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Foreign employees' jobs turned into gig work without their knowledge

Inspections by the authorities have uncovered shortcomings in payments to foreign workers by close to half of employers.

The largest number of wage-related problems were found in the construction and restaurant sectors. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Recent checks by Finland's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that there were issues in the salaries of foreigners at just under half of the workplaces it inspected.

Wage-related matters were checked in nearly 600 inspections and deficiencies were found at nearly half of the inspected sites. In most cases, the basic pay or the payment of supplements were inadequate, or no supplements had been paid at all.

Widespread shortcomings were also found in the documentation of hours worked. Officials said it was difficult to assess the accuracy of payments in many cases because the actual hours worked could not be determined.

In addition, inspections revealed a growing number of situations in which an employment relationship had been disguised as entrepreneurship or what is referred to as "light entrepreneurship".

Occasionally, the employment relationship had been changed into a commission agreement with terms similar to an employment contract. This action was often done without the employee understanding the difference. It was particularly seen in the construction industry, but also in car repair shops and car washes.

Gig workers are not entitled to any of the benefits provided to contracted employees.

In total, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration carried out more than 1,500 inspections of foreign worker employment conditions in Finland last year.

Raising awareness of exploitation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is increasingly targeting foreign workers, and the people who help them, in its communications services.

Last year the organisation updated its guide entitled 'As a foreign employee in Finland' (siirryt toiseen palveluun), which is available in 14 languages, and organised an English-language webinar on workers' rights.

"From the perspective of preventing work-related exploitation, it is important that foreign employees know their rights and know how to ask the authorities for help," Riku Rajamäki, Senior Officer in the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, said in a statement on Wednesday.