A significant number of foreign employees were found exploited in the Finnish labour market in 2022, said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday.
In 2022, the occupational safety and health authorities carried out more than 2,350 inspections supervising the use of foreign labour and there were a large number of shortcomings in compliance with the minimum terms of employment for foreign workers, especially in pay.
Inspections discovered more and more employees who were treated at the workplace as helpers or so-called light entrepreneurs, even though they would have been entitled to employees’ rights in practice.
More than half of the inspections revealed shortcomings in the construction sector and the hotel and restaurant sector.
About 15% of the inspections concerning the right to work discovered employees with no right to work.
The occupational safety and health authority submitted to the police 190 reports concerning foreign employees that had no right to work. There were also 23 reports of work discrimination and extortionate discrimination at work.
Inspections of foreign labour are discovering more and more cases where it seems that a foreigner has an employment relationship with the employer even though this is not the case in the view of the business paying for the work.
Inspectors encountered 422 so-called light entrepreneurs in 71 different inspections. Some of these cases constituted an employment relationship that had been disguised as entrepreneurship.
The phenomenon is particularly common in the construction sector but also in cleaning, car repair shops and car wash shops. In addition, inspectors still ran into cases where employees were claimed to be “just helping”.
Written advice was issued in 57 inspections on the grounds that the characteristics of an employment relationship were met even though there was no employment relationship according to the employer.
From the perspective of labour legislation, a person doing work in exchange for payment is always either an entrepreneur or an employee, and the position of a so-called light entrepreneur does not differ from that of other kinds of entrepreneur.
The act on the legal status of foreigners picking natural products, or the so-called Berry Act, was now enforced for the second year. Deficiencies in compliance with the Berry Act were observed in practically all inspections carried out at wild berry pickers’ bases, and the number of imposed obligations was considerable.
In some cases, the supervision also focused on the terms and conditions of employment of the employees working at the bases, i.e. so-called support staff. Some of the shortcomings discovered in these inspections were very serious.
In 2022, the additional resources received previously for the supervision of foreign labour helped enforcement to react better to received tips and participate in authorities’ joint inspections. About 460 joint inspections were carried out, and the information obtained from the other authorities was used in hundreds of inspections as well. Inspections were also carried out on the basis of tips from employee organisations and citizens.
“Cooperation between authorities is essential in the fight against labour exploitation. Cooperation with the third sector has also become closer year by year”, said Senior Officer Katja-Pia Jenu from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.