State Employment Agency http://www.nva.gov.lv/
Already prior to obtaining the status of a refugee or an alternative person, the SEA organizes seminars and individual consultations on employment issues for residents of the “Mucenieki” Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers. Such early individual work with the asylum seekers enables them to promptly come to know their working skills, knowledge and desires, to identify the areas, where their knowledge requires improvement, as well as to inform them about the opportunities and requirements of the Latvian labour market so that at the time, when an asylum seeker receives their refugee or alternative status and obtains the right to register with the State Employment Agency as an unemployed person and to work in Latvia, they could enter our state labour market as soon as possible.
In order to use SEA support and services to a full extent, a refugee or a person with an alternative status has to register with the SEA as an unemployed person or a job seeker, afterwards an individual job searching plan that includes obligations and employment facilitation measures is developed.
At the SEA branch with interpreter’s assistance profiling of the person granted the refugee or an alternative status is performed to find out their ability to integrate into the Latvian labour market and required and appropriate SEA training or employment measures. Assessment of skills for refugees and persons granted the alternative status is carried out in accordance with the same standards as for any other SEA client.
In order to work and live in Latvia, command of the Latvian language is required, therefore the SEA offers refugees and persons with an alternative status an opportunity to acquire the State language without an intermediary language at six levels of proficiency.
According to the profiling results, after the Latvian language courses the person granted the refugee or alternative status is offered the opportunity to use other SEA services suitable for them: competitiveness building measures (workshops, individual consultations), vocational or non-formal learning, subsidised workplaces, practical training at the employer’s workplace, paid temporary social work or other activities.
The process of socio-economic integration takes place in cooperation with the OCMA, ACAS “Mucenieki”, SIF, the Society “Shelter “Safe House”” providing social worker and social mentor services to asylum seekers and persons with a refugee or an alternative status within the European Social Fund activity “Promoting Diversity (Prevention of Discrimination)” (SAM No.188.8.131.52) implemented by the Society Integration Foundation, as well as providing translation / interpreting services.
In 2016, an informative brochure “First Steps to Employment” for refugees and persons granted an alternative status was issued in Latvian, English and Arabic languages in co-operation with the mentioned partners, as well as the State Social Insurance Agency, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Rīga Council. The brochure covers information not only on employment, but also on education, housing, social assistance and available benefits.
In 2017, this information has been updated and supplemented, and it is planned to develop an electronic informative application in five languages – Latvian, English, Russian, Tigrinya and Arabic.
From the beginning of 2016 until 26 October 2017 the SEA has provided consultations, determined the person’s ability to find a job and offered support measures to 113 persons with a refugee or an alternative status. 38 people have attended Latvian language courses, 13 of them have attended two-level courses.
20 people employed in various sectors of economy, such as trade, social care, accommodation and catering, industry, transport and logistics have entered into employment relations. Employment relationship was initiated within 1 to 8 months after registration with the SEA. People residing in Latvia for a relatively longer period of time, who are better acquainted with the Latvian working and living environment, find work faster. Currently 14 people with a refugee or an alternative status are in employment relationship.
In situations where a worker is still not competent in Latvian at such a level as to be able to communicate with the employer independently, the SEA arranges for the refugee or the person who acquired the alternative status interpreter services for the job interview and for the first working day, as well as translation of the employment contract into a language that the unemployed person understands.
Out of 14 persons with a refugee or an alternative status currently employed, there are 2 women and 12 men. According to the information available to the SEA, both the employers and the employees are satisfied with the work.
For refugees and persons granted an alternative status http://www.nva.gov.lv/index.php?cid=433&mid=551
As soon as you have obtained the status of a refugee or an alternative status and have received a residence permit and, in some cases, a travel document at the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA), you have the right to undertake a job in Latvia. Obtaining the status of a refugee or an alternative status in Latvia does not give you the right to seek legal employment in other European Union member states.
In order to find a job faster and easier, you can seek assistance at the State Employment Agency (SEA).
The State Employment Agency (SEA) is an institution which helps the residents of Latvia, including refugees and persons who have obtained an alternative status, to find a job. The SEA will give you information on vacancies and support in job search. The SEA also organizes Latvian language courses, vocational training and other courses and offers career advice.
All services provided to unemployed persons and job seekers by the SEA are free of charge.
Please note that registering as a SEA client is mandatory, if you are of working age (15-63 years) and wish to receive an allowance as a refugee or a person with an alternative status to cover the cost of living.
Similarly, one of the preconditions for receiving municipal social assistance is that people of working age must actively work to increase their income. If you are unemployed, you have to be registered with the SEA and must fulfil the obligations of the unemployed.
Registration with the SEA is not required for disabled people of level I and level II and persons obtaining intramural education at an accredited educational institution in Latvia.
Where and how to register?
To become a SEA client and obtain the status of an unemployed person or the status of a job seeker you have to register at any of the 28 SEA offices in Latvia. You can do it upon arrival at the office in person or after arranging an appointment in advance by telephone +371 25704510 in Latvian, English or Russian. Ask your social mentor to help you arrange your visit to the SEA. The visit must be pre-booked so that an interpreter can be invited to help you in communicating with a SEA official.
What documents to bring?
Make sure you bring the following:
- a passport of the country of origin or an identification card – eiD, if you have one;
- a residence permit of the Republic of Latvia;
- education certificates, if you have any.
How does registration take place?
On the first visit, you will have a conversation on your education, abilities and skills, work experience and job aspirations. Together with a SEA advisor you will prepare an individual job search plan that contains advice on training and job vacancies or other SEA support services and also the date and time of your next visit.
Although a SEA advisor will be there to assist you in you search for a suitable vacancy, you must actively seek employment by yourself as well. If you don’t know what to do, the SEA advisor will advise you on where to start.
How long does obtaining the unemployed status take?
The unemployed status is granted within one day, if
- you are of working age (15 – 63 years old),
- you are unemployed,
- you do not carry out any commercial activities,
- you do not attend a primary school, a secondary school or a vocational school;
- you have all the necessary documents with you.
How to maintain the unemployed status?
To keep your unemployed status, you have to fulfil all the obligations of the unemployed:
- regularly contact your employment advisor (either in person, by phone or e-mail) and inform them about any activities related to job search or training (finding a job, starting studies, departing from the country, sickness, etc.);
- learn Latvian;
- actively seek employment yourself;
- consistently arrive at the SEA on the set date and time;
- accept a job offer suitable for you.
Your employment advisor may invite you to visit him or her some other time, which is different from the one specified in your individual job search plan, if there is a job vacancy or a vacant seat at a course suitable for you. You must reply to the invitation and arrive at the SEA within three working days.
If you stop attending Latvian language or other SEA courses without a reasonable excuse, you lose your unemployed status. Such a reasonable excuse might be either your or your child’s sickness, which should be proved by a sick-leave certificate issued by a doctor, or starting work.
When registering as an unemployed person you will receive:
- the opportunity to learn Latvian free of charge, so that you can succeed at finding a job faster. The better you know Latvian, the higher your chances are to find a job that suits your skills and abilities.
- the SEA advisor will provide free assistance in writing a CV, finding a job and communicating with employers.
The Latvian language
At the SEA language courses Latvian is taught without the help of an intermediary language and on various levels of language competence. You can take a course in the Latvian language free of charge. While attending the courses you will receive an allowance of EUR 5 for eachday of training, in addition to the benefits granted to a refugee or an alternative status holder.
Keep in mind that there may be waiting lists for Latvian classes. If so, wait for your employment advisor to contact you and invites you to come and receive your coupon required to start the course. If you fail to start the course at the time offered, you may lose your place on the list.
Latvian classes take place in small groups every weekday for 3 to 4 hours. A course on each level lasts for 120 academic hours, namely, 6 to 8 weeks. After completing the course on any level, the trainees have an opportunity to take a state-sponsored Latvian language exam at the National Centre for Education. The National Centre for Education is an institution performing evaluation of state language proficiency for professional and job duties.
Upon successfully passing the Latvian language exam, you will receive a certificate of language proficiency that will serve as proof to your employer and education institutions of your ability to communicate in Latvian.
You should make every effort to learn Latvian during the courses. If you fail to successfully complete one language level, you will not be able to apply for the next one. You will also be unable to reapply for the course of same language level.
Once you have started a course, classes must be attended regularly till the end, otherwise you will have to reimburse study fees that the SEA has spent and the allowance paid to you.
Please, note also that when you register at the SEA and obtain the status of an unemployed person or the status of a job seeker, learning Latvian for you is mandatory, if you want to receive a state allowance granted to a refugee or an alternative status holder.
To make steady progress with your language studies, use your newly-acquired knowledge in daily life to communicate with locals and enhance your skills by using self-instruction books and internet resources.
For more information about the opportunities to learn Latvian, use the Internet, for example, visit an educational website for third-country nationals in Latvia. If you are an asylum seeker and reside in the “Mucenieki” Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers, ask your Latvian language teacher about the opportunities to learn Latvian independently.
The SEA offers an opportunity to work on-site while also learning a trade. It is a training programme called “On-site training” or “Practical training”.
Upon joining the programme you will:
- undergo a six-month practical training,
- get a qualified mentor
- be employed for at least three months, if you have successfully acquired the working skills,
- be paid at least a minimum wage,
- receive written confirmation of the professional skills acquired.
On-site training is held in Latvian.
Paid temporary community service
If you have not been employed over the past year, you have an opportunity to take up a temporary job for the local government and do simple, but very essential work for the public good, for example, cleaning up a city park or premises in public buildings, and at the same time you can get acquainted with the Latvian working environment.
For doing paid temporary community service you will receive a monthly allowance of EUR 150. You may work no longer than four months within a 12 month period without interruption or by taking breaks.
To be able to communicate with the manager and colleagues, you need to master Latvian language.
If you have been unemployed for at least 12 months and your education and work experience meet the employer’s needs, the SEA will offer you to consider a subsidised job. Under a subsidised job scheme public funds are used to partly pay the wages to you and your mentor for one or two years.
Upon joining the scheme you will:
- get a qualified mentor,
- be paid at least the minimum wage,
be granted an annual paid leave.
When working at a subsidised workplace, you will not lose the unemployed status and you have the right to attend the Latvian language courses provided by the SEA, while receiving both the salary and the allowance of EUR 5 for each day of training. Ask your employer, whether your working time and duties allow you to take this opportunity and combine work with the Latvian language courses.
For more information on the opportunity to work at a subsidised workplace, ask your SEA advisor.
Competitiveness building measures
The SEA offers short one or several day courses, workshops and lectures (5 to 63 academic hours) that might help in finding a job or starting your own business, for instance, the fundamentals of development of a business plan, basics of commercial activities, improving Latvian language skills, use of e-services, labour rights, accounting. Ask your employment advisor for a full offer of courses, lectures and workshops. The courses, lectures and workshops are held in Latvian.
Job seeker status
You can also register with the State Employment Agency when you are seeking employment but cannot obtain the unemployed status for some reason, for instance, you have reached the retirement age or lost your unemployed status in the last three months due to failure in fulfilling the obligations of the unemployed. In these cases the SEA will help you in job search and you will be entitled to free Latvian language courses; however, you will not be paid an allowance for such a course.
Labour market, work and profession
Refugees and persons with an alternative status have the same right to employment and wages as any other resident of Latvia. In Latvia, as a rule, both men and women work in order to support their families.
Work culture in Latvia
At the workplace employees and management treat each other with respect regardless of their position, intermutually following the terms of a signed employment contract. The employees must do their work responsibly and follow instructions from the management, while the employers’ duty is to pay the arranged remuneration and ensure fair, safe and healthy working conditions.
In Latvian workplaces it is important to keep promises, accomplish the tasks on time and not be late for arranged meetings. Delays and going back on one’s words are considered unacceptable and you may even lose your job, if you fail to follow these rules.
Before starting employment
Before starting employment make sure you have made inquiries about the company you are planning to work for. This can be done, for instance, by visiting company website or speaking to people, who already work for this company. If you have unemployed or a job seeker status, use the opportunity to get acquainted with the company by visiting it together with the State Employment Agency advisor.
Besides, you should acquaint yourself with the provisions of the existing regulatory enactments regulating labour relations in Latvia, in particular, the Labour Law and the Labour Protection Law, and ask your future employer about working terms and conditions before starting work.
The basics of labour laws can be explained to you by the SEA advisor if you are registered as an unemployed or a job seeker, or an advisor of the State Labour Inspectorate.
Before starting work you should sign an employment contract. Pay special attention to the content of the contract! The contract must indicate your place of employment, position and job responsibilities, working hours, remuneration and term of payment. It should bear both your and your employer’s signature. Get the contract signed in two copies and keep one copy. The employment contract is to be made in Latvian. If you are not proficient enough in Latvian, the employer shall inform you in writing about the terms of the employment contract in a language you understand. Never sign a contract if you do not understand the provisions thereof or if you disagree with them.
Occupational safety and health
When you start work at a new workplace, the employer must acquaint you with the work to be done, instructions approved by the employer and labour protection requirements in accordance with the certain type of work or occupation at the workplace. You also need to be aware of the risks associated with the work environment and measures to mitigate them.
If you find a job with the assistance from the State Employment Agency and you are yet unable to independently contact the employer in Latvian or in any other language understandable to both of you, you will be provided with an interpreter on the day you conclude your employment contract and on the first working day, so that you can understand your job responsibilities and labour protection requirements better.
Before starting work you should undergo a compulsory medical examination to make sure you are fit enough for the work you will be doing. Be sure to follow the labour protection requirements specified by the employer in order not to threaten your own and other people’s health or safety!
Gender and nationality equality must be observed in any workplace. Women shall be treated with respect, just like men. Women and men receive equal pay for equal work. Foreign nationals and the residents of Latvia both shall be treated equally.
Setting different tasks to employees with different levels of education, professional experience, job and language skills cannot be considered as discrimination.
Knowledge of Latvian is an advantage in job search; however, employers in Latvia often also look for candidates who speak English or Russian as well. Be active and open for various opportunities!
In Latvia, a minimum wage to be paid by the employer to the employee for normal working hours is set. Usually it’s 40 hours a week, but depending on your work place, it may vary slightly. The minimum wage is usually paid for a simple job, which does not require high qualification and language skills. In 2018, the minimum wage in Latvia will be 420 EUR before tax. It is expected that the minimum wage will grow in the following years as well.
You can find information on the current minimum wage, for example, on the website of the Ministry of Welfare in Latvian, Russian and English.
In Latvia, any resident, who is paid a wage for the work done, has to pay taxes. Personal income tax must be paid from the salary (which is 23% in 2017) and the share of the compulsory State social insurance contributions to be covered by the employee (which is 10.5% in 2017).
If you have children, you can get tax relief. This means that you will have to pay less in taxes than those who have no children. The amount of tax relief depends on your wage and the number of children in the family. Only one parent can receive tax relief for the children.
In 2018, a tax reform is planned in Latvia, after which the amount and the number of taxes payable may change.
You can find information oncurrent taxes in Latvia on the website of the State Revenue Service in Latvian, Russian and English, http://www.lm.gov.lv/text/2014
In Latvia every employee has the right to annual paid leave. Such leave may not be less than 4 calendar weeks.
This leave can be divided into parts, however, one part of the leave shall not be less than 2 calendar weeks.
You have the right to leave, if you haveworked for the employer for at least six months without interruption. You shall agree with your employer and colleagues on your desired leave time. It is granted taking into consideration the interests of both you and your employer.
If you are unable to come to work due to your illness or due to your child’s (for children under 14) sickness, you must notify your employer of such circumstances. In order for your absence from work to be excused, you need a doctor’s confirmation that you or your child have gotten sick. This is called a sick-leave certificate. In order to get one you should go see a doctor or call your general practitioner and arrange a home visit.
The doctor has to see the patient and make sure that he or she is unable to work. The first day of sickness is the day when the doctor has examined the patient, therefore, it is important to see a doctor immediately. If you get sick on a weekend or on a holiday, when your general practitioner is not at work, you can receive your sick-leave certificate after seeing a duty doctor.
If you check into a hospital, you will receive your sick-leave certificate at the hospital at the end of treatment.
A sick-leave benefit is paid to compensate a sick person for the loss of income.
For the first 10 days of sickness you will receive sick-pay, which is paid by the employer. You will not be remunerated for the first sick day. Compensation for the subsequent sick days shall be calculated by the employer depending on employee’s average earnings.
Starting from day 11 of your sickness and until you return to work you can receive sick-leave benefit paid by the State Social Insurance Agency. This benefit may be received up to 26 weeks from the first day of sickness.