Police checking construction sites for the presence of illegal workers discovered over three times more such workers in the first 11 months of this year than during the same period in 2015.
Business owners most often failed to properly register employees from Ukraine and Moldova.
During the first 11 months of 2017, 445 cases of persons working without proper registration were discovered, up from 180 cases during the same period in 2016 and 129 in 2015.
Margo Peters, head of Border and Migration Services at the West Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said that in such cases, unlawful labor was effectively being used, which may cause problems for the employees, the employer and the contracting authority alike.
As unregistered workers discovered at a construction site cannot continue working, the completion of construction jobs may be delayed as a result. "In the worst-case scenario, these individuals must leve Schengen territory, and the employer will be prohibited from hiring workers from abroad in the future," Peters added.
To date this year, employers have registered the short-term employment of 7,560 persons with the PPA, up significantly from 1,782 in 2016 and 1,086 in 2015.
According to West Prefecture spokespeople, the primary contractor does not bear responsibility for the proper registration of foreign workers.
"The primary contractor has no interest and no motivation to check whether a foreigner starting work at a construction site has legitimate grounds for employment in Estonia," Peters said. "The PPA has created an environment for online inquiries at politsei.ee, where it can be verified whether a worker's short-term employment has been registered. The contractor that hires a foreigner is responsible for this; there are currently no limitations on the primary contractor when it comes to the number of intermediaries. A separate issue is that businesses are attempting to bypass valid criteria for the payment of wages. All of this undermines fair competition."
According to Peters, the increase in the number of cases of illegitimate employment clearly indicates that the situation on the construction market is problematic and steps should be taken toward improving regulations; he found that it would make sense to facilitate and automate the registration process.
An online environment for registration is currently being developed in which employers could file the application for the registration of short-term employment more smoothly.
Editor: Aili Vahtla