How can foreign workers in Belarus protect their labor rights?
During the coronavirus pandemic, the labor market in all countries is experiencing far from the best of times. The economic fallout, the shutdown of small businesses, and the bankruptcy of business companies have affected all of us. But migrant workers are in the most vulnerable situation.
The article continues a series of publications prepared as part of the La Strada Belarus and the International organization for migration information campaign financially supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway.
How to protect your labor rights in Belarus?
Are you a foreigner or a foreign woman legally working in Belarus, and have you faced unfair and illegal treatment by a Belarusian employer: dismissal or non-payment of wages?
We will tell you what to do in this situation.
First of all, we want to emphasize that all foreign citizens who work in Belarus under an employment contract have exactly the same right to protection of their labor rights as citizens of Belarus.
What to do and where to apply if you have not been paid your salary?
Step 1. Contact the Labor Dispute Commission, if created at your work place.
When contacting the Labor Dispute Commission, it is important not to miss the time. You have the right to apply within 3 months from the date of violation. The Commission's decision is binding. This means that both the employer and you, as an employee, must fulfill it. But if you do not agree, you can appeal the Commission's decision in court within 10 days.
How can I find out that my company has a Labor Dispute Commission? You can contact the Trade Union at your company to find out how the Labor Dispute Commission works. If your employer did not establish a Commission, then go to step 3.
Step 2. Contact the State Labour Inspectorate and report a violation committed by the employer.
In Belarus, the State Labour Inspectorate Department monitors compliance with labour legislation and protection. On the Department's website you will find regional offices of the labour Inspectorates (http://git.gov.by/ru/page/kontakty). You need one that relates geographically to the legal address of your employer. You can apply to the Labor Inspectorate at the same time as you apply to the Labor Dispute Commission. This step is not mandatory, but we think it will be useful for you to consult with the inspection specialists.
Please note that in the context of a coronavirus pandemic, the Department of State Labor inspection suggests using remote consultations. Phone numbers can be found at the link http://git.gov.by/page/priem-grazdan-i-predstavitelei-ur-lic.
You can submit a complaint to the Labor Inspectorate on the actions of the employer. Write short and to the point. Specify who you are and where you work, and list every proof supporting that your rights have been violated. Try to attach written evidence. For example, orders, time sheets, and photos.
Step 3. Apply to the court
If your company does not have a Labor Dispute Commission, you are not a member of a Trade Union, or the Labor Dispute Commission made a decision, and you do not agree with – you can directly apply to the court.
The list of Belarusian courts can be found here http://court.gov.by/ru/court_apply/rai/.
You need to file a claim in person in the court that relates to the legal address of your employer.
Terms of appeal to the court
The general term constitutes 3 months starting from the date when the employer occurred the violation. However, there are exceptions. If you appeal the decision of the Labor Dispute Commission, you need to apply within 10 days from the date of delivery of a copy of its decision to you. The good news is that you don't have to pay court fee. You are exempt from paying the state fee when filing a claim on labour issues.
Legal assistance in Belarus to foreign citizens and stateless persons on cases cases related to labor issues is provided at the expense of the bar associations (legal consultations). This means that if you decide to go to court, a lawyer can provide you with free legal assistance and represent your interests in court. But keep in mind that free assistance does not include drafting documents and providing advice. How can you get free legal support?
You need to contact the legal consultation located at the location of the court where your claim is being considered and write an application to the Head of the legal consultation.
What should you do if you were fired, but you believe that the dismissal was illegal?
Cases of illegal dismissal in Belarus are considered only by the courts. A claim for reinstatement at work is filed within 1 month from the date of delivery of a copy of the dismissal order. Otherwise, proceed as described in Step 3.
Assisted voluntary return program
If you are in a difficult situation, want to return home and need assistance, you can apply for participation in the Assisted voluntary return program of the International organization for migration. Phone numbers: 8-801-20-15-555 (from 8.00 to 20.00 daily) 8-0162-21-88-88 +37529 645-49-44 (mon-Thu 09:00-18:00, Fri 09:00-17:00) (available from mobile operators to apply for the voluntary return program only during the Covid-19 epidemic) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You will be contacted within 3 days of submitting your request to proceed further. The decision on the possibility of providing assistance under the Program is made on an individual basis. If there is positive decision on your participation in the program based on your current situation and the availability of Progamme funds, you may be provided with assistance before leaving for your home country, as well as assistance with purchasing tickets when resuming flights. Assistance is provided within the framework of the EU project "Assistance to the Republic of Belarus in solving issues related to the increase of irregular migrants".