Hana Semerádová has been lecturing the adaptation-integration courses Welcome to the Czech Republic for many years since the very beginning. She works as a social worker at the Centre for the Support of Integration of Foreigners in the Ústí nad Labem Region and she mainly lectures courses for international employees.
What information do you see as the most important for newcomer employees?
The most important thing for international employees is to know all their rights and obligations they have as company employees and foreigners living in the CR. People who come to our courses usually don’t know anything about the CR or the conditions of their residence and employment for several weeks after arriving here.
It is usually much easier for employees of large companies as there is often a personnel officer who takes care of the employees’ residence issues. But even they need to take care of certain things themselves: if there are any changes such as changes in their passport or a change of their address, they have to report it to the Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of the Interior.
However, the most important are the rights and obligations concerning employment relations. People who have just arrived in the Czech Republic have almost no information and the first time they hear about the system in the CR is at the adaptation-integration course. It is also important to mention that the system of remuneration, employee benefits, etc. may be set differently by different employers. In terms of employee rights in the CR, it is necessary to talk about the minimum wage, the right to 4 weeks of paid annual leave, the sick leave system to which the employees contribute as part of their social insurance, the paid days off on public holidays, the extra pay for work on public holidays and overtime, etc. It is also important to emphasise to the employees from abroad that they cannot take all their leave at once and go to their country of origin, e.g. Mongolia, for the whole time. It is also worth mentioning that sick leave may only be used for illness and it is not possible to use it for example to solve family issues.
The system of gross and net wages and wage deductions represents another important topic. Employers usually do not know what is deducted from their wage and they find the remuneration system too complicated.
Where else can the employees get the information?
People who come to our courses hear about their employment rights and obligations for the first time at the course. They usually do not learn much from their employment contract and there are also many rumours spread among the employees, which the lecturer needs to put straight during the course. It is important to inform the employees about the possibility to contact social workers from the non-governmental sector and integration centres. These well-educated professionals provide free consultancy and they offer fully reliable official information from several sources. Foreigners can also attend various Czech courses as well as other courses and activities organised by NGOs, which will help them integrate in the Czech Republic.
How do you see the role of employers in the adaptation-integration courses?
The best scenario is when the employers actively contribute to the integration of their employees. They may organise the adaptation-integration courses in their company during the working hours and they may also offer Czech language courses.
As lecturers of the Welcome to the Czech Republic adaptation-integration courses, we emphasise that we are not the company’s personnel officers and therefore we inform the course participants about all their rights and obligations. From my experience of a social worker I know that the company employees do not always get all information concerning for example the possibility to change jobs. It is fair when the employer informs the employees that they may always change their job if it is for example too physically demanding. At the same time, it is important that the employees comply with their obligations and get used to the requirements for accuracy, attendance, cultural habits, etc., which may be different than in their home country.
Based on your experience, what information is the most important for employees of Czech companies?
People should only sign an employment contract they understand. If there is anything they do not understand, they can consult an NGO to get advice from a social worker.
Employees should know exactly what rights and obligations towards the employer they have. They also need to be informed about the employee benefits.
It is important to understand the remuneration system in the company, a part of which is a clear and accurate payroll.
Foreigners who are employed here are covered by the public health system, which is a great advantage. If they are employed by a small employer, it is good to check whether they really have been registered for the health insurance. After that, they should find out how the public health insurance system works, which is what they are explained at the course as well.
In terms of residence legislation, it is important to know that foreigners with an employee card may change their job during the 60-day protection period for employees. However, they have to find a new employment or to change the purpose of stay within this period, otherwise the Ministry of the Interior will revoke their residence permit.
Last but not least, how do you as a lecturer see the usefulness of the courses?
I think that being a part of adaptation-integration courses is meaningful work. When people come to the course, they are usually quite distrustful – especially when the course is organised by their employer and they are required to go there. However, when they have gone through the course, they are excited. They often tell us that they wish their friends who have already been living in the CR had known the information.
And I myself find lecturing the courses a very enriching experience. It is an opportunity to share what I have learned over many years. And it is a very rewarding feeling when the participants are excited about the information they have received.