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Make it easier for Swedish work permit holders to sue employers, new report argues

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Make it easier for Swedish work permit holders to sue employers, new report argues
Non-EU labour migrants' right to be in Sweden is closely tied to their contract, which leaves them vulnerable to dishonest employers. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

It should be easier for work permit holders to take dishonest employers to court, a new report by the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) argues.


TCO, an umbrella organisation for trade unions representing white collar workers in Sweden, in its report outlines two proposals to improve job security for work permit holders and increase their chances of staying in the country.

The first proposal is that work permit holders whose employers don’t follow those labour or salary conditions that the work permit was based on should be able to sue them for compensation.

The second proposal argues that work permit holders who take their employer to court for not living up to the conditions promised in the work permit application should be able to stay in Sweden during the court process, even if their permit has expired.

“The risk for labour migrants of losing their work permit gives them a weak position vis-à-vis the employer, which reduces the incentives for labour migrants to report misconduct to the authorities or contact their trade union,” reads the report.

“Current regulations also lack sanctions aimed at employers who exploit the vulnerable position that labour migrants find themselves in, by for example not paying the salary or giving them the conditions promised in the work permit application.”

There have been several reports in recent years about dishonest employers not paying foreign employees the salary they’re owed or were offered in their work permit application – ranging from illegal practices to conditions that are not criminal, but do not equal good job security.

Work permit holders may be reluctant to stand up against these employers, because their right to remain in Sweden is so closely tied to their job, argues TCO's report. But when it’s time to renew their work permit they may still be the ones to take the hit, and be told to leave the country after their permit extension is rejected because the conditions in their original application were not met.


TCO argues that making it possible for work permit holders to demand compensation from employers who don’t live up to what was promised in the permit application, would encourage victims of dishonest employers to speak up about unfair working conditions.

“In order for the protection of rights not to become a chimera, it has to be possible for a labour migrant to be able to stay in the country during an ongoing legal dispute,” the report reads.

A work permit holder who loses their job has three months to apply for a new job before their permit expires and they have to leave Sweden. Three months may in some cases be enough to settle a dispute, argues the report, but to allow for more drawn-out cases Sweden should either extend those three months or consider offering temporary residence permits to people in that situation.

“The details of a proposal to enable labour migrants to remain in the country to pursue a dispute with their employer should of course be subject to an inquiry,” the report adds.


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