation is much too serious to play fast and loose with the health of people in the workplace.”