The EU Employers Sanctions Directive (2009/52/EC) was primarily enacted to dissuade employers from recruiting migrants in an irregular situation, but it also contains provisions to protect workers. It facilitates access to justice for exploited workers and sets out workers’ rights to claim back payment of outstanding wages. The directive also contains provisions to enhance the effectiveness of labour inspections. The report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), Protecting migrants in an irregular situation from labour exploitation – Role of the Employers Sanctions Directive, describes how the 25 Member States bound by the directive have been implementing the directive and its protective provisions. The report focuses on the impact the provisions have on irregular migrant workers who are victims of exploitation and other labour law violations.
The report finds that gaps remain in the enforcement of the protective provisions. Workers do not know their rights or how to complain, and even when they do, they may not receive compensation due. EU countries should do better to protect migrant workers’ rights under existing EU rules. Complaint systems should be improved, for example by enabling trade unions and NGOs to act in support of or on behalf of irregular migrant workers. Labour inspectorates should focus on protecting workers and not enforcing immigration law. This would encourage victims of rights violations to come forward, without fear of being detained and returned. EU countries should guarantee that all irregular migrant workers recover outstanding wages, through access to state compensation or freezing and confiscating employers’ assets. Countries should also issue temporary residence permits to victims of severe labour exploitation.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency conducted the research in cooperation with its multidisciplinary research network, FRANET, between February and June 2020. The researchers at the Institute for Human Rights at Åbo Akademi University contributed to the report by drafting the country report on Finland.