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Czechia

Most serious infringements of working conditions [page 16-18]

“Implements Principles 1, 2 and 8

Even in advanced countries, we come across cases where employees find themselves in a highly vulnerable position and are required to put up with undignified working conditions, and where their employer, for instance, refuses to pay them. The victims of this abuse are frequently foreign nationals as they have limited opportunity to defend themselves. Evidence of such practices can also be found in the Czech Republic. [The footnote states that “In 2008, an organised group was detected that had been recruiting farmworkers abroad. These recruits, sometimes working between 12 and 18 hours a day, were paid only a fraction of the wages they had been promised (Judgment of the Supreme Court 7 Tdo 1261/2013 of 12 March 2014). In 2009, there was a case where at least 22 construction workers were found to have been enslaved for up to 2 years (Judgment of the Supreme Court 4 Tdo 366/2013 of 14 May 2013). Between 2009 and 2011, there were several cases of large-scale labour exploitation involving up to several hundred workers in the forestry sector (Finding of the Constitutional Court II. ÚS 3436/14 of 19 January 2016 and Finding of the Constitutional Court I. ÚS 3196/12 of 12 August 2014).”] Those working in other people’s households are another risk group. Such actions have fallout for employees, for the state (which is robbed of taxes and insurance contributions), and for honest businesses, who cannot compete with such labour.

Whereas minor cases of labour-law violations are subject to checks by labour inspection bodies, more serious cases can be prosecuted as crimes. However, for these modern-day unfair practices to be detected and prevented effectively, there needs to be coordinated cooperation between many state bodies and social partners. There may be numerous labour-law violations in supply chains, via temporary employment agencies, or at entities that act as recruiters but do not hold a permit to do so. To make it possible to stamp out these most serious forms of abuse, businesses themselves should pay attention to working conditions at their partners and, if they detect any breaches of the law, they should either demand that corrective action be taken or sever ties. The state’s role here is to create a functioning labour market that will not cater to illegal practices. This does not mean just the repression of the perpetrators, but also the shaping of conditions conducive to the legal employment of foreign nationals.

Current state of play:

  • The Czech Republic has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Private Employment Agencies Convention (Convention No 181).
  • Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work, regulating this area at EU level, and Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals have been transposed into Czech law.
  • A methodological guideline of the Inspector General of the State Labour Inspectorate Authority has been issued to harmonise inspection procedures in checks focusing on temporary agency work.
  • The constituent elements of misdemeanours and administrative offences in labour law are being clarified.
  • A law is being drawn up that will tighten conditions for the establishment and operation of temporary employment agencies. Users drawing on the services of such agencies are to be made co-responsible for the observance of commensurable wage and working conditions for temporary employees, and compulsory deposits are being introduced for each agency.
  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs hosts the Interministerial Body to Combat the Illegal Employment of Foreign Nationals, which plays a coordinating role, and the Economic and Social Agreement Council’s Working Party on the Mediation of Employment by Temporary Employment Agencies.
  • A Concept for the Prevention of the Labour Exploitation of European Union Citizens in the Czech Republic has been produced.
  •  The Czech Republic activity combats human trafficking in accordance with the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019.
  • Czech law contains procedures to help victims of human trafficking to legalise their stay [E.g. Section 42e of Act No 326/1999 on the residence of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic and amending certain acts, as amended] and to find work. [E.g. Section 97(d) and Section 98(p) of Act No 435/2004 on employment.] Although victims can take their claims to the civil courts, lawsuits tend to be lengthy and arduous for someone who cannot speak the language, is unfamiliar with the legal system, and does not have the money for a lawyer. In criminal proceedings, victims may be represented by an agent, such as a non-profit organisation. [Section 50 of Act No 141/1961 on criminal proceedings (the Code of Criminal Procedure).]
  • Under the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019, an analysis is being conducted of flaws in selected labour-law regulations that could pander to an exploitative working environment (Task 1 of the National Strategy).

Tasks:

  • Focus, via labour inspection bodies, on unravelling the illegal employment of foreign nationals and running checks on temporary employment agencies and other entities acting as recruiters without the necessary permit.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running
  • Evaluate the implementation of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. The evaluation will include an analysis of the extra administrative burden and the ramifications for businesses.
    Coordinator: Ministry of the Interior
    Co-coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: 31 December 2022
  • Assess whether illegal employment is genuinely being earnestly prosecuted.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running, with a comprehensive assessment on 31 December 2022
  • Make arrangements to raise foreign nationals’ awareness of their labour rights and obligations.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running
  • Raise law enforcement agencies’ awareness of issues specific to human trafficking, with a stress on victim protection and the non-punishment principle (i.e. the impunity and protection of those who have been forced into criminal activity). Take this principle into account in the preparation of legislation that may touch on human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
    Coordinators: Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice
    Deadline: Running”

Representation in court, legal assistance [page 44]

“Even today, a trade union organisation may represent its members and associations may, in the course of their activities, represent victims of discrimination or foreign nationals in labour cases. It is worth considering expanding opportunities for representation by those organisations in the future.”

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