Status of foreign berry pickers to improve
A new Act will strengthen the legal status of wild produce pickers and lay down the obligations of companies in more detail and in more binding terms. At the same time, earnings opportunities of foreign berry pickers will improve and companies will enjoy from a more equal competitive environment, which will help the sector to grow sustainably and become more international.
As foreign berry pickers have not been deemed to be in an employment relationship but instead to work as kind of entrepreneurs, their status has been unregulated from a legal point of view.
A letter of intent procedure was introduced in autumn 2014 for the authorities and natural product companies. As a result of this procedure, the conditions and earnings opportunities of berry pickers have improved. A persistent problem is, however, that the procedure is only loosely binding and slow to react to emerging problems.
Pickers cannot be charged for recruitment or training
The Act on the legal status of foreigners picking natural products, which will enter into force on 14 June, lays down the rights of pickers of natural products, the obligations of operators in the field of natural product picking, the monitoring of compliance with these obligations and the penalties for their negligence. The obligations of companies purchasing natural products remain largely the same as in the current letter of intent, but they are laid down in more detail and in more binding terms.
As a new feature, the new Act includes an absolute ban on charging pickers for recruitment services and job training. This will significantly improve the legal position of pickers invited from abroad. Operators in the sector also have a cooperation obligation to improve the picking results.
Reliability of companies to be assessed in more detail
According to the new Act, operators in the natural product picking sector should be reliable. Reliability will be assessed based on compliance with the provisions of the Act. In addition, the operator should have paid its taxes and charges in due course and be in the financial position to organise its business activities.
Obligation compliance reports produced by the Tax Administration and its Grey Economy Information Unit can be used to assess reliability. If the operator is not reliable, it cannot invite pickers to Finland, offer them accommodation or equipment with the aim of purchasing natural products picked by them. The Act would not otherwise affect the status or obligations of companies purchasing natural products from pickers.
Occupational safety and health authorities to monitor compliance
The occupational safety and health authorities will monitor compliance with the Act insofar as the monitoring is not the responsibility of another competent authority. The Employment and Economic Development Offices and the occupational safety and health authorities will be responsible for guidance.
The Act does not apply to the entry or residence conditions of foreigners picking natural products. The Act will apply when the work is not carried out in an employment relationship. If work is carried out in an employment relationship, employment legislation will apply as before.
On 3 June 2021, the Government proposed that the President of the Republic approve the new Act on the legal status of foreigners picking natural products. The President of the Republic is to approve the Act on Friday June 2021, and it will enter into force on 14 June 2021.
Olli Sorainen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 504 8022 or email olli.sorainen(at)tem.fi
Janne Marttinen, Director, Tax Administration – Grey Economy Information Unit, tel. +358 29 512 6066 or email janne.marttinen(at)vero.fi
Arto Teronen, Director of Field Operations, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 29 516 3493 or email arto.teronen(at)stm.fi