Serious shortcomings in the working time records of foreigners working in private homes
The occupational safety and health authority inspected households using foreign labour last year. More than half of the inspected households had not given their employees work shifts in writing. One third lacked working time records, which made it difficult to determine actual pay. The inspections also revealed two cases of serious labour exploitation. The number of negligence cases was high and further inspections will be carried out this year.
In 2021, occupational safety and health inspectors carried out a total of 30 inspections in Southern Finland in households that had hired foreign workers to work at their homes. The reason for the inspections was an increased number of foreigners working at homes and their heightened risk of becoming victims of labour exploitation.
Surprising amount of shortcomings
The greatest number of issues was discovered in working time records. More than half of the inspected households had completely neglected to draw up a shift schedule. This means that the employers had failed to provide their employees information on when their shifts started and ended and when to take their lunch breaks.
About one third did not have working time records or did have records that were significantly inadequate. If there are no records of working hours, it is not possible to establish the actual pay in all respects. Neglecting to keep a record of working hours may be a criminal offence.
“Although we anticipated that there was cause for inspection when it came to working hours, the amount of shortcomings surprised us”, says Inspector Niina Mäki from the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.
In cases where the actual pay could be determined, the basic pay was mostly in order.
Overtime always requires employee consent
Estimating the amount of overtime was difficult due to shortcomings in the working time records. Employers must ensure that their employees are asked for consent to work overtime for each separate occasion.
“In household work, it is especially important to arrive to an agreement on working hours; otherwise, there is a risk of accidentally adding on hours in the hustle and bustle of everyday life”, Mäki emphasises.
In some cases, overtime had not been compensated at all by money or time off, or it had only been partially compensated.
Two serious cases of exploitation
Two serious cases of labour exploitation were discovered during the inspections. In one case, an employee had been severely underpaid for a long time. In addition, the employee had worked a lot of overtime, Sunday work and evening work without appropriate compensation. In the other case, the employee had received no pay at all. Neither employer had kept working time records.
Each member of a household ring is an employer
Some employees worked in a so-called household or cleaning ring, where several households have hired one foreign employee. This work mainly consisted of cleaning duties.
“Not everyone in the ring had understood that each of them was an employer. For example, not everyone in the ring had an employment contract with the employee, and occupational health care was only in the name of one ring member, although it should include everyone”, says Mäki.
Inspections of households will continue
The results from last year show that inspecting household work is necessary and should be continued. Organisations such as the Finnish Immigration Service help to find targets to inspect, and the inspection results are reported to the TE Office.
“We hope that the employees themselves will also contact us if there are problems at their workplace”, says Mäki.
The occupational safety and health authorities’ telephone service is available in English from Tuesday to Thursday 9 am – 12 noon at 0265 016 620. Service in Finnish and Swedish is available from Monday to Friday 9 am – 3 pm.
Inspector Niina Mäki, tel. +0295 016 134
Inspector Noora Mattsson, tel. 0295 016 383
Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, Division of Occupational Safety and Health