The approach to labor exploitation by the SZW Inspectorate, the former Labor Inspectorate, is not effective, despite the fact that the agency has been receiving extra money for this task since 2018. This is the conclusion of the Court of Audit in a report published on Tuesday. “With the approach of the Inspectorate, fewer offenders are not released or more victims are helped,” according to the Court of Audit. Since 2018, the inspectorate has received tens of millions of euros, rising to 50 million in 2022, to check for labor exploitation.
This form of exploitation includes, for example, that employees are forced to work long hours under poor working conditions and for a low salary. On the one hand, the Inspectorate can tackle this through criminal law, by transferring cases of labor exploitation as a form of human trafficking to the Public Prosecution Service. On the other hand, the Inspectorate can fine employers and employment agencies that violate labor laws through administrative law. According to the Court of Auditors, the combination of these two enforcement routes is ‘ineffective’.
For example, the administrative law approach fails because fines are „so low [zijn] that they have hardly any deterrent effect”, according to the Court of Audit. In addition, it is ‘relatively rare’ for employers or employment agencies to receive several fines at the same time. Also, perpetrators of labor exploitation are punished with these fines, but they hardly help the victims.
Also, according to the Inspectorate, not all reports can be criminally investigated, because many cases do not comply with the article on human trafficking. “Coercion and the intent of exploitation are often difficult to prove in court, and sham constructions are difficult to unravel,” according to the Court of Audit. Over the years, fewer and fewer reports of labor exploitation made by municipalities, the police or SZW inspectors have been processed for further investigation. In 2016, 27 percent of all reports led to an investigation, in 2019 this percentage was only 4 percent.
Moreover, the work of the Ministries of Justice and Security and Social Affairs and Employment to improve existing legislation and regulations is said to have ‘not yet produced visible results’. In addition, not all victims of labor exploitation are registered, which means that “many of the estimated thousands of victims of labor exploitation in the Netherlands remain out of the picture”.
The Court recommends that ministries improve ‘existing tools’ to make it easier to stop perpetrators of labor exploitation and to offer victims more help and protection. For example, the SZW Inspectorate should work better with municipalities and aid organizations to receive and protect victims of labor exploitation after a report.
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‘SZW Inspectorate does not tackle labor exploitation effectively’
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