Norway: These methods are used by rogue employers to exploit foreign workers

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Working in Norway: Wage theft, expensive and poor accommodation, double contracts, security in the workplace

Some employers break laws and regulations to earn more money. Often this affects their workers who get less pay than they are entitled to. Check what you can do if you experience any of this.

Employers exploiting foreign workers is one of the most common forms of work-related crime in Norway.

– The main reason rogue employers break laws is to earn more money on an assignment, says special advisor with the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, Pål H. Lund, to FriFagbevegelse.

Underpaying workers or not ensuring their safety in the workplace are ways employers can reduce costs; and thus, increase their earnings, he explains.

Correct information in your language

The Labour Inspection Authority works to secure a decent working life in Norway by performing checks in workplaces and guiding workers and employers.

When visiting workplaces, inspectors often end up in discussions with foreign workers about what is correct when it comes to, for example, working hours and pay, Lund tells us.

– Often, they have been given incorrect information by their employer or colleagues. Thus, it is necessary to underline that if you go to our website, «Know Your Rights», you will find the correct information that is easy to understand.

On «Know Your Rights», you will find information about your rights and obligations as an employee in Norway. In eight languages – Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Russian, English, and Norwegian – you can read about wages, working hours, employment contracts, holidays and working environment, among other things.

These are some of the most common methods used by rogue employers to exploit foreign workers in Norway:

Registration of working hours

Within nine industries in Norway, there is a statutory minimum wage. Rogue employers can often make it appear as if they are paying the correct hourly wage. In reality, the employees work more hours than are registered, Lund explains.

– This means that you, as an employee, get paid less per hour than you are entitled to, he says.

If your payslip shows fewer hours than the hours you have worked, this could be a sign of wage theft.

You may also be intereste in this article: These are the current minimum wages within nine industries in Norway

Double contracts

Rogue employers can also provide workers with double contracts. According to the Labour Inspection Authority, they often write one in the language of the employee, and the other one in Norwegian or English, with content that fulfils the Norwegian rules and regulations. This contract gets shown to the Labour Inspection Authority during supervision.

If your contract exists in two different versions, this is a sign that your employer does not follow the rules.

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Poor and expensive accommodation

Rogue employers who provide accommodation for foreign workers can cut costs by providing housing that does not meet the requirements.

Alternatively, they can demand too much money for the accommodation. In this way, money goes back to the employer while the employee gets paid too little.

Legally, there is no upper limit to how much money the employer can charge for accommodation. When on supervision, the Labour Inspection Authority will make a discretionary assessment, Lund explains.

– If five foreign workers pay in total 30.000-40.000 kroner (NOK) per month for a regular Norwegian apartment, that Norwegians would pay 7000 kroner for, the accommodation is clearly too expensive, he says.

Article in Polish: Nieuczciwi pracodawcy stosują takie metody w celu wykorzystywania zagranicznych pracowników w Norwegii

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Poor safety in the workplace

The company can also cut costs by not following the regulations for safety for workers and safety in the workplace. During supervision, the Labour Inspection Authority will, for example, check if the scaffolding is built correctly and if the workers have the required personal protective equipment.

As a foreign worker, you shall receive safety training in a language you understand.

If you experience poor safety or you have not received the training you are entitled to, you must inform your employer and safety representative (verneombud).

– The foreign workers who are not unionised are usually not part of the culture for health, safety and environment (HSE) in the Norwegian workplaces. The threshold for reporting poor safety conditions and other problems in the workplace becomes too high, says Lund.

Related article: Repetitive strain on the body: This is what your employer has to do to look after your health

What can you do if you experience any of this?

There are three tiers that you shall try in this order, he explains.

1. Raise the problem with your employer.

– If you are experiencing such a problem, the first thing to do is approach your employer. For example, you can say: «This does not correspond with the information I have found at the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority or my union». At the same time, we know it is not always easy to raise a problem with your employer, says Lund.

2. Raise the problem with the safety representative or union representative.

The challenge is that many foreign workers are not unionised and do not know how to raise problems in the workplace with a safety representative or a union representative, he explains.

In addition, surveys show that foreign workers often do not trust trade unions or authorities in their home country.

– As a result, the problems they run into in Norwegian working life are not caught onto by union representatives or other actors who could have helped them, says Lund.

3. Contact the authorities.

If you want to contact the Labour Inspection Authority, you can use the call service: (+47 73 19 97 00) or email: You can notify them online (anonymously if you prefer) or get in touch through the Service Center for Foreign Workers (SUA), explains Lund.

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Can you get help even if you cannot speak Norwegian?

The call service at the Labour Inspection Authority will answer your questions in Norwegian and English. The service will also process requests in other languages in Facebook Messenger.

– At the moment, we can answer questions in Polish, Lithuanian, and Romanian in this channel, says Lund.

The website for reporting poor working environment conditions is available in Norwegian and English. However, if you report a problem in your language, the Labour Inspection Authority will do its best to understand it.

At the Service Center for Foreign Workers (SUA), the Labour Inspection Authority, the police, and the Norwegian Tax Administration will help you with everything you need to work in Norway. English and Norwegian are the main languages. However, SUA’s website has information available in English, Norwegian, Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian and Russian.

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