Information for (Foreign) Workers in Croatia – How to Protect Your Employment Rights?
In addition to Croatian and English language, we have prepared this information in other official languages of the EU and in the languages of the countries from which foreign workers most often come to Croatia. These are German, French, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Nepali, Bengali, Hindi and Filipino. You can open the translations in this order by clicking on the title:
- Wie können Ihre Rechte am Arbeitsplatz geschützt werden?
- Comment protéger vos droits au travail?
- як захистити свої трудові права?
- Како да ги заштитите вашите права од работен однос?
- Si të mbroni të drejtat tuaja në punë?
- İstihdam haklarınızı nasıl koruyabilirsiniz?
- कार्यस्थलमा आफ्नो अधिकार कसरी सुरक्षित गर्ने?
- কর্মক্ষেত্রে আপনি আপনার অধিকার কীভাবে রক্ষা করবেন?
- कार्यस्थल पर अपने अधिकारों की रक्षा कैसे करें?
- Paano Protektahan ang Iyong Mga Karapatan sa Trabaho?
* The information was translated with the support of the European Labour Authority (ELA).
All individuals employed in Croatia have the same rights related to work, including workers from other countries. Increasingly, foreign workers, primarily third-country nationals, are turning to us with complaints of violations of their employment rights.
They often report that they have worked without a work permit, without a signed employment contract, that their employer has not paid them the agreed-upon wage, sometimes not even the minimum wage or overtime pay. They also mention being denied breaks, daily or weekly rest, as well as their right to annual leave. Some complain that their employer has not paid compensation for unused annual leave after the termination of their employment. They have also complained that their employer did not provide them with a salary statement, and some have highlighted incidents of workplace injuries that the employer did not report to the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance. Some have also contacted us regarding workplace harassment.
These complaints also reveal that foreign workers often lack information about where to turn to in order to protect their rights. Therefore, in the remainder of this text we provide an overview of the most common issues and general legal information that we often provide to foreign workers, including contact information of the relevant institutions. This information applies to all individuals in employment in Croatia, regardless of nationality, but in this text, we emphasize foreign workers, third-country nationals, for several reasons: the increase in the number of foreign workers in Croatia, the growing number of complaints we receive submitted by foreign workers, their lack of information about their employment rights, and the insufficient availability of targeted information in the public domain.
- Unreported work (work without a work permit, work without an employment contract, work without reporting to pension and health insurance authorities)
- Work without breaks, daily or weekly rest
- Illegal and unpaid overtime work
- Non-payment of wages
- Non-payment of compensation for unused annual leave after termination of employment
- Failure to provide a salary statement for owed and unpaid wages and/or compensation for unused annual leave
What can you do? These issues should be reported to the State Inspectorate of the Republic of Croatia.
How to report? Use the form on the State Inspectorate’s website. The form is available here.
For more information on how to file a report, you can contact the labor inspector on duty in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek, or Varaždin. You can find their contact information and working hours here.
What to Include in the report:
- Your name and surname
- Residential address
- Nationality (if you are a foreign worker)
- Employer’s information (company name and address or the name and surname of the individual employer or business owner)
- All relevant facts and circumstances during your employment with the employer
- If possible, attach an employment contract (if you have one).
Will the State Inspectorate keep the identity of the reporting individuals confidential? According to the Law on the State Inspectorate, inspectors have the obligation to keep the identity of the petitioners (reporters) confidential, “unless it is impossible by the nature of the matter or is prescribed by a special law.” Anonymous reports are also possible.
Will you be informed about what the State Inspectorate has done regarding your report? If you want to receive information about what the State Inspectorate has determined and what measures it has taken against the employer, you need to provide the labor inspector with your name and surname, your residential address in Croatia or abroad (if the foreign worker has left Croatia).
Does the worker have to report the employer, or can someone else do it? No, the report can be submitted by anyone not employed with the employer in question if they believe that the employer is not treating their employees in accordance with the law.
Problem: You believe that your employer has deregistered you (from pension and health insurance) without your knowledge.
What can you do? To check if your employer has deregistered you without informing you or providing a copy of the relevant form, you can contact the nearest office of the Croatian Institute for Pension Insurance (HZZO).
How can you contact them?
- By filling out the online form, available here.
- By phone or in person – you can find the number and address here, by searching by cities (working hours for the city you are looking for are also listed).
What if your employer has really deregistered you without your knowledge? You can report them to the State Inspectorate (in the same way as described above).
Problem: Non-payment of wages.
What can you do? If you are owed wages that you have not received, you can request payment through the Financial Agency (FINA) if you have a calculation of the due or owed wages. Your employer is obligated to provide you with this calculation.
You can then send this calculation to FINA to resolve the issue without going through a court procedure. This is possible because under Art. 93, para. 5 of the Labor Law a calculation of due or owed wages is an enforceable document.
Additionally, you can report your employer to the State Inspectorate (in the same way as described above).
What if your employer does not provide the wage calculation or does not pay it even after an inspection? In that case, you can initiate court proceedings, for which you will likely need legal assistance from a lawyer or a trade union (if you are a member). Information on who is entitled to free legal assistance and how to obtain it can be found here.
How long do you have to claim your unpaid wages? You can do so within a period of five years, starting from the day your employer was obligated to pay the wages.
Problem: Payment of wages or part of the wages “under the table,” instead of to the worker’s bank account.
What can you do? This method of wage payment is illegal, and you can report your employer to the Tax Administration of the Ministry of Finance.
How to Report? You can report it through one of these methods:
- By mail to one of the addresses on this page, depending on the city or the closest one.
- Using the form available here
- By calling the toll-free number 0800 1001 (Monday to Friday between 8 am and 3 pm).
Will the Tax Administration inform you about whether and how they acted on your report? No, tax inspectors are not obliged to inform you because they are legally required to maintain tax secrecy regarding tax audits (in line with General Tax Law, Art. 8).
Problem: Workplace injuries that the employer did not report to the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance (HZZO).
What can you do? In cases where a worker has suffered a workplace injury, the employer has a legal obligation to report the workplace injury to the competent authority, i.e., the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance (HZZO), within 8 days from the date of the occurrence of the injury.
A worker, including a foreign worker, can also report it themselves, but no later than within three years from the expiration of the deadline in which the employer was supposed to do so. If you think it is necessary, before reporting the workplace injury yourself, you can obtain more information from the nearest HZZO office or here.
Problem: Workplace harassment (Mobbing)
How to recognize harassment (Mobbing)? Although there is no legal definition of workplace harassment (Mobbing), it is commonly understood as any form of violence in the workplace characterized by psychological or moral abuse.
This can include various forms of avoidance, isolation, and prevention of maintaining social contacts at work, attacks on one’s reputation, or negative comments about personal characteristics of the victim.
Examples include constant criticism and complaints about one’s work, insults or ignoring, excessive control, shifting of responsibilities, punishment, low work ratings, inability to advance, denial or assignment of inappropriate and/or prohibited work tasks, unjustified transfers, and similar actions that harm the workers’ health or violate their rights.
To whom to report ? The first step is to address the employer, specifically the person authorized to receive and resolve complaints regarding the dignity of workers. If the employer does not provide appropriate protection or take measures to prevent workplace bullying, or if those measures are inadequate, you can seek further protection of your dignity in court proceedings. You will likely need legal assistance from a lawyer or the union (if you are a member) for this. You can find information about free legal aid here. In these court proceedings, you can also seek compensation for nonpecuniary damage due to the violation of personality rights caused by workplace bullying.
Furthermore, regardless of whether your employment is ongoing or has ended in the meantime, it is possible to file a criminal complaint with the nearest police station against the person who behaved or is behaving in such a manner towards you. Insults, humiliation, and abuse that harm someone’s health or violate their rights related to work may constitute the criminal offense of “workplace abuse” under Article 133 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia. Depending on the circumstances of each individual case, it will be determined whether the elements of this criminal offense have been met.
Finally, you can also contact the Association for Assistance and Education of Mobbing Victims in Zagreb, Domobranska 4 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 01/3907 301). In the association, you can get more information about the options available to victims of workplace bullying, both in legal terms and in terms of potential psychological support.
How to recognize discrimination? Discrimination can occur if your employer or colleagues in the workplace, or someone else outside of work, places you in a disadvantageous position compared to other employees because of your: race or ethnic origin, skin color, religion, language, national or social origin, membership in a union, property status, education, political or other beliefs, social status, age, health status or genetic heritage, disability, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, gender, and marital or family status.
These characteristics are called the grounds of discrimination and are regulated by the Anti-Discrimination Act.
To whom to report discrimination ? It depends on the basis of discrimination that led to being placed in a disadvantageous position.
You can send a complaint to the Ombudswoman if the discrimination is based on most of the aforementioned grounds. When it comes to the grounds of disability, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, marital or family status, you can send a complaint to one of the specialized Ombudspersons (as explained below).
You can send us a complaint:
- by mail (Savska cesta 41/3, 10 000 Zagreb)
- by email at email@example.com
- using a form that can be opened in PDF and Word formats
- in person (with prior notice and appointment) at our offices in Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek, or Split – request an appointment via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01 4851 855 (Zagreb), 051 563 786 (Rijeka), 031 628 054 (Osijek), or 021 682 981 (Split).
In the complaint, you should provide:
- the name and surname of the complainant and/or the person whose rights were violated
- address of residence or address for receiving a response
- circumstances and facts on which the complaint is based (including relevant documentation if possible)
- information about who is discriminating
- information about whether legal remedies have already been used and when they were filed
- signature of the complainant or a signed consent of the person on whose behalf the complaint is submitted.
If the discrimination is based on disability, you can send a complaint to the Ombudswoman for the Persons with Disabilities, using the instructions on this page.
If the discrimination is based on gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, marital or family status, you can send a complaint to the Ombudswoman for Gender Equality, using the instructions on this page.
In any of these cases, you can also:
- check if you qualify for free legal aid
- consult with a lawyer of your choice
- seek legal recourse through the courts.
Ombudswoman’s Recommendations aimed at strengthening workers’ rights (from the Ombudswoman’s 2022 Annual Report):
- To the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities, to inform foreign workers about their rights in various rights protection systems on their website, as well as through brochures, leaflets, and similar means
- To the State Inspectorate, to intensify the monitoring of the legality of employment and work conditions, as well as the conditions in which third-country nationals work.
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