Features of Illegal Work

23. září 2014  |  Milada Kürtösiová

Investigating and handing out penalties for illegal work has been a long-term priority for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and labour inspection authorities in general. This was confirmed by the State Labour Inspectorate in a press release on 11 March of this year.

The legal definition of illegal work is rather brief, basically any “dependant work carried out by an individual outside an employment relationship” (also work performed by foreigners without a valid work permit or in violation thereof or without a valid residence permit). Nevertheless, just because the definition of illegal work is brief does not mean that it is easy to determine. This was also clear from a ruling earlier this year by the Supreme Administrative Court.

The case concerned alleged illegal work at a shop. During the inspection, the owner’s niece was working in the shop (the owner was not there); the niece “served customers, collected money and handed over goods”. The shop owner said that she did not employ her niece (or anybody else) and that the niece only helped her and did not get paid. The inspector “informed the shop owner that illegal work was in fact being carried out and ordered her in writing to resolve the matter”. The owner complied by concluding an agreement with her niece and thought that the issue was resolved. To her surprise, however, administrative proceedings against her niece were launched and the niece was fined.

Five features of illegal work

The definition above shows that illegal work is work that has the features of employment but that is carried out without an employment contract or agreement. What are the features? The Supreme Administrative Court stated that dependant work has the following five characteristics:

1. continuous work (not only one-time/occasional work);

2. work performed in person;

3. work performed according to the employer’s instructions and oversight; and

4. work performed on behalf of the employer; or

5. work in a relationship of a superior and subordinate employee.  

The Supreme Administrative Court also stated that the common thread holding these five features together is the employee’s personal or economic dependence on the employer. Thus, dependant work differs from other permitted activities, including self-employment and person-to-person assistance.

You may have noticed that the features above do not include remuneration for work, i.e. a salary. Salary, however, is contained in the fifth feature, i.e. a relationship of a superior or subordinate employee. The Supreme Administrative Court stated in this respect: “if receipt or promise of remuneration or any other fact giving rise to the belief that one person is personally dependant on another person was not proven in administrative proceedings, the work is not dependant since it lacks the character of subordination and superiority”. Remuneration may be a key element indicating the relationship between a subordinate and superior employee but this is not always true in general.

The case also shows that a presumed “employer” and also a specific individual – presumed “employee” – who performs illegal work can be penalized and punished. A CZK 250,000 to CZK 10 million fine awaits employers, and a “mere” CZK 100,000 fine awaits individuals if found guilty of involvement in illegal work.

In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the fact that such work is illegal, i.e. that all features exist, must be proven by the relevant authority beyond a reasonable doubt. If any feature is not proven, the work cannot be designated as illegal and thus the accused cannot be penalized in administrative proceedings.

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