A total of 109 illegal workers were employed at a farm – the employer was sentenced to pay a fine even though the severity of the offence would have required a prison sentence
The Southwest Finland District Court sentenced the employer to pay 100 unit fines for illegal use of foreign workers. The exceptional conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic were considered a mitigating circumstance. The employer was ordered to pay a sum of 600 euros. The District Court issued its ruling on 16 August 2022.
The Southwest Finland District Court considered a case that had been revealed during an occupational safety and health inspection. In February 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland carried out an inspection at a farm in Southwestern Finland to supervise the use of foreign workers. According to the information obtained during the inspection and the criminal investigation carried out by the police, a total of 109 illegal foreign workers were employed at the farm. Most of them were Ukrainian citizens.
The employer had hired foreigners that did not have employee’s residence permits or other permits allowing them to work in Finland. The employer had neglected its obligations to check the foreign employees’ right to work under the Aliens Act (301/2004) and employed persons without a right to work.
The employer confessed to the offence, citing the mobility problems and difficulty obtaining permits during the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for not managing the permit matters. The District Court took this into account as a mitigating circumstance.
However, the District Court stated that considering the severity of the offence, a prison sentence would have been required, but taking into account the exceptional circumstances and their impact on the defendant’s guilt, a fine had to be considered a sufficient punishment.
The employer must ensure that the foreigners that it is hiring have the right to work in Finland
The employer that has foreign workers on its payroll must ensure that the employees possess the right permits for the work in question. Under the Aliens Act, the employer must ensure that the foreigners it has hired have the right to work in Finland and keep this information at the workplace.
“The grounds for the right to work depend on the citizenship of the foreign employees in question, the type of work they intend to perform in Finland and the duration of the work. When hiring foreign workers, employers must check their right to work in Finland before the employment contracts are concluded,” explains Natalie Eklund, Legal Counsel in the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland.
Case number of the court decision is R 22/917.
Legal Counsel Natalie Eklund
tel. +358 (0)29 501 8188, firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland, Occupational Safety and Health Division