Social inspections update – 2022 action plan to combat social fraud

Last month, the Council of Ministers approved the Social Intelligence and Investigation Service’s (SIIS) 2022 action plan to combat social fraud. This plan translates the SIIS’s strategic plan on this topic – which covers the period 2022-2025 and was approved in February – into concrete objectives and actions for the current year. 

The focus of the 2022 action plan remains firmly on social dumping and cooperation between the different inspectorate services, not only on a regional and national level, but also internationally. To achieve this, the plan contains 76 priority actions, of which more than half (more specifically, 41) concern joint actions, meaning they’ll be executed by different institutions, working together. 

We’ll outline some of the most notable action points below.

Cross-border cooperation

With social dumping and cooperation between the different institutions as the focal points of the 2022 action plan, it stands to reason that many of the plan’s action points contain cross-border cooperation. This can take the form of an exchange of information, but for several action points also means organising joint and concerted cross-border inspections, together with other countries’ inspectorate services (e.g. in cases of social dumping or illegal posting). At a European level, the European Labour Authority (ELA) will play an important role in coordinating such joint and concerted actions. 

In this respect, the SIIS will also continue to work with the Benelux Secretariat and the federal and regional inspectorate services to draw up and conclude a ‘Benelux Social Fraud Treaty’ on cross-border cooperation.

Social dumping

The 2022 action plan contains several items that are aimed at combatting social dumping in the transportation industry. In the regulatory department, the transposition of Directive (EU) no. 2020/1057 – which lays down specific rules regarding the posting of drivers in this industry – can already be marked as completed, as it was recently adopted by the Chamber. Other action points in this respect are; organising cross-border joint and concerted inspections in cooperation with the ELA and a media campaign on social dumping in the transportation industry. Of the 10,000 inspections that are set to take place in 2022 in execution of the SIIS’s 2022 action plan, 1,500 will target the transportation industry.

Next to the specific actions that are planned with respect to the posting of drivers in the transportation industry, social dumping accounts for several other action points as well. This includes tackling the increase in the number of workers from outside of the EU who come to Belgium via fraudulent constructions (such as the so-called ‘Brazilian chains’) and increased investigations into the posting of third-country nationals to Belgium. Of the 2,000 planned investigations into social dumping, at least 200 will focus on the ‘Brazilian chains’ and at least 400 on posting of third-country nationals. Note in this respect that ‘Brazilian chains’ refers to the improper use of EU law by third-country nationals who use Portugal’s more permissive immigration legislation to obtain a work permit there and are subsequently illegally posted to Belgium by letterbox companies, often to work in the construction industry.

Verification COVID-19 support measures

In order to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a number of support measures during the last two years. In order to give companies the assistance they needed as soon as possible, the modalities to apply for support were usually rather tolerant, with little to no need to present supporting documentation and no prior checks on whether the eligibility criteria were met. This came with an increased risk of fraud and, in order to be able to reclaim fraudulently obtained amounts in this respect, the 2022 action plan contains a number of points of action. These include increased cooperation between the different inspectorate services and a posteriori verification of the application of temporary unemployment due to force majeure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flash inspections

In 2022, the inspectorate services will continue their practice of organising so-called ‘flash inspections’, which are announced up-front and are mostly informative and preventive in nature. The remaining flash inspections in 2022 will be organised as follows:

  • in July, in the hospitality industry (joint committee no. 302); 
  • in September, in the agriculture - and horticulture industry (joint committees no. 144 and 145);
  • in November, in large cities, including in the car wash industry (joint committee no. 112).

Pascale Moreau

Partner, PwC Legal BV/SRL

Tel: +32 479 90 02 76