Signing a resignation letter, a request for unpaid leave, or blank sheets of paper when being hired are just a few examples of how employers can manipulate foreigners. Most people who come to a foreign country do not know the language nor all their rights. And for fear of losing their job and subsequently their visa, they often don’t contact authorities, even when they sense a violation has been committed. To avoid getting caught in illegal work, foreigners should be aware of the key aspects of employment in Lithuania. These aspects were presented in detail by Birutė Macijauskienė, Head of the Division of Supervision of Illegal Activities and Laurynas Gudžiūnas, Labour Law Division Adviser of the State Labour Inspectorate (SLI), who recently visited International House Vilnius.
The first step to employment is a work permit
First, in most cases, an employer can only sign an employment contract with a foreigner who has a work permit or who is exempt from the obligation to obtain one. Also, foreigners must have a document confirming their legal stay in Lithuania, such as a national visa or a temporary or permanent residence permit.
According to the SLI representatives, since the requirements for Ukrainian citizens seeking employment in Lithuania were eased on 1 March 2022, they are now legally entitled to be employed like Lithuanians. All employers need to do is submit an LDU form about foreigners working in Lithuania.
Employment contracts should only be signed in a language foreigners understand
One of the most important things that every foreigner needs to know before starting to work is that employment contracts must be signed in two languages: Lithuanian and a language that the employee understands. Legally, foreigners can only work once they sign two copies of an employment contract and their employer informs them in writing about working conditions, workplace procedures, and employee safety and health requirements.
The SLI representatives mentioned that often, foreigners are not introduced to the safety and health requirements properly due to a lack of specialists who can explain the detailed information in a language they understand. The amendments to the Labour Code that came into effect on 1 August establish that this requirement is not an additional administrative burden for the employer, but a socially significant interest for the foreigner’s well-being.
An employment contract becomes legal when it is signed by both parties and specifies indispensable terms like job function, salary and workplace. Supplementary employment contract terms may also be agreed on. It should be noted that all agreements included in the employment contract become indispensable. According to the representatives of the State Labour Inspectorate, it is very important to put all agreements in writing, because verbal agreements are almost impossible to prove in the event of a dispute.
In addition to all this, the employer must notify SoDra of the employment contract and the hiring of the employee in accordance with the established procedure at least one working day before the scheduled employment commencement date. If an employment contract is concluded and SoDra is not notified, it is already considered illicit work.
Equal pay for both foreigners and Lithuanians
It is important for every foreigner to know that employment contracts must specify an hourly or monthly wage. Moreover, remuneration cannot be less than the minimum monthly (EUR 730) or the hourly rate (EUR 4.47), which can only be paid for unskilled work. If the employee does not receive the amount specified in the contract, they must contact the Labour Dispute Committee.
In addition, a foreigner’s salary be lower than that of a resident of Lithuania doing the same job for the same employer.
Everyone has the right to quality rest
Every foreigner must know that employees are entitled to a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours, as well as a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 35 hours for every seven consecutive days. The maximum weekly working time, including overtime and additional work, or in exceptional cases where there is an increase in the scope of work that leads to an increased working time standard, is 60 hours. According to the representatives of the State Labour Inspectorate, work exceeding the standard 60 hours per week is the violation that most affects productivity and health among employees.
Favourable changes regarding employment in Lithuania will affect all foreigners
The additional obligations that employers became subject to as of 1 August 2022 also affect foreigners. They focus more on cases of discrimination. One of them is that it is forbidden to discriminate against or dismiss an employee for using the guarantees provided by the Labour Code. For example, if employees use the days off that they are entitled to because they are raising children, this cannot be used by the employer as a reason to create less favourable working conditions for them. Employees who notice any kind of discrimination can contact the Labour Dispute Committee.
The restriction on working hours for students has also been lifted – they are now allowed to work full-time from their very first year of studies.
Report suspected violations immediately
As the SLI representatives note, the most common violations concern illicit work, such as when an employment contract is not concluded or SoDra is not notified, when work and rest time are not adhered to, wages are not paid, or the procedure for hiring foreigners (submitting LDU forms) is not followed.
Control of illicit and undeclared work is one of the SLI’s priorities. If a foreigner suspects that their rights are being violated in terms of the Labour Code or other issues related to labour law and employee safety and health, they can email the SLI at [email protected] or call (+370) 5 265 0193. If you have any questions for the State Labour Inspectorate, you can look for an answer via public consultations or the FAQs, or consult with a specialist online (here and here), via Facebook, by calling (+370) 5 213 9772, or by visiting an SLI office.