Estonian ministry would make use of illegal workforce a criminal offense

PHOTO: Liis Treimann

In a bid to restrict the use of illegal labor, the Estonian Interior Ministry is planning to make the use of illegal labor a criminal offense, increase the rates of fine for businesses, enable the imposition of a prohibition on business and a prohibition to engage in enterprise on business operators, along with the compulsory dissolution of a business and its removal from public procurements.

Where valid law enables to punish an employer for enabling employment to a foreigner staying in Estonia without a legal basis under a misdemeanor procedure, or pursuant to criminal law in the event of aggravating circumstances, the legislative amendments proposed by the Interior Ministry would hold the employer responsible also for enabling employment to a foreigner staying in Estonia on a legal basis if the conditions of the employment of a foreigner set out in the Aliens Act, including the pay criterion, are not fulfilled.

In accordance with one proposal, the Police and Border Guard Board would be entitled to seek from a court the compulsory dissolution of a legal person which has systemically enabled employment to a foreigner staying in Estonia without a legal basis or has paid a lower remuneration to a foreigner than set out in the law. Besides it would be possible to apply the prohibition on business to the managers of such companies.

The amendment would make the enabling of the violation of the conditions of the employment of a foreigner set out in the Aliens Act a criminal offense. To the managers of companies found guilty of such offense the prohibition to engage in enterprise could be applied in the future.

The proposed amendments would also increase the maximum size of a fine for a legal person for an act of misdemeanor from the present 3,200 euros to 10,000 euros.

In addition, the amendments would enable the removal of a tenderer from a public procurement procedure if the tenderer has been punished for the enabling of the violation of the conditions of the employment of a foreigner in Estonia. They would also enable the removal from a procurement of a tenderer who lists a company punished for enabling employment to a foreigner staying in Estonia without a legal basis or enabling the violation of the conditions of the employment of a foreigner in Estonia as its sub-contractor.

Estonia has registered a 462 percent increase in the numbers of foreigners working in the country illegally in the past three years -- from 68 cases in 2013 to 382 last year. The number of misdemeanor procedures against employers initiated for illegal employment grew 115 percent from 39 cases in 2013 to 84 cases last year.

The biggest numbers of illegal workers come from Ukraine, with breaches related to citizens of Ukraine numbering 242 last year, followed by citizens of Belarus with 73 cases and citizens of Moldova with 16 cases.

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