The Public Defender of Rights set his recommendations on the basis of extensive research among EU citizens living in the Czech Republic. More than a thousand people, proportionally represented not only by nationality, but also by education or their residence in the Czech Republic, described their experiences in dealing with the authorities, health care or education. Above all the participants commented on issues related to work and employment — and this is the area where most of the Ombudsman's recommendations are directed. Ombudsman's remit has been extended to include the right to free movement of EU citizens since 2018. According to the Ombudsman Czech authorities, with whom foreigners most often deal, should improve communication and, for example, regularly update their Czech and foreign language websites with information specifically for foreign workers. He also sees the role of the State Labour Inspection Office as crucial.
European legislation guarantees that anyone who moves to another Member State within the EU is entitled to the same treatment as nationals. Yet foreigners are a vulnerable group on the labour market. Research has confirmed that this vulnerability can increase for people in low-skilled jobs or agency workers.
A third of research participants said they had experienced different treatment because of their nationality. The most common issues, they said, were differences in pay, work allocation or job search situations. At the same time, almost two-thirds of people did not defend themselves against actions they considered discriminatory. Although it is possible that not all situations perceived by EU citizens as discriminatory were actually discrimination in the legal sense, Ombudsman believes these findings signalize the State Labour Inspection Office should focus more on checks on equal treatment of foreign workers. This is not only in cases where the complainant directly mentions discrimination or unequal treatment.
According to the recommendation, inspectors also should continue to check illegal employment. If a Czech employer fails to pay compulsory contributions to social security and healthcare system on behalf of EU workers, they not only lose the protection of the Czech health and social security system, but also the possibility of drawing benefits from the social security system in their home country.
The research also revealed that the feeling of discrimination in working life is related to the level of knowledge of Czech language. EU citizens fluent in Czech were less likely to feel disadvantaged compared to their Czech colleagues even when Czech was not a requirement for their jobs - for example, if they spoke English with their colleagues including the Czech ones when working in an international team.
Some of the other recommendations are aimed at friendly communication with foreigners who do not speak Czech. According to the Ombudsman, the websites of authorities, regions and other bodies or institutions should be available in English to the extent necessary: "Information about the competences of the authority whose website is in question, basic information about the procedures it conducts, requirements for filing and contacts, and information about the agendas typically used by foreigners should always be translated," the Ombudsman states in the recommendation.
Although Czech is the only official language used in the Czech Republic, the Ombudsman points out that basic general communication in offices can be conducted in another language as well. This includes, for example, telling a person what form to fill in or what other documents they need. According to the Ombudsman, officials in agencies that are directly focused on foreigners should have a greater knowledge of foreign languages.
Ombudsman also believes authorities should respond to submissions in a foreign language to a basic extent, in accordance with the principle of helpfulness. At the very least, in the call for removing defects in the submission officials should draw the author's attention to the need to communicate with the authority in Czech.
Ministries should also get involved in communication. For example, the Ombudsman proposes the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs should cooperate with the embassies of the EU countries from which most people come to us. Foreigners who are not fully familiar with the Czech environment turn to the consulates or embassies of their own countries for advice. Officials there should therefore, through the MLSA, obtain and pass on up-to-date useful information on the rights and obligations associated with residence and work in the Czech Republic.
The recommendation and survey are carried out as part of the project “Reinforcing the activities of the Public Defender of Rights in the protection of human rights (with the aim of establishing a National Human Rights Institution in the Czech Republic)”, No. LP-PDP3-001. This project is a part of Programme of Human Rights financed from Norwegian Funds 2014-2021 via Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic.
Research and Recommendations (Czech only)