Labor Rights of Workers in the Informal sector
Labor in the informal sector is often unrecognized, unregulated, and vulnerable.
However, every worker should know that everyone has the right to decent work, regardless of their place of work or employment.
Who is considered informally employed?
Workers employed under a service contract
App-based workers such as taxi drivers and delivery service couriers
Domestic workers (e.g., nannies, housekeepers)
Employees without an employment contract (e.g., construction workers without a contract)
What should you do if you don’t have an employment contract?
First, ask your employer to sign an employment contract.
Georgian law requires a written contract for any employment relationship that lasts for more than one month. The contract must include all the essential conditions of the employment relationship, including working hours, place of employment, rules of rest and leave. The employee must be given a copy of the written employment contract.
If the employer refuses to sign an employment contract and/or to provide you with a copy, you can contact the labor inspectorate, which will inspect the employer and hold him or her responsible for violating labor laws.
Please note that your privacy will be protected when you petition for an inspection. The inspector is not permitted to disclose on whose behalf he/she is carrying out the inspection. Moreover, inspectors cannot disclose whether the inspection is based on a complaint or on the initiative of the labor inspectorate itself.
Protecting labor rights in the informal sector
What should I do if I don't have a written employment contract and my labor rights are being violated?
Employers often assume that there is no employment relationship and sign another type of contract with the employee (e.g. a service contract), or fail to sign a contract at all. Regardless of how your employer perceives the situation, an employment relationship may still exist.
For example, if there is a superior-subordinate relationship or if the conditions for the job are set by the employer, there is a high probability that an employment relationship exists. In this case, you have the right to request a proper contract and will be protected by the provisions of the Labor Code.
The absence of a written agreement does not prevent you from filing a case in court or with other agencies to protect your rights.
If your employer violates your labor rights – e.g., does not give you the required days off, refuses sick leave or vacation, or does not pay overtime – you can also contact the labor inspectorate. The inspectorate will investigate the allegations and order redress if necessary.
What should I do if my workplace is unsafe?
Even if you do not have an employment contract, you have the right to work in a safe environment. If the safety standards at your place of work are not observed or the conditions of work endanger the health and/or life of you or any person (for example, you are required to work overtime, which increases safety risks), you can contact the labor inspectorate. The inspectorate is then obliged to carry out an inspection. Safety regulations apply not only to employees, but also to any person in the workplace, regardless of whether he or she has a formal employment contract and/or employee status.
Also bear in mind that the workplace is broadly defined by the Georgian legislation, and includes the combination of all workplaces and the area where the employee and another person are/move for official purposes and which are directly or indirectly controlled by the employer. This includes places where workers perform on-call work or work that requires movement – e.g., a courier driving through city streets to make a delivery.
The employer is responsible for safety even when the employee is not directly present at the place of employment.
Can informal workers organize to protect their labor rights?
Georgian law links the right to form trade unions to the existence of an employment relationship and the status of an employee.
Nevertheless, employees in the informal sector can unite informally (without the legal status of a trade union), organize and fight to protect their labor rights.
Organizing gives workers effective leverage to protect their rights. For example, they can collectively negotiate working conditions with the employer, which increases the chances of a favorable outcome. They can also use work stoppages to put pressure employers to improve working conditions.
Are there any social guarantees for informal workers?
Unfortunately, even the meagre guarantees provided by the Labor Code and Georgian law do not apply directly to informal employees/non-standard workers. For example, workers without an employment contract have limited access to sick days, paid leave, and insurance provided by the employer. Employees in the informal sector are also ineligible for a unified pension scheme.
However, if certain conditions are met, the court may extend these guarantees to informal employees as well.
The lack of social guarantees creates an extremely precarious environment for informal workers, which increases their vulnerability. Due to Georgia’s high unemployment rate and the unavailability of other employment alternatives, individual workers have very little bargaining power and are forced to accept whatever the employer offers.
If you are an employee working without an employment contract, ask the employer to sign such one, so that you can benefit from the guarantees provided by the Labor Code (e.g., paid leave, sick days, and a regulated work schedule). If your employer refuses, you may also consider joining with other workers to demand labor protections from your employer.
If you need help, please contact us for a free legal consultation on labor rights.