Ukraine works: How Labour Inspectors support employers and workers during war

The war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine has caused a multitude of challenges for Ukrainian workers and companies. As millions of workers are forced to leave their homes and jobs, and thousands of enterprises have to relocate to safer areas, a lot of burning questions come up. How can a business be relaunched at a new location? What are specifics of an employment relationship during martial law? How can one find the strength to work under extreme stress? To help employers and workers cope with these challenges, the Labour Inspectorate of Ukraine (SLS) launched new services with the assistance of the EU-financed ILO Project “Towards safe, healthy and declared work in Ukraine”.

Psychosocial support at work

Mental health is as important as physical health, especially under the straining conditions of war. The ILO delivered 10 trainings on first psychosocial aid (FPA) at work for the SLS in April and May, 2022. The trainings were not hindered even by the air raid alerts interrupting them. More than 200 labour inspectors from across Ukraine were trained to provide advice to employers and workers on mental health support as well as on the FPA provision in acute stress situations at the workplace. They also learnt about referrals to specialized psychological aid, and how to use their knowledge to help themselves, their families and colleagues.

“During the war in Ukraine, the ability to cope with stress and panic, and to help other people is an extremely important skill. Work effectiveness, which is so important now, depends on a worker’s emotional state. Because they communicate with employers, labour inspectors are in the position to get information across. I have already used my new skills repeatedly both at work and in personal life. I am sure that such knowledge is necessary at any time, but at the time of war it is just invaluable.”

Olena Konovalova, Deputy Director of the Labour Inspectorate

In June, a second series of trainings on the same topic of psychosocial aid included more than 70 representatives of the Secretariat of the National Tripartite Social and Economic Council (NTSEC) and of social partners, including enterprise managers, trade union representatives, and oblast (district) administration officials. These persons will be the ideal multipliers for the new services.

Combating human trafficking and forced labour

Searching for a job in a new location or abroad is difficult and sometimes dangerous. From the start of the war, labour inspectors have been setting up information desks at railway and bus stations, town halls, and employment centres to reach internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing from the war. About 300,000 people, mainly women, have been reached by inspectors with advice as how to mitigate the risks of falling victim to human trafficking or forced labour. Posters and booklets developed in cooperation with the ILO Project inform IDPs about the pitfalls, offering advice and contacts for further help.


Advice, not inspection

The SLS has moved away from classical inspections shifting its focus to the provision of advisory and practical assistance to workers and employers. The online portal was quickly launched, providing information about employment relationships during the martial law period. The website answers to frequently asked questions about employment relationships, and recommendations on occupational safety and health. More than 30,000 people have already received online advice since 1 April, the launch of the portal. To spread the word about the assistance available, the SLS launched the Ukraine Works! information campaign in late May. Vivid banners on social media, public transport, and websites of public authorities and social partners invite workers and employers to approach the SLS for information.

Helping relocated enterprises

About 1,000 enterprises have left combat areas and moved to Ukraine’s safer western regions. The SLS is helping to relaunch businesses at new locations. Working in mobile groups and remotely, labour inspectors provide advice to employers on amendments in the labour legislation amid martial law, on how to create safe and healthy working conditions, or what documents are necessary for relocating companies.

To facilitate the search for space, personnel recruitment and training, and restarting operations, the SLS involves local authorities, the employment service, and tax agencies, to help. More than 3,000 enterprises have benefitted from SLS support so far, including the relocated 1,000 companies.

Public Release. More on this here.