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Germany – Failings in healthcare provision for foreign contractors

18 April 2013

Although the rules regarding independent contractors in Germany have become more regulated, there are often reports of labour exploitation. News magazine Der Spiegel reports that a migrant worker from Bulgaria has been unable to return to work following a severe workplace accident.  The company who hired him has been able to evade responsibility for the accident as liability regarding independent contractors is not always clear-cut.

The unskilled worker, Biser Rusev, was working at a chemical plant in Frankfurt when he was injured. With no health insurance and an official status as a self-employed person, he has been unable to receive surgery. The company involved in the accident had no obligation to report it and neither do they have any obligation to pay for his surgery.

Unions are continuously calling for stricter regulations to avoid cases of sham self-employment. In the case of Mr Rusev, he had to register himself as a business owner as he would otherwise have to leave the country due to current legislation.

“For unskilled laborers like Rusev, the business registration is the ticket to fictitious self-employment,” the magazine writes.

“The central customs office, which handles cases like his, estimates that in the Frankfurt area alone, there are well over 10,000 pseudo self-employed workers from Bulgaria and Romania, working on construction sites or in factories and restaurants. They are officially independent contractors, meaning they have more than one employer, are scarcely regulated and work as their own bosses.”

The use of independent contractors in Germany has increased following tighter rules and increased costs in the supply of temporary agency workers as a result of recent collective labour agreements.  The magazine dubs the use of such independent contractors “modern slavery.”

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