The government has publicized the answers which the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance and the Ministry of the Interior have given to international media as regards its policies and actions and the laws in the Republic concerning employees from third countries in Cyprus.
A press release issued by the office of the Government Spokesman said that the answers are made public after reports in the media and alegations that the government did not effectively respond with a view to inform foreign media on these issues and as a result there have been critical and defaming press reports.
The answers given to the foreign media are the following:
1. According to regulations that govern employment of persons from third countries only one employer is considered legal. Any case of enforcement to work for any other person on behalf of employer gives the right to the foreign worker for release from that employer but retaining their work permit so they can freely choose their employer.
2. The Government continuously strengthens its efforts for improving the working conditions of all non-eu national workers, since these working conditions are clearly stated in their contract of employment, which is mandatory for the employer. Terms of employment of non-eu national workers in all economic activities are the same as those provided in collective agreements, so as to safeguard equal treatment between all workers in Cyprus.
3. It is to be noted that all work permit applications by employers are examined by a Tripartite Committee, consisting of the Government and Employers´ and Worker’s Organizations. Employers are not granted permission to employ third country nationals with a temporary permit, unless they offer the same or better terms of employment in relation to the collective agreement of the relevant sector or the terms of employment for the other employees, if there is no collective agreement.
4. The approved personal contract provides for a six days working week, for 42 working hours per week. In case of exceeded hours overtime remuneration is provided.
5. In addition, one day off per week is always provided without any right of not giving it even if compensated. In case of violation the right for release from that employer is gained for the employee and they can freely gain employment with a different employer.
6. A rigorous procedure has been established for the examination of complaints regarding violation of terms of employment. All complaints filed to labour relations department, which is responsible to examine it by hearing both parties, are examined immediately and a report is prepared for each case, stating findings and suggestions regarding violation of terms of contract or not. Cases like owed salaries, violation of day offs, no payment of overtime and enforcement to work for different household lead to the employee being allowed to work for another employer, retaining their worker status.
7. Furthermore, for every complaint filed at the Labour Relations Department, the report stating the findings and suggestions regarding violations of contract is forwarded to a tripartite committee that is responsible to format a final suggestion for the Minister of Interior.
8. Any worker, foreign or domestic, that feels that is a victim of sexual harassment has the right to submit a complaint according to the "Equal Treatment for Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Law of 2002 to 2007 (L.205(I)/2002). The equality legislation affords full protection to the complainant at all stages of the complaint procedure. The same protection is extended to other parties involved in the complaint, who may provide evidence or testify as part of the examination procedure.
9. Sexual harassment cases are examined by a specialized unit of the Department of Labour. If during a meeting to examine a labour dispute at the Labour Relations Department, a complaint or allegations arise regarding sexual harassment, the Department of Labour is immediately informed and cases are duly examined by Gender Equality Inspectors. A complaint can also be directly submitted to "The Gender Equality Committee" and/or "The Gender Equality Inspectors" of the Department of Labour, of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. The Gender Equality Inspectors are located in the main offices of the Department of Labour in Nicosia as well as in all the District Labour Offices.
10. The amount payed to domestic workers is only the net salary provided by the employer as per the contract. According to the rest of the terms of the contract, the employer is obliged to pay all of the employee’s contributions to social security funds and in addition to the net salary, to provide full board food and accommodation to the worker.
11. The employer is obligated take out health insurance for the worker, or a permit is not granted. The employer and the worker contribute an equal amount to the cost of the health insurance. This health insurance covers medical examination and hospitalization. It is worth to mention that there is no similar obligation for Cypriot and EU employee`s, but only for third country nationals.
12. The Safety and Health Law (L. 33 (I)/2011) covers domestic workers. When non-EU nationals working in Cyprus, suffer an occupational accident, we carry out an appropriate investigation, regardless of the immigration status of the affected worker. Deportation of injured workers due to their illegal status is suspended.
13. Cyprus has also ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, in accordance with the relevant European Union Council authorization, recognizing the key strategic importance of this labour standard and need to protect all workers from any form of modern slavery.
14. There has been a continuous effort to improve the performance of the inspectorate mechanism, through the training of inspectors and the preparation of manuals that apply to different kinds of inspections to combat undeclared and illegal work. In May 2017, a Unified Labour Inspection Service was established to conduct targeted inspections at workplaces, regarding the protection of the rights of workers. Appropriate measures are taken against employers who violate the working conditions regulations, including cancellation of the employer permit.
15. Any amount paid to any agents is considered illegal.
16. In order to enforce the provisions of The Private Employment Agency Law of 2012 Law, the supervision of private employment agencies was strengthened. During 2018, 128 out of a total of 177 agencies were inspected. 6 licenses of agencies which violated provisions of the law were revoked. Annual training for the owners of Agencies takes place and informative leaflets on the provisions of the law and the obligations of the agencies are published.
17. Regarding social security benefits, Cyprus follows EU Regulation and no difference is identified for workers from non-EU countries. All non-EU nationals who reside in Cyprus have the same entitlements to social security as Cypriot Nationals. All persons who meet the qualifying conditions are entitled to pension benefits which are exported to all countries of the world, regardless of whether Cyprus has concluded a bilateral agreement on social security or not.