Labour exploitation

What does it mean?

Labour market exploitation occurs when an employer takes unfair advantage of an employee’s work. As fairness is subjective, different people may have different definitions of what constitutes exploitation. Labor exploitation is not a legal term – and not all forms of labor exploitation are illegal.

As this figure shows, exploitation is neither necessarily a labor law violation nor a criminal offense, 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 indicators of exploitative employment?

There are many signs of exploitation, from the less serious to the very serious. The following are worth watching 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 assert 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:

Main signs of exploitation in relation to the employment contract:


For all work done in Hungary, the worker must be paid the contractually agreed salary, and there can be no derogation from this. 

Main 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.

Overtime must always be paid. In the standard case, this means a 50% wage supplement above the wage for the work specified in the contract.

The main signs of exploitation in relation to overtime are as follows:


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

Personal documentations:

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 the employment relationship may be exploitative.


It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment that does not endanger the health of workers and to provide all the necessary safety 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 other things, the following specific cases may arise:


Sometimes, 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 situations, exploitation may be suspected:

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

In all cases where labour market exploitation is suspected, workers can seek help through the SAFEmployment Hungary project of Menedék, using the following contact details: