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Czech Republic

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs establishes and enforces minimum wage standards. The minimum wage is above the “minimum subsistence cost,” which is defined as the minimum amount needed to satisfy the basic needs of a working-age adult for a month. Inspections for compliance with the minimum wage were one of the primary objectives of SBLI inspectors.

The SBLI detected 2,610 violations of wage and hour laws in 2020 and imposed penalties of 9 million crowns ($415,000). Violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were common in the wholesale, retail, food, hospitality, land transport, construction, and security services sectors.

While SBLI inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, they are not responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Employees can seek enforcement of wage and hour laws through judicial recovery. Observers reported judicial recovery can be very lengthy and hard to get, especially for foreign worker.

The law provides for a 40-hour workweek, two days of rest per week, and a 30-minute break during the standard eight-hour workday. Employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid annual leave. Employers may require up to eight hours per week of overtime to meet increased demand but not more than 150 hours of overtime in a calendar year. Additional overtime is subject to the employee’s consent. The labor code requires premium pay for overtime that is equal to at least 125 percent of average earnings.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set occupational health and safety standards that were appropriate for the country’s main industries. The labor code requires employers to provide health and safety protections in the workplace, maintain a healthy and safe work environment, and prevent health and safety risks. Responsibility for identifying unsafe conditions remains with inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced visits and initiate sanctions. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment.

The government effectively enforced the law. Inspection and remediation were sufficient to enforce general compliance. SBLI inspectors conducted checks for labor code compliance and imposed penalties that were commensurate with those for similar violations. The SBLI’s labor inspection plan typically focused on sectors with high-risk working conditions, such as construction, agriculture, forestry, handling of hazardous chemicals, and transport.

There were 35,071 registered workplace injuries in 2020, 7,345 fewer than in 2019. There were 108 fatal accidents in 2020, compared with 95 in 2019. Most workplace injuries and deaths occurred in the agriculture, forestry, transport, construction, and processing industries. Fatal accidents were investigated. For example, when an agricultural worker died after being injured by cattle, the SBLI concluded the employer did not take adequate organizational and technical measures to prevent the fatal injury and imposed a penalty.

Denmark

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Indigenous Peoples

The law protects the rights of the indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Greenland, who are Danish citizens and whose legal system seeks to accommodate their traditions. Through their elected internally autonomous government, they participated in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of energy, minerals, and other natural resources. Greenlanders also vote in national elections.

In the UPR, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that Greenland’s Thule tribe was not a distinct group of the area’s Inuit population breached the right to self-identification.

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not mandate a national minimum wage. Unions and employer associations negotiate minimum wages in collective bargaining agreements that were more than the estimate for the poverty income level. The law requires equal pay for equal work; migrant workers are entitled to the same minimum wages and working conditions as other workers.

Workers generally worked a 37.5-hour week established by contract rather than law. Workers received premium pay for overtime, and there was no compulsory overtime. Working hours are set by collective bargaining agreements and adhere to the EU directive that average workweeks not exceed 48 hours.

The Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA) under the Ministry of Employment is responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance, and inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The government effectively enforced wage and hour laws, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Vulnerable groups generally included migrant and seasonal laborers, as well as young workers. These groups often worked in the agricultural and service sectors.

There were growing concerns regarding the state of working conditions in the country’s platform economy (also known as gig economy). Employees at Nemlig.com, an online grocery delivery service, were threatened with being fired or having reduced working hours if they could not work within the allotted timeframe of packing customers’ orders. Drivers were also expected to work for 15 hours a day and experienced enormous physical pressure to fulfill deliveries to avoid fines up to approximately DKK 2,000 ($310). The labor union 3F entered an agreement with Nemlig.com regarding the work pace in a warehouse located in Broendby. In March, 3F stated in a briefing note that Nemlig.com made progress during the COVID-19 pandemic but that employees continued to be treated poorly.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law prescribes conditions of work, including appropriate safety and health standards, and authorities effectively enforced compliance with labor regulations. The same inspectors with authority over minimum wage and hours conducted occupational safety and health inspections. Standards were enforced effectively for wage, hours and occupational safety and health in all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for safety and health violations, for both employees and employers, were commensurate with those for similar violations. The DWEA under the Ministry of Employment may settle cases subject only to fines without trial.

The Ministry of Employment is responsible for the framework and rules regarding working conditions, health and safety, industrial injuries, financial support, and disability allowances. The DWEA is responsible for enforcing health and safety rules and regulations. This is carried out through inspection visits as well as guidance to companies and their internal safety organizations. DWEA’s scope applies to all industrial sectors except for work carried out in the employer’s private household, exclusively by members of the employer’s family, and by military personnel. The Danish Energy Agency is responsible for supervision of offshore energy installations, the Maritime Authority is responsible for supervision of shipping, and the Civil Aviation Administration is responsible for supervision in the aviation sector.

The DWEA has authority to report violations to police or the courts if an employer fails to make required improvements by the deadline set by the DWEA. Court decisions regarding violations were released to the public and show past fines imposed against noncompliant companies or court-ordered reinstatement of employment. Greenland and the Faroe Islands have similar work conditions, except in both cases collective bargaining agreements set the standard workweek at 40 hours.

Workers can remove themselves from situations they believe endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations. The same laws protect legal immigrants and foreign workers and apply equally to both categories of workers.

The DWEA registered 25 workplace fatalities in the period from January to May. An annual report from the DWEA showed that in 2020 a total of 46,391 occupational accidents were reported (a number that is the highest registered number of occupational accidents in the period from 2015-20). According to the report, the most frequent injury was ankle sprains and other muscle injuries which made up 37 percent of all reported occupational accidents in 2020.

Finland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. It may adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.

Reports issued by the Sami parliament in February and December 2020 found that the linguistic rights of the Sami were not realized in the way intended by the constitution and the Sami Language Law. Shortcomings involved the number of Sami language personnel, the accessibility of services, and the fact that, contrary to provisions of the Sami Language Law, Sami people must still separately invoke their linguistic rights for them to be recognized. Speakers of Inari Sami and Skolt Sami were in the most vulnerable positions, according to the report. The number of students in all Sami languages decreased by 3.5 percent to 710 pupils nationwide from 2020. In addition, as services were moved online and to centralized service telephone lines, authorities did not take into consideration the possibility of accessing these services in the Sami languages. Funds appropriated for Sami language social and health care have not been indexed to inflation since 2004, and there were fears that social and health-care reforms could further deplete services. There was also poor availability of Sami language prekindergarten personnel, and the funding of Sami language prekindergarten programs was inadequate.

The ombudsman for gender equality stated that Sami victims of domestic violence were at a disadvantage in accessing public shelters due to the long distances between population centers in the northern part of the country.

In May the Regional Council of Lapland agreed to rewrite its draft provincial plan for the period until 2040 to exclude the Arctic railway line from Helsinki to the northern border. Sami objected to plans for the railway, citing the railway’s potential impact on natural resources critical for their livelihoods, including reindeer-herding land and Arctic nature tourism.

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: While there is no national minimum wage law, the law requires all employers, including nonunionized employers, to pay the minimum wages stipulated in collective bargaining agreements. Authorities adequately enforced wage laws.

The standard workweek established by law is no more than 40 hours of work per week with eight hours work per day. Because the law does not include a provision regarding a five-day workweek, regular work hours may, at least in principle, span six days. The regular weekly work hours may also be arranged so that the average is 40 hours during a period of no more than 52 weeks. Persons in certain occupations, such as seamen, household workers, road transport workers, and workers in bakeries, are subject to separate workweek regulations. The law entitles employees working shifts or during the weekend to one 24-hour rest period per week. The law limits a worker to 250 hours of overtime per year and 138 overtime hours in any four-month period.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for labor policy and implementation, drafting labor legislation, improving the viability of working life and its quality, and promoting employment. Authorities adequately enforced wage and overtime laws.

According to a service and restaurant industry trade union, there were 800 cases of wage and hour disagreements between employees and employers in 2020, and 35 percent of these cases were from the service, restaurant, and leisure industry.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and regulations. In addition, OSHA enforces appropriate safety and health standards and conducts inspections at workplaces. Individuals who commit work safety or working hours’ offenses are subject to penalties commensurate with similar crimes. The center informs employers of inspections in advance unless a surprise inspection is necessary for enforcement purposes. A subsequent inspection report gives employers written advice on how to remedy minor defects. In the case of serious violations, the inspector issues an improvement notice and monitors the employer’s compliance. When necessary, OSHA may issue a binding decision and impose a fine. If a hazardous situation involves a risk to life, an inspector can halt work on the site or issue a prohibition notice concerning the source of risk. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law requires employees to report any hazards or risks they discover in working conditions, including in machinery, equipment, or work methods. The law also requires employees, where possible, to correct dangerous conditions that come to their attention. Such corrective measures must be reported to the employer.

Foreign seasonal berry pickers do not always have the same legal employment protections as other workers. In some cases berry pickers and wild produce pickers were classified as entrepreneurs, not employees. They can also be charged for training and recruitment services and face difficult work conditions. During the summer, COVID-19 outbreaks disproportionately impacted seasonal berry pickers, most of whom were from Thailand. In Rovaniemi, 180 of 262 foreign seasonal berry pickers were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Government resources, inspections, and penalties were adequate to deter most violations.

Norway

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Indigenous Peoples

There is no official registry of Sami in the country. As of 2018 government statistics showed that 55,544 persons lived in the areas defined as “Sami” in the northern part of the country. In addition to participating freely in the national political process, the Sami elect their own parliament, the Samediggi, which exercises certain administrative and financial powers according to the law. In 2021 a total of 20,005 persons registered for the Sami parliamentary elections. Members of the Sami parliament also represent their constituents in international fora and organizations such as the Arctic Council and the United Nations. Elections for the Sami parliament follow the national election schedule and last took place on September 13.

The constitution provides a right for the Sami to safeguard and develop their language, culture, and community. NGOs and Sami officials continued to express concern over Sami children’s lack of access to Sami language education due to a lack of qualified teachers.

In response to concerns about high levels of domestic violence within Sami communities, the government devoted a separate chapter in its new action plan against domestic violence, Freedom from Violence, to the subject.

The Sami have a right under the law to consultation on the use of unpopulated lands traditionally used for reindeer husbandry. Under the law three of the six members of the council to determine the proper usage of the land must be Sami. As the government moved to develop greater wind-power capabilities, the Sami raised concerns about the use of their land. Reindeer avoid the wind turbines, which leads to limited grazing areas and increased density in remaining areas. The government stated it takes the reindeer industry and the Sami parliament into account when considering proposals for new wind-power projects. In October the Supreme Court ruled that the government violated the rights of the Sami people by permitting the construction of wind farms on Sami land.

The Sami Council, with delegates from nine member organizations in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia, held a hearing in February on a possible new railway to the Arctic Ocean via Oulu and Rovaniemi in Finland to Kirkenes. During the hearing Sami reindeer herders from Finland and Norway said they would veto such a railway project. Aili Keskitalo, then president of the Norwegian Sami parliament, pointed to areas in northern Sweden and Norway where trains kill hundreds of reindeer annually.

ECRI reported that more than half of the persons with a strong and visible Sami identity experienced discrimination, most often during their schooling, and such discrimination negatively affected their health.

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not mandate an official minimum wage. Instead, minimum wages were set in collective bargaining agreements. Statistics Norway used 60 percent of the median household income after tax for the relative poverty limit. In 2017, the most recent year for which data were available, 11.2 percent of the population had an income below the poverty limit.

The law provides for premium pay of 40 percent of salary for overtime and prohibits compulsory overtime in excess of 10 hours per week. The government effectively enforced the laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. The law provides the same benefits for citizens and foreign workers with residency permits but forbids the employment of foreign workers who do not have residency permits.

The Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority (NLIA) is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws and effectively enforced laws and standards in the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors could conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. In 2020 police received 412 reports of violations of the labor law and other related laws, and no reports of forced labor from the NLIA.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for safe and physically acceptable working conditions for all employed persons. The NLIA, in consultation with nongovernment experts, sets occupational safety and health standards. These standards are appropriate across all sectors of the industry in the country. The law requires enterprises with 50 or more workers to establish environment committees composed of management, workers, and health-care personnel. Enterprises with 10 or more workers must have safety delegates elected by their employees. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment; authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

The NLIA is also responsible for occupational safety and health laws. The NLIA may close an enterprise immediately if the life or health of employees is in imminent danger and may report enterprises to police for serious breaches of the law. A serious violation may result in fines or, in the worst case, imprisonment. The government effectively enforced occupational safety and health laws and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as negligence.

In June parliament passed the Transparency Act compelling companies to respect fundamental human rights and decent working conditions in connection with the production of goods and services, and to ensure the public has access to information on how companies handle negative consequences on fundamental human rights and decent working conditions. Companies covered by the new law must perform due diligence assessments to obtain an overview of the consequences their businesses, supply chains, and business partners have on fundamental human rights and labor conditions.

Poland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national monthly minimum wage and the minimum wage for formal work agreements met the social minimum monthly income level.

The constitution provides every employee the right to statutorily specified days free from work as well as annual paid holidays.

The National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. According to trade union representatives, the NLI is committed to eliminating violations of wage and hour laws, but due to an insufficient number of labor inspectors and limitation of resources to conduct inspections, the NLI is not able to ensure compliance with existing laws.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, but the penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. According to trade union representatives, the most common labor rights violations concerned failure to pay wages, delayed payment of wages, and failure to formally register and pay for overtime work. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, most wage payment violations occurred in trade and repair services as well as in industrial processing industries. Seasonal and migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to such violations. The NLI’s report did not cover domestic workers because inspectors could only conduct inspections in businesses, not private homes.

During September 20-24, the NLI participated in the “action week” of the EU-wide information campaign “Rights for all seasons,” which focused on employment of seasonal and migrant workers. The campaign included training, distribution of educational materials, and press publications devoted to this matter. As part of the campaign, the NLI provided free legal counselling services by telephone in Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian on various aspects of legal employment, focusing specifically on seasonal and migrant workers.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law defines strict and extensive minimum conditions to protect worker health and safety. Inspections for occupational safety and health were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as for wages and hours. Resources were inadequate and the government did not effectively enforce occupational health and safety in the formal or informal sectors. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those of similar laws.

During the year the NLI continued a three-year information and education campaign which began in 2019 to improve work-related health and safety standards in meat-processing companies and continued in programs targeting construction companies, professional drivers, forestry companies, small businesses, and agricultural employers.

Employers routinely exceeded exposure standards for limits on chemicals, dust, and noise. According to the Central Statistical Office’s 2020 report, the majority of work-related accidents occurred in mining and quarrying, water supply, sewage and waste management, and ecological reclamation. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, which investigated 1,775 work-related accidents that happened in 2020, most accidents occurred in industrial companies and at construction sites. The report noted some of the leading causes of workplace accidents were poor organization of work processes, inadequate supervision of employees, inadequate training of employees in work-related health and safety standards, and inadequate measures by employers to prevent accidents. The Central Statistical Office reported 62,740 victims of workplace accidents, including 189 fatal accidents, during 2020.

Informal Sector: The Main Statistical Office’s definition of the informal economy included unregistered employment performed without a formal contract or agreement and where wages do not count as contributions to social security or have income taxes deducted. There is no minimum wage for informal work agreements. There were reports of employers withholding wages or underpaying laborers under informal work agreements, particularly Ukrainian migrant workers in the construction and agriculture industries. Workers in the informal sector are not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. While the NLI’s powers are limited to the formal economy, one of its responsibilities is to inspect legality of employment, which can contribute to limiting work in the informal economy and ensuring employees who are hired in the informal economy are provided with appropriate occupational health and safety conditions. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 2017 (the latest year for which data were available) 5.4 percent of the workforce (880,000 persons) worked in the informal economy. According to trade union representatives, many migrant workers from Ukraine work in informal economy.

Romania

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is greater than the official estimate for the poverty income level and has nearly tripled in nominal terms since 2012. Approximately one in three employees earned the minimum wage according to the labor ministry. Despite minimum wage increases, 14.9 percent of employed Romanians remained at risk of poverty. During the year the country’s courts ruled in favor of female clothing-factory workers who reported unjustified 50 percent wage cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving public pressure to investigate the allegations, officials confirmed inaccurate shift reporting, unpaid mandatory social insurance contributions, unpaid overtime wages, and worker harassment and intimidation.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or five days. Workers are entitled to overtime pay for weekend or holiday work or work of more than 40 hours. An employee’s workweek may not exceed 48 hours per week on average over a four-month reference period, although exceptions are allowed for certain sectors or professions. The law requires a 48-hour rest period in the workweek, although most workers received two days off per week. During reductions in workplace activity for economic or technical reasons, the law allows employers to shorten an employee’s workweek and reduce the associated salary.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, the government extended the category of eligible furlough (technical unemployment) benefits to independently registered businesspersons, lawyers, and individuals with income deriving from copyright and sports activities. The government adopted a flexible work plan modeled after Germany’s Kurzarbeit (flexible work) program with the aim of retaining employees on payrolls with joint government and employer contributions. The plan required employers to cover half of full-time wages and the Romanian government to pay 75 percent of the difference between the gross wage and the basic wage paid to the employee, based on the number of hours worked. Kurzarbeit and technical unemployment support was extended in July and was expected to remain in effect through the pandemic state of emergency.

Excessive overtime may lead to fines for employers if workers file a complaint, but complaints were rare. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. Starting during the year, the law allows for one of two caretakers of children to receive paid days off for periods when schools are closed; the income is capped at maximum 75 percent of the average economy wage.

In July, 13 members of the Cartel Alfa trade union led a protest caravan from Bucharest to Brussels regarding low wages and poor working conditions in Romania. The protest highlighted the concerns of more than four million Romanians seeking work in other EU countries due to limited opportunities in Romania who were often vulnerable to labor exploitation as migrant workers.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, through the Labor Inspectorate, is responsible for enforcing the law on working conditions, hours, and minimum wage rates, but it did not effectively enforce all aspects consistently. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and initiate sanctions, but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance in all sectors.

According to trade union reports, many employers paid supplemental salaries under the table to reduce tax burdens for employees and employers alike. Additionally, the Labor Inspectorate collaborated with the National Authority for Fiscal Administration to conduct joint operations to check employers in sectors prone to underreported labor, including the textile, construction, security, cleaning, food-preparation, transportation, and storage industries. These investigations often focused on underpayment of taxes rather than workers’ rights.

The government did not effectively enforce overtime standards. Union leaders complained that overtime violations were the main problem facing their members, since employers often required employees to work longer than the legal maximum without receiving mandatory overtime compensation. This practice was especially prevalent in the textile, banking and finance, and construction sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries, but compliance and enforcement remained weak. Workers can remove themselves from situations they deemed dangerous to their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The labor inspectorate also had authority over occupational safety and health laws; however, not all workplace accidents were investigated by labor inspectors. Companies investigated minor incidents, while labor inspectors investigated more severe ones, typically those that resulted in fatalities or serious injuries. If appropriate, incidents may be referred for criminal investigation. Union leaders often claimed labor inspectors only superficially investigated workplace accidents, including ones involving fatalities, and that inspectors often wrongly concluded that the victims were at fault in most fatal accidents. In 2019 the country reported three deaths per 100,000 employees resulting from accidents at work.

The construction, agriculture, and small manufacturers sectors were particularly problematic sectors for both labor underreporting and neglecting health and safety standards. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. In November 2021, four persons died at the Babeni Mechanical Factory after explosive products were handled poorly. In August 2021, two workers died and four were hurt on a construction site in Bucharest city center, after a deep ditch collapsed.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional risk bonuses were awarded to healthcare staff caring for COVID-19 patients or for those involved in pandemic response. Peaks in the number of critical cases of COVID-19 added pressure on hospital infrastructure, particularly in intensive care units. Medical staff and patients were hurt and killed in several hospital fire incidents over the year.

Informal Sector: Informal employment continued to affect employees in the agriculture, retail, hospitality, and construction sectors. In 2013 undeclared work represented 18.9 percent of total labor output in the private sector. In 2019 some 25 percent of Romanians admitted they had engaged in undeclared work and 44 percent knew someone who had engaged in undeclared labor.

The prevalence of the minimum wage, a tight labor market, and labor taxation exemptions for vulnerable sectors have made undeclared work less attractive. As a result of a mass outflow of unskilled and skilled labor, the country has experienced a tight labor market. Over the past decade, some 2.7 million Romanians of working age (20 to 64) have moved to other EU countries seeking employment. The construction sector has a higher minimum gross wage (3,000 lei or $728) and is exempt from income tax and health and pension mandatory contributions.

The law provides for temporary and seasonal work and sets penalties for undeclared labor. In accordance with EU regulations, the maximum duration of a temporary contract is 36 months. Workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws, and inspections.

Slovakia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hours Laws: The minimum wage exceeded the minimum living standard (an official estimate of the poverty income level).

The law mandates a maximum workweek of 48 hours, including overtime, except for employees in the health-care sector, whose maximum workweek is 56 hours, including overtime. Worker overtime generally could not exceed 150 hours per year, except for health-care professionals who, in specific cases and under an agreement with labor unions, could work up to 250 hours overtime. Employees who worked overtime were entitled to a 25 percent premium on their hourly rate. Employees who work under conditions that endanger their health and safety are entitled to “relaxation” leave in addition to standard leave and an additional 35 percent of their hourly wage rate. Employees who work during government holidays are entitled to an additional 100 percent of their hourly rate. Employers who fail to follow wage and overtime rules face penalties that were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Trade unions, local employment offices, and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family monitored observance of these laws and determined the NLI – the authority charged with enforcing them as well as for conducting wage and hour inspections – did so effectively. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to verify compliance with the law, and inspectors have authority to make unannounced inspections. The NLI may impose sanctions.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health standards that are appropriate for main industries, and the NLI generally enforced them. Workers could generally remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The same inspectors had authority over occupational safety and health laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. In 2020 there were 81 accidents that caused serious workplace injuries or death and 7,525 accidents that resulted in less severe injuries.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal economy were covered under wage, hour, occupational safety and health laws and inspections.

Sweden

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution charges public institutions with promoting opportunities for the Sami people and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities to preserve and develop a cultural and social life of their own. The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their history. On November 3, the government announced the creation of a truth commission to chart and investigate policies – including “abuses, rights violations and racism” – affecting the Sami. Another task of the commission is to spread awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect the Sami people today.

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage law. Annual collective bargaining agreements set wages within industries, which were greater than the poverty income level. By regulation, both foreign and domestic employers must offer conditions of employment on par with the country’s collective agreements. Nonunion establishments generally observed these contracts as well.

The labor law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The law allows a maximum of 200 hours of overtime annually. Collective agreements determined compensation for overtime, which could take the form of money or time off. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, over a seven-day period. The Work Environment Authority effectively enforced wage and hour laws.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate. The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The Work Environment Authority, a government agency, effectively enforced these standards. In 2020 the authority conducted 17,602 inspections. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The 258 inspectors were sufficient to enforce the law. In 2020 the authority took part in a cross-agency task force that made 1,274 visits to check on work permits, taxes, and working environment regulations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Work Environment Authority carried out many inspections at a distance via video meetings or telephone. The government tasked the authority with carrying out a targeted supervisory effort focusing on the spread of COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools, grocery and retail stores, transportation, dentist offices, slaughterhouses, cleaning companies, companies that worked with property management, and restaurants that sold takeaway food.

The Work Environment Authority issued occupational health and safety regulations and trained union stewards and safety ombudsmen whom government inspectors monitored. If an employee finds that the work involves immediate and serious danger to life or health, the employee must immediately notify the employer or safety ombudsman. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without jeopardy to their employment. Safety ombudsmen have authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. An employer may be fined for violating work environment regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Foreign seasonal workers, including berry pickers from Asia and Bulgaria, faced poor living and working conditions. The guidelines of the Swedish Retail and Food Federation cover EU citizens who pick berries in the country but not workers from outside the EU. Under the guidelines, berry pickers are to be informed that they have the right to sell their berries to all buyers and that nobody has the right to control how, when, and where they pick wild berries. A foreign company providing berry pickers to a local company must also demonstrate how it expects to pay workers in case of limited work or a bad harvest. The guidelines task food and retail organizations and brokers with ensuring their implementation.

In August approximately 50 Bulgarian berry pickers were stranded in Alvsbyn (450 miles north of Stockholm) when their employer was not present when they arrived, and police determined their vehicles were not fit for legal use. Police started an investigation on human exploitation. The Bulgarian embassy helped 35 of the berry pickers to return to Bulgaria by bus.

The Swedish Construction Workers’ Union reported in 2020 that working conditions for foreign workers in the construction sector had deteriorated. In the report, foreign workers said they received lower salaries than their Swedish colleagues and that some employers did not pay taxes or give the foreign workers an official employment contract. The living standards provided by the employer were substandard. There were reports of 20 to 30 workers living in the same apartment and sleeping in shifts.

The Work Environment Authority reported industrial accidents caused the death of 24 workers in 2020, the lowest number recorded in any year since 1955. Ten of the accidents in 2020 were in the construction sector. Construction, transport, and manufacturing were the three sectors with the greatest number of deaths caused by industrial accidents between 2011 and 2020.

United Kingdom

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a National Living Wage for workers age 23 or older and a National Minimum Wage for workers of at least school leaving age until age 22. Both wages were above the poverty level.

The law limits the workweek to an average of 48 hours, normally averaged over a 17-week period. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime, but it limits overtime to the 48-hour workweek restriction. The 48-hour-workweek regulations do not apply to senior managers and others who can exercise control over their own hours of work. There are also exceptions for the armed forces, emergency services, police, domestic workers, sea and air transportation workers, and fishermen. The law allows workers to opt out of the 48-hour limit, although there are exceptions for airline staff, delivery drivers, security guards, and workers on ships or boats.

The government effectively enforced the wage and hour laws. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enforces wage payments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces maximum working hours. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. The HMRC and the HSE can make unannounced inspections and initiate criminal proceedings.

Penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar violations and inspections were sufficient to enforce compliance. Although criminal enforcement is available, most minimum wage noncompliance is pursued via civil enforcement through the courts. In August the HMRC named and shamed 191 companies that had failed to pay 2.1 million pounds ($2.8 million) to over 34,000 workers. The companies had to pay back wages owed and fines to the government. The HSE reported violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in the agriculture, chemicals, construction, fairgrounds and theme parks, film and theater, logistics and transport, manufacturing, mining, energy, sports and leisure, utilities, and waste and recycling sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate and current occupational safety and health standards. The law stipulates employers may not place the health and safety of employees at risk. The HSE is responsible for identifying unsafe situations, and not the worker, and inspectors had the authority to conduct unannounced inspections, levy fines, and initiate criminal proceedings. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020 the government advised citizens to work from home if possible. Employers of “essential workers,” such as hospital staff, grocery store workers, and public works departments, were required to make arrangements to work safely. In July 2020 the government allowed anyone unable to work from home to return to their place of work, as long as their employer had put in place sufficient safety measures. The government issued “COVID-secure” workplace guidance for different sectors of the economy. Employers that fail to meet these standards can be reported to the local authority or the HSE, an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions, which can require employers to take additional steps where appropriate. Certain businesses, such as theaters and live music venues, have been ordered to close to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, contributing to a steep rise in unemployment.

The HSE effectively enforced occupational health and safety laws in all sectors including the informal economy. The fines for violations were commensurate with those for similar laws. HSE inspectors also advise employers on how to comply with the law. Employers may be ordered to make improvements, either through an improvement notice, which allows time for the recipient to comply, or a prohibition notice, which prohibits an activity until remedial action has been taken. The HSE issued notices to companies and individuals for breaches of health and safety law. The notice may involve one or more instances when the recipient failed to comply with health and safety law, each of which was called a “breach.” The HSE prosecuted recipients for noncompliance with a notice while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecuted similar cases in Scotland. The International Labor Organization expressed concern that the number of HSE inspectors decreased in recent years, noting that the number of cases brought by the HSE had also declined.

From April 10 to August 14, there were 34,835 disease notifications of COVID-19 in workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 409 death notifications.

Figures for April 2020 to March 2021 revealed 142 persons were fatally injured at work. An estimated 693,000 workers sustained a nonfatal injury at work according to self-reports in 2019-20. A total of 65,427 industrial injuries were reported in 2019-20 in the UK. The HSE and COPFS prosecuted 342 cases with at least one conviction secured in 325 of these cases, a conviction rate of 95 percent. Across all enforcing bodies, 7,075 notices were issued. The HSE and COPFS prosecutions led to fines totaling 35.8 million pounds ($47.3 million) compared with the 55.3 million pounds ($73 million) in 2018-19.

Bermuda’s legislation does not provide a minimum or living wage, and efforts to introduce one have not progressed. The Bermuda Department of Labour and Training enforces any contractually agreed wage, hours and safety and health standards. Regulations enforced by the department extensively cover the safety of the work environment, occupational safety, and health standards and are current and appropriate for the main industries. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future