Labour inspection sanctions: law and practice of national labour inspection systems

During the general discussion on labour administration and labour inspection at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference in June 2011, delegates pointed out that labour inspection cannot be fully understood without considering the procedures for imposing sanctions or penalties. These procedures are necessary as a remedy for violations, while also acting as deterrent.

Sanctions are only one of the means of action available to inspectors to enforce compliance. However, in many cases national rules and practices governing sanctions are unclear and do not give sufficient or clear guidance to inspectors on ensuring compliance with the law.
Innovative sanctions have also been introduced, including administrative penalties that affect the vital economic interests of the enterprise, such as withdrawing the eligibility of the enterprise to participate in public tenders, withdrawing subsidies and public assistance, closing down the undertaking, whether temporarily or permanently, or even removing certain administrative privileges.
One lesson drawn from this comparative study is that in order to be effective, sanctions must not only be adequate in terms of amount and visibility, they must also be effectively enforced by appropriate bodies and procedures, while ensuring due process of law and preventing abuse.
At the same time, there is a new tendency to use guidance and prevention as a form of deterrence, and several countries have introduced promising approaches to the adoption of deterrents. This is particularly true of campaigns for reducing and preventing occupational accidents.
This comparative study makes it even clearer that a sound system of labour law compliance needs to be properly designed, so as to be compatible with a country’s legal traditions and administrative procedures. Our hope is that this study will prove useful for those who are in the process of designing or redesigning their system of sanctions to ensure the effectiveness of the labour inspection system.