PAM welcomes the partial change to the availability consideration
The Aliens Act will be amended at the start of June 2019. As part of the changes to the law, the availability consideration will be removed for employees applying for a residence permit extension and wanting to change sector. The change is designed to increase the availability of labour, but also to reduce the dependency of foreign workers on a single employer.
The general idea of the availability consideration has been to ensure that for operational jobs, such as cleaners or restaurants employees, employers primarily hire Finns or other EU citizens. The availability consideration does not therefore apply to skilled persons because they can already come to Finland without the availability consideration.
As of June the availability consideration will no longer be applied to persons who have already worked in Finland for at least one year on an employee’s residence permit and change jobs to a sector that mainly applies the availability consideration.
“This affects a limited group of workers. We are talking about people who have worked in the country legally on a work permit for at least a year. Among other things, the change is designed to ensure that workers can continue to find work and are not tied to a particular occupation. If they want they can switch to another sector”, explains PAM’s lawyer Suvi Vilches.
Vilches stresses that since working permits are involved, the TE Centre will still check the working conditions. There are still prior checks of employers, it’s just the availability consideration that is being removed, she says.
Change in the law will have positive effects
The aim of the change in the law is to facilitate job mobility in the labour force. Companies have found this to be a good thing because it would make labour more readily available. PAM supported the change because it considers that it could reduce foreign workers’ dependence on a single employer and make it easier to expose abuse.
Removal of the availability consideration for people already working in Finland and changing sectors will only affect a few dozen residence permit applicants a year. In individual cases, however, the change in the law could be a big change since changing jobs will not be complicated by the availability consideration.
“This means for example that a chef can become a fast food employee or change to a completely different sector”.
Cleaners, for example, have previously been tied to cleaning work. All they could do was change to a different employee.
“Now the way is clear to apply for work in other sectors after working for a year. It is also known that the cleaning sector employs many immigrants, and with their educational background many people could apply for jobs in other sectors”, Vilches adds.
The availability consideration – what is it?
- The availability consideration is designed to ensure that employers have first tried to find labour in Finland before hiring outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland.
- The labour availability consideration is an overall assessment, including prior checks and an assessment of labour availability. The TE Centre makes a partial decision to check that granting a worker a residence permit does not prevent a suitable person available in the labour market being hired for the job. The availability consideration varies by sector.
- A positive partial decision is needed to be able to grant a residence permit. Prior checks include the terms and conditions of employment and that the employer complies with employers’ obligations.
There have also been cases where employers have let employees understand that their working permit is tied to one job.
“Foreign workers face greater risks in employment disputes compared to Finnish workers”, Vilches says.
Employees will feel more confident in seeking justice if they are no longer tied to their employer. Disputing a case will very likely lead to loss of employment, while someone’s entire stay in the country and providing for their family could depend on this one job.
Official monitoring plays a key role
PAM is not in favour of removing the availability consideration altogether, however. In its opinion there are enough skilled workers in Finland and the EU as long as employers are prepared to guarantee reasonable working conditions.
“Official resources also play a big role here. The resources of the labour inspection authorities should be increased along with a competent approach to checks of foreigners. Although the TE Centres will continue to do prior checks of working conditions, unfortunately this isn’t always enough because often companies can present things in such a way that they pass these checks. That’s why there’s a need to beef up ex post checks by the Regional State Administrative Authority and the police, as shown for example by the recent cases of the working conditions of Nepalese chefs”, Vilches demands.