An amendment to the act on employment services came into force on May 1 2018, substantially simplifying the process of hiring third-country nationals (TCNs). The amendment establishes simplified conditions for hiring TCNs in selected professions with a documented shortage of qualified labour in districts with an average registered unemployment rate of less than five percent. In these situations, in the process of granting temporary residence permits for employment purposes, the employment offices are no longer required to review the job market to determine whether Slovak or EU nationals can be considered first to fill vacancies. Likewise, the vacancies for which there is a labour shortage need not be advertised on the official jobs bulletin board at the Labour Office, in print or on the internet.
At the time the amendment came into force, it was not yet clear how the shortage occupations would be defined or how many professions the change would affect. On June 26 2018, the Central Labour Office published a list of shortage occupations on its website, and as of that date, the simplified model for hiring foreign workers could be applied in practice. The changes affect a total of 31 districts in seven regions. The labour shortage is greatest in the Bratislava region, where 70 shortage occupations were identified. The list includes assembly line workers, construction specialists, doctors, nurses, grocery sales associates, lorry drivers, and auto mechanics.
The simplified model for hiring TCNs also accelerates the date on which these workers can begin work. As a rule, TCNs cannot start to work until they have been issued a temporary residence permit for employment purposes, while the immigration police have 90 days to issue the permit. For most employers this is an excessive amount of time, as often the needs of a business require new employees to start right away. Lawmakers have therefore introduced legislation whereby employers will be able to hire a TCN for training purposes for a maximum period of six consecutive weeks in a calendar year. This is strictly applicable to hiring foreign workers for vacancies in shortage occupations who have already applied to the immigration police for a temporary residence permit for employment purposes, for the same job and the same employer for which they are to undergo the training. These workers will be able to work in Slovakia for six weeks without holding a temporary residence permit for employment purposes or a work permit.
The employer need only report the hire to the appropriate Labout Office and provide proof of accommodation that satisfies the minimum criteria required by law. Employment for training purposes is conditional on the right to stay in the Slovak Republic, which means that only nationals of third countries that have no visa requirement with the Slovak Republic may be hired in this manner for training purposes.
Although for employers this new legislation means TCNs will be able to start work sooner, its practical application has already raised numerous questions. The most serious concerns relate to the inconsistencies in the maximum time period for issuing temporary residence permits and for hiring TCNs for training purposes. While the immigration police have 90 days to issue the permit, the employer will only be able to employ a TCN for a maximum of six weeks. This could disrupt the continuity between the duration of employment for training purposes and proper employment once a temporary residence permit for employment purposes has been issued. This would be detrimental to both the employer and the employee because employment would have to be interrupted, which means the employer would be short a worker and the worker would lose pay. This could cause problems particularly for low-skilled jobs where there is already a high turnover rate, because the worker would have to temporarily return to their home country and/or look for other forms of income, and there is also the possibility that the employee would not return to work after the temporary residence permit had been issued.
In addition, employers have already had to face other adverse effects associated with a conflict between the new legislation and labour laws. For instance, the Slovak Labour Code allows for a probationary period of up to three months during which the employee may be summarily dismissed without cause. Yet at the same time, the law does not allow for a probationary period for an employee entering into successive fixed-term employment contracts (ie employment established before the expiry of a six-month period after the end of the preceding employment relationship). The maximum period of employment for training purposes is six weeks, which means the maximum probationary period is also six weeks without the possibility of its extension or a repeated agreement after a new employment contract has been concluded once the temporary residence permit has been issued to the employee.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the amendment to the act on employment services introduces ground-breaking changes that are expected to greatly simplify the hiring of TCNs – something the Slovak economy was sorely in need of.
|Daniel Futej||Dalimír |