Seasonal workers from non-EU countries play an important role at the labour markets of the EU Member States. Short-term migration of seasonal nature represents one of the possibilities to replace the lack of workforce. Since adoption of the Seasonal Workers Directive in 2016, the EU has harmonized the conditions of seasonal workers´ entry to the labour market as well as their rights. The Synthesis Report “Attracting and protecting the rights of seasonal workers in the EU and United Kingdom” analysis the current situation and developments in the area of legislation and policies in this regard that were adopted by the Member States especially in 2019. Where relevant, it covers the period of the past five years, including the statistics.
The study analyses the profile of seasonal workers and sectors they work in. It looks at the national strategies and measures taken in order to attract seasonal workers. It also examines to what extent the needs of labour markets are filled by these workers. With regards to the pandemic situation during which the study was written, it addresses the impact of COVID-19 on hiring seasonal workers. In the last chapter, it maps the application of protective aspects and rights of seasonal workers that stem from the Seasonal Workers Directive.
The findings of the study indicate that most of the seasonal workers in the EU come from the neighbouring countries (most of them are from Ukraine). They are employed especially in the sectors of agriculture, tourism and industry while they mostly cover the needs of the sectors with a lack of workforce. Some countries adopted strategies to attract seasonal workers from non-EU countries. The measures taken enable to shorten or facilitate the application process and concluding cooperation agreements with these countries.
The Directive provides for equal treatment of non-EU seasonal workers and EU nationals in relation to nine categories. Some countries have used the possibility given by the Directive to limit certain rights of seasonal workers, especially when it comes to unemployment and family allocations. Some countries have identified practical challenges that hinder equal treatment, e.g. language barrier. Findings of the study also show that in spite of working conditions monitoring by respective institutions some cases of abuse can stay undetected as seasonal workers are highly dependent on their employers and often do not know their rights.
Some Member States have adopted measures to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on seasonal workers, e.g. by prolonging the work permits and lifting the travel restrictions. In several Member Stated the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a debate at political and social level on the importance of seasonal workers. Their visibility has increased, and they enjoyed public recognition in this context.
The EU report is supported by a shorter Inform and a Flash, summarizing main findings in succinct manner and by infographics. The Study of the Slovak Republic is available in questionnaire format in English and Slovak language version.
What are the findings of the study on seasonal workers in the Slovak Republic?
Seasonal work in the Slovak Republic is performed mostly by the nationals of Serbia and Ukraine while more than 70 % of them are men. Prevalent part of them work in the industry sector that is one of four sectors of seasonal work in the Slovak Republic. An increased need to employ seasonal workers (specifically in spring, summer and autumn) has been identified especially in the sector of agriculture in the harvest period. Seasonal workers from non-EU countries partially help cover the needs of employers at the Slovak labour market. It is proven by thorough transposition of the Seasonal Workers Directive or by fulfilling the tasks resulting form the strategic document Migration Policy of the Slovak Republic: Perspective until 2020.
The study deals with the protection of seasonal workers and their rights. Seasonal workers have the same legal status as Slovak citizens in the area of social protection rights, taxes and education which were examined by this study. However, their access to certain forms of social insurance allowances (maternity benefit and unemployment insurance benefit) is limited due to the conditions of entitlement and a short-term character of seasonal work residence.
As for the pandemic situation, the Slovak Republic reacted promptly by adopting legislative changes, and implementing practical measures that impacted also seasonal workers. These concerned especially granting or prolonging the validity of residence permits and the authorization to work by third-country nationals.
In the end, the study names one of the main challenges in this area in the Slovak Republic. Formulating a united position of the responsible government departments with regard to employing third-country nationals as seasonal workers was identified.