Labour exploitation

Minimum terms and conditions of employment - Yleistä

In Finland, all employees are entitled to work under the terms and conditions of employment in accordance with legislation and the collective agreements. Labour exploitation means taking advantage of a vulnerable employee in order to achieve financial gain.

Minimum terms and conditions of employment apply, for example, to working hours, wages, family leaves, sickness-related absences and holidays. If the employer does not comply with the minimum terms and conditions of employment, it can be considered as labour exploitation or even as human trafficking. For further information on the minimum terms and conditions, refer to section Employment relationship.

Labour exploitation may occur, for example, when employees are paid too little and assigned too much work. Labour exploitation may involve a slight trampling of the terms and conditions of employment or a more serious act, in which the employee may have been misled, threatened or made to live in conditions that are in violation of human dignity.

Labour exploitation occurs is many different sectors. Various authorities and organisations cooperate in order to prevent such exploitation. The work to prevent labour exploitation also requires those commissioning work to operate in a vigilant and responsible manner.

The occupational safety and health authorities enforce compliance with the minimum terms and conditions of employment and occurrence of work discrimination. For example, a situation where an employee is required to work under poor terms and conditions of employment due to their origin or language constitutes work discrimination. The occupational safety and health authorities do not, however, take action on an employee’s behalf or provide legal assistance in a court case.

The police will investigate a case of labour exploitation as a crime, for example, under an offence classification of work discrimination, extortionate work discrimination, extortion and human trafficking.

Contractor of work: identify and prevent labour exploitation

Labour exploitation occurs especially in sectors where a lot of subcontracting or foreign workforce is utilised. The contractor of the work needs to know how to identify and prevent labour exploitation. A responsible contractor will aim to ensure that their operations do not enable the exploitation of employees.

The following signs can be an indication that there is a risk of labour exploitation in subcontracting:

  • The contract price for subcontracting is so small that the employer is unable to pay all the employers’ contributions.
  • It is unclear who are working at the workplace.
  • The employees are hesitant to talk about their working hours.
  • The same employees are often working long working days.
  • The occupational safety of employees has not been ensured.
  • The employees are not arriving at work independently; someone is escorting them to the workplace.

The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI) has published guidelines for companies and employers to take action regarding exploitation:

Guidelines for businesses and employers for risk management in subcontracting chains – Preventing labour exploitation and human trafficking in Finland

Navigating through your supply chain – Toolkit for prevention of labour exploitation and trafficking

Human trafficking

Human trafficking includes forced labour where victims are misled or compelled by exploiting their dependent status or vulnerability into working in circumstances degrading human dignity. The victims of work-related human trafficking are commonly foreign workers. Indeed, extortionate work discrimination is very similar in its essential elements to human trafficking. If workers are forced to work in unreasonable circumstances with no regard for occupational safety and health or in violation of human dignity, they may be considered victims of human trafficking. Investigation of suspected human trafficking is a case for the police.

Assistance system for victims of human trafficking

What the occupational safety and health authorities can do for any victims of human trafficking found through workplace surveys or otherwise is to refer them to the assistance system for victims of human trafficking. If necessary, the occupational safety and health authorities will submit an application to the assistance system on behalf of the victim. Referral to the assistance system always requires the consent of the victim.

Minimum terms and conditions of employment - Muualla Tyosuojelu.fissä