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By Marcus Hoy
Proposed legislation in Sweden and Denmark would expand the power of government authorities to conduct workplace inspections.
A law published by Sweden's Justice Ministry March 20 would allow law enforcement authorities to conduct random audits at certain workplaces, while a draft law published by Denmark's Employment Ministry March 14 proposes that the nation's Working Environment Authority be permitted to conduct one-on-one interviews with employees.
Under existing Danish law, Working Environment Authority officials may not speak to individual employees or groups of employees without the presence of an employer, although such conversations can occur with the employer's prior approval. The new draft law (L181) proposes that the authority be permitted to interview employees alone if it believes the presence of the employer would prevent their speaking freely. The draft law also proposes that the authority be granted the right to conduct group discussions with employees without an employer's presence.
Morten Skov Christiansen, vice chairman of the trade union umbrella organization LO, told Bloomberg Law March 20 that the measure would give employees the opportunity to express themselves freely without being concerned about the consequences and make it easier for the Working Environment Authority to gain information about the psychological working environment.
Some employers take a different view.
Christina Raaby, chief consultant at the Confederation of Danish Employers, told Bloomberg Law March 21 that her organization had concerns about the proposal.
“This implies that in exceptional cases the Working Environment Authority may exclude employers from conversations,” Raaby said. “The psychological working environment is best improved through dialogue and cooperation between employers and employees. It does not make sense to leave one party outside the door. There may be a few situations where it's not advisable to have a particular manager present at a meeting, and in such cases another representative should be involved. We do acknowledge that in very few cases group discussions without management may be necessary.”
“Conversations without the employer's presence would take place solely where necessary and reasonable in relation to the objective pursued,” attorney Kristian Bro of the Kromann Reumert legal firm told Bloomberg Law March 21. “In addition, the Working Environment Authority will be obliged to consult with the employer in cases where it intends to make a decision.”
Norrbom Vinding attorney Yvonne Fredriksen told Bloomberg BNA March 20 that she believes that the measure could potentially lead to unfounded accusations against employers.
“In some situations, I believe that there is a risk that information provided to the Working Environment Authority during confidential interviews may be less than accurate or in some situations perhaps even false,” Fredriksen said. “In such situations it might be difficult or at least time-consuming for the employer to ensure that the authority is provided with the correct information.”
No firm date of enactment has yet been given for the Danish proposal, which will now be examined by parliament's legislative committee.
The Swedish proposal, which was published March 20, would permit the police to conduct random raids within sectors where the employment of illegal workers is “concentrated,” such as the hospitality and other service industries. Under existing rules, law enforcement authorities can only carry out workplace inspections when specific information exists indicating that a company is employing workers without a residence permit or the right to work. Under the new rules, no such suspicion need exist before audits take place in the relevant sectors. The law also doubles so-called administrative fees that can be imposed on companies that breach the work permit rules.
The Swedish law is due to take effect July 1, 2018.
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