ID cards in construction industry, Norway
In order to improve the level of decent work practices and to lower the rate of undeclared work, the Norwegian government has made it compulsory for employers in the construction industry to supply their employees with identity (ID) cards. In order to obtain an ID card, both the employer and employees have to be registered in different mandatory registers, including the tax register.
In order to facilitate control measures, and to prevent undeclared work and social dumping, the Norwegian government has for a number of years been working on laws and regulations which require employers in the construction industry to supply all their employees with identity (ID) cards. The ID cards were introduced at the beginning of 2008 and are issued by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet). The need for ID cards is partly attributed to the complex situation which often exists at larger construction sites, where many different contractors and sub-contractors are present. ID cards make it easier for the various regulatory authorities to conduct their monitoring activities, enabling them to identify which company an employee works for. In addition, ID cards are only issued to employees and employers that are registered in the relevant mandatory registers.
The ID card scheme has been developed by governmental agencies over the past number of years. The provider of the cards monitors the reporting of the employers, ensuring that they give details of relevant and obligatory information to the authorities – such as the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities, the Value-added Tax (VAT) Register, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) State Register of Employers and Employees (NAV EE Register) and the Central Office for Foreign Tax Affairs (Sentralskattekontoret for utenlandssaker), if necessary. The relevant social partners – including the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet), the Norwegian Union of General Workers (Norsk Arbeidsmandsforbund, NAF) and Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries (Byggenæringens Landsforening, BNL) – have supported the introduction of the ID cards, and have also been active in the process of developing the scheme. Moreover, the social partners and the relevant governmental bodies have cooperated closely though a collaborative approach seeking to promote decent work practices in the construction sector (‘Samarbeidsforum for seriøsitet i byggenæringen’).
The ID card scheme aims to prevent the incidence of undeclared work, as well as to improve the conditions under which monitoring of health, environment and safety takes place at various constructions sites. The initiative is an important part of the government’s efforts to combat social dumping, and also seeks to assist the Labour Inspection Authority to ensure that employees receive the wage and working conditions established in regulations providing for the general application of the wage agreement in the construction sector (extension of collective agreements). The main objective is to check whether employers are acting responsibly and to try to identify the employer in charge of a specific employee at complex construction sites or in complex contractor/sub-contractor relationships, rather than checking on individual employees. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that ID cards are made available and used.
In order to improve the possibilities for monitoring companies and their operations, the government requires employers to supply their employees with standardised ID cards at construction sites. These cards include a picture of the employee, a magnetic stripe and information on the employer’s organisational number. A special supplier, Norsik, is responsible for issuing the ID cards and administers the ID card scheme on behalf of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. In order to be granted ID cards for employees, the employer has to be monitored to check that the company has registered all of necessary information with the mandatory public registers. The employer has to be registered in the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities (Enhetsregisteret) and in the VAT Register. The employee has to be registered in the NAV EE Register or in the Central Office for Foreign Tax Affairs. The Labour Inspection Authority, or the Petroleum Safety Authority (Petroleumstilsynet), may halt work in cases where a serious breach of the regulations has occurred. Otherwise, the employer will be ordered to comply with the regulation within a certain timeframe. However, employees without ID cards cannot be banned from the workplace.
Evaluation and outcome
Achievement of objectives
As the ID card scheme is relatively new, it is too early to assess whether it is achieving its objectives. From August 2008, all employees (with a few exceptions) in the sector were required to carry ID cards. The Labour Inspection Authority began its first inspections at construction sites in September 2008. It is believed that a majority of the relevant employees have now obtained and are carrying ID cards, even though a number of employees were unable to produce their cards on the first inspection.
Obstacles and problems
The initiative is still in its early phase, as the regulation only came into force from 1 January 2008. Moreover, the implementation was delayed due to a number of technical problems related to the ID card scheme, and a few companies are still not included in the scheme.
The possibility of transferring this initiative to other countries is conditional on the existence of the relevant registers.
Main organisations responsible:
Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion (Arbeids- og inkluderingsdepartementet, AID), Website: www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/aid.html?id=165
Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, Website: www.ptil.no
Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, Website: www.arbeidstilsynet.no
Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries, Website: www.bnl.no
Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions, Website: www.fellesforbundet.no
Norwegian Union of General Workers, Website: www.arbeidsmandsforbundet.no
Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, Identity cards in the building and construction industry, Fact sheet, 2008, available online (in English) at: http://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/c26976/faktaside/vis.html?tid=46288.
Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, Regulations concerning identity (ID) cards at construction sites, Trondheim, January 2008, available online (in English) at: http://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/binfil/download.php?tid=46362.
Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, The government’s action plan against social dumping, Oslo, 2006, available online (summary in English) at: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/aid/Topics/The-working-environment-and-safety/social-dumping/534938.html?id=534938.
Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, ID cards at construction sites, Press release, February 2008, available online (in English) at: http://www.ptil.no/news/id-cards-at-construction-sites-article4192-79.html.
Samarbeidsforum for seriøsitet i byggenæringen [The collaborate forum for promoting decent work practices in the construction sector], Seriøsitet i Byggenæringen – et samarbeidsforum mellom aktører i næringen og myndighetene, Information leaflet 2007/2008, available online (in Norwegian) at: http://coreweb.nhosp.no/bnl.no/html/files/Seriositet_manifest_2007_1.pdf (1.5Mb PDF).
Kristine Nergaard and Jørgen Svalund, Fafo, Institute for Labour and Social Research