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Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Cleaners, waiters, waitresses or assistants – these are the largest immigrant worker groups asking for employee rights advisory service in Finland.

Most employees contacting the advisory service come from other European countries. Compared to the origins of the foreign population of Finland, employees from African countries are most likely to contact the service, whereas Estonian employees have the corresponding lowest rate of enquiries. “Estonians and other immigrants from the near-abroad tend to integrate more rapidly into the Finnish job market,” Ohvo said.

More than half of all foreign callers were working in a service industry. About one-fifth of enquiries concerned the collective agreement for real estate services, 17 percent involved the collective agreement for the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry and 14 percent were related to the collective agreement for the private social services sector.

“Estonians and other immigrants from the near-abroad tend to integrate more rapidly into the Finnish job market.”

A comparison of the number of callers to the number of foreigners working in various sectors suggests that employees in private social services have been more likely to contact the advisory service since it opened in March of last year. “This is not a surprising finding, as most foreigners tend to find their first jobs in Finland in the service sectors. Their language skills and familiarity with the ground rules of the working world will not necessarily be very advanced at this stage,” said Niko Ohvo, an employee rights advisory service lawyer. “Most enquiries are made in English, and many employees have problems understanding the terms and conditions of employment contracts written in Finnish. It would be helpful if these documents could be translated into English.”

Ohvo explains that foreign employees tend to have the same basic employment concerns as their Finnish colleagues. 14 percent of enquiries concern employment contracts, 13 percent relate to wages and nine percent of the callers ask about unemployment benefits. “Europeans are mainly worried about wage entitlements, whereas employees from African and Asian countries tend to ask about immigration regulations,” Ohvo said.

There were 217 inquiries in the first year of the service’s operation, and the number has been increasing, particularly in the spring and early summer. The employee advisory service is provided free of charge by the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

SAK employee rights advisory service for immigrants: