Almost half of Belgian employers violate coronavirus measures
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Almost half of Belgian employers violate coronavirus measures

Credit: Belga

One or more violations of the coronavirus measures have been detected in almost half of employers inspected since the first lockdown in Belgium, according to figures by Federal Economy and Work Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne.

Since 13 March, some 1,000 inspectors from the Federal Public Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue Service (FPS) have carried out a total of 17,633 checks to see whether companies are complying with the measures and hygiene regulations in force, and found 8,170 employers (about 46%) with at least one violation.

Violating the measures, however, does not immediately mean a fine for the company. To date, approximately 3,500 companies received a warning, while 92 immediate closures took place, and 31 official reports were drawn up and sent to the labour inspectorate.

The inspectorate can impose certain penalties, such as fines. If they decide not to prosecute, a fine can be imposed via the services of the FPS.

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For most violations, employers are asked to remedy them immediately, while a deadline is set for other areas of improvement. This can concern small but important interventions such as providing hand gel, or moving a desk in compliance with the distance rules.

“During this second wave, we see that, too often, there are still breaches against the 1.5-metre distance or hygiene rules in shared areas such as a kitchen or a mess,” Lorenz Soetens, inspector in charge of monitoring well-being at work, told VRT.

Additionally, nearly 3,800 requests for information from employers were received. Necessary information, such as a checklist for an appropriate coronavirus policy, can be found on the website employment.belgium.be.

On 16 October, Belgium’s Consultative Committee made teleworking the norm again, meaning that working from home is mandatory where possible. If teleworking is not possible, strict hygiene standards and safety measures apply to everyone who still has to be present at work.

“We cannot check everyone, because there are a total of more than 400,000 companies in Belgium. Our inspectors carry out checks by means of a risk analysis and complaints received from employees and companies,” Geert De Poorter, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the FPS told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“We also ask external services responsible for well-being at work to report violations if they see them,” he added. “The objective is not to record fines, but to ensure that the measures are followed up, and that those workers who have to go to work are optimally protected.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times