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Audit: Third of retail stores underpaying foreign-background staff

An audit by worker rights protection officials discovered that nearly one-third of retail shops mainly staffed with workers of foreign background were underpaying their employees. The audit found that some workers were often unaware of minimum wage levels, work shift rights and health care benefits they were entitled to.

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Image: YLE / Toni Pitkänen

An audit of dozens of shops that mainly employ people of foreign origin was carried out last year by the worker protection of the Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) in southern Finland revealed that 27 percent of the stores were underpaying their staff.

The audit surveyed 54 small shops and clothing stores in the Helsinki region and southern Karelia.

Those workers who were earning less than mandated minimum wage levels were not aware that they should be paid according to collective bargaining agreements, minimum wage for such work in Helsinki is just over 11 euros per hour.

"It is common that the employee doesn't know the wage they have a right to receive," AVI inspector Kati Nikulainen said.

According to Nikulainen "many" of the surveyed shops were also managed by people with foreign backgrounds and not particularly familiar with employee rights laws themselves.

Health care, work schedule shortcomings

Apart from the shortcomings in wage payments, the AVI audit also revealed that there were deficiencies in employee access to health care in 39 percent of the stores.

AVI said that figure is significantly higher than normal retail industry standards. Out of all retail businesses inspected last year, nine percent had not organised health care programmes for its workers, according to the agency.

There were also problems concerning work shifts, some of the 54 shops did not use work shift schedules at all; others did utilise schedules but were not giving the mandated two week notice to workers before workweeks commenced.

The audit resulted in AVI issuing management of the shops instruction about how to remedy the violations.

Sources: Yle

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