Foreign workers used for unpaid work

The SAK employee rights advisory service for immigrants and Victim Support Finland have reminded employers that unpaid internships are only rarely acceptable.
26.08.2019 06:32
Kuva: SAK

Foreign employees have been contacting Victim Support and the employee rights advisory service for immigrants with concerns about unpaid trainee positions lasting for between two weeks and several months, during which the employer wished to evaluate whether to make an employment contract with the employee.

Some of these workers were wondering what to do when they were neither hired nor paid for their work already done after the internship ended.

“Employees under contract must be paid at the collective agreement rate,” stresses Maaret Pulliainen, a specialist at the employee rights advisory service for immigrants.

“While most employers behave honourably in this respect, there are strong indications that others are seeking to evade their obligations in some cases that have been referred to us. These cases suggest an attempt to exploit the ignorance of many foreign workers concerning the ground rules that regulate the world of work in Finland.”

The clients of Victim Support have also reported employers who take on a succession of alleged trainees without ever paying wages for the work done.

“New foreign trainees are engaged as equivalent replacements instead of honouring prior promises made to their predecessors who have discharged the unpaid internship effectively,” explains Pia Marttila, Senior Adviser at Victim Support Finland.

“Such labour abuse has all the hallmarks of criminal work discrimination.”

The employee rights advisory service for immigrants and Victim Support point out that employers must always consider whether the conditions of unpaid internship have been satisfied.

“Unpaid internships are essentially only possible when arranged with a specific educational purpose through an official educational institution or an Employment and Economic Development Office,” Marttila explains.

“Employers and employees are free to agree on an initial probationary period when making an employment contract. The purpose of such a probationary period is to determine whether the employment meets prior expectations on both sides,” Pulliainen adds.

The SAK employee rights advisory service for immigrants advises employees of foreign origin with questions or problems concerning their employment. This free service is open to all and does not require trade union membership.

Victim Support Finland is an organisation that seeks to support, assist and advise the victims of crime, their relatives, and people testifying in criminal proceedings. About 150 victims of labour abuse in various industries are currently clients of Victim Support. All of these victims are of immigrant origin.

For details of how to contact the employee rights advisory service, visit:

For general details of Victim Support Finland, visit: