Labour market exploitation

What does it mean?

Labour market exploitation occurs when an employer takes unfair advantage of a worker’s work. Because fairness is subjective, different people may have different definitions of what constitutes exploitation. Labour exploitation is not a legal term – indeed, not all forms of labour exploitation are illegal.


Labour market exploitation is the exploitation of a worker for gain in the workplace.

Source: The Intersection of Labor Exploitation and Human Trafficking, 2022

As this figure shows, exploitation does not necessarily constitute either a labour law violation or a criminal offence, but their absence does not mean that it is not a serious phenomenon with negative effects on the worker.

Migrant workers are more vulnerable to exploitation.

Several factors may contribute to this, but the most important are:

What are the signs of an exploitative employment relationship?

There are many signs of exploitation, from the less serious to the very serious. Here are some to watch out for:

Employment contract:

A valid and signed employment contract is an essential condition for any employment relationship in Hungary. Working without a contract is illegal and puts the employee in danger, as he cannot enforce his rights and represent his interests to his employer. The terms of an employment contract are binding on both the employee and the employer. All employment contracts must include at least the following:

Key signs of exploitation in relation to the employment contract:


For all work done in Hungary, the worker is paid the contractually agreed wage, and there is no derogation from this.

Key signs of exploitation in relation to pay


There are strict rules on overtime. The overtime worked by the employee may not exceed the time limit laid down in the Hungarian Labour Code. 

In all cases, overtime is paid. This will normally be a bonus of 50% of the contractually agreed rate of pay.

The main signs of exploitation in relation to overtime are:

Paid leave:

All workers in Hungary are obliged to take paid leave. If an employer does not provide a minimum of 20 paid days off, this could be a sign of exploitation.

Personal documents:

The employer may not keep the employee’s personal documents such as identity card, passport, residence permit, etc. If the employer keeps these documents, it is an obstacle to the employee’s personal freedom, which is a very important sign that an exploitative employment relationship exists.

Working conditions:

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment that does not endanger health and to provide all the necessary conditions. If the employer employs the worker in an unhealthy or dangerous workplace, this may also indicate that they are in an exploitative employment relationship.

Among others, the following specific cases may arise:


In many cases, the employer provides housing for the employee. In many cases, this makes it easier to stay in Hungary, but it can also be a source of danger. It is important to ensure that this situation is not abused by the employer.

In the following specific concrete cases, exploitation may be suspected:

These are just some examples of the signs of an exploitative employment relationship. It is very important to underline that if the worker or his/her family members are in immediate danger or suspected of a criminal offence, the police should be informed immediately by calling 112.

In all cases of suspected labour market exploitation, workers can seek help from Menedék Hungarian Association for Migrants by contacting: