Protecting your rights: the labour law platform supporting employees in Armenia
June 10, 2024

Protecting your rights: the labour law platform supporting employees in Armenia


Lack of employment contracts, unpaid overtime and arbitrary dismissal: these are just a few of the widespread labour rights violations in Armenia.

To investigate such violations and assist employees in restoring their rights, the Compass research, training and consultancy centre has established the Labor-rights.am platform. The centre brings together lawyers and individuals who have experienced labour rights violations.

The creation of the platform was financed by the European Union, within the framework of the ‘Labour Action: Collaborative Effort for Accountable and Inclusive Employment’ project, which is implemented in partnership with the Union of Employers of ICT, the Armavir Development Centre NGO and the Kiraki Foundation.

Bringing together employees and lawyers

The Compass research, training and consultancy centre was founded in Gyumri in 2014.

“We had the idea to create a platform that would unite lawyers and individuals whose labour rights are violated,” said Gharib Harutyunyan, programme manager and president of Compass NGO, explaining that research had highlighted the vulnerability of labour rights in the Shirak region and beyond, and the need to assist citizens in restoring their rights.

“With this vision in mind, we decided to apply to a grant competition announced within the framework of the ‘Labour Action: Collaborative Effort for Accountable and Inclusive Employment’ project and we were selected.”

Support mechanisms

The Labor-rights.am platform has been operating since February 2023. Its primary function operates through a section of the website where citizens can report violations of their labour rights and receive advice.

“The platform also offers the option of anonymous publications, which allows citizens to be free when raising issues. In addition to discussions and consultations on labour law violations, the platform also enables users to address issues through the courts, with the support of lawyers and law firms that have joined us,” noted Gharib Harutyunyan.

The platform also has a news section which provides information about the labour code and labour rights. The job announcements section serves as an additional tool for promoting the field.

While the platform primarily targets residents of the Shirak region, there are no restrictions on place of residence for registering on the platform or participating in discussions.

“Users are not charged any fees for the legal activities conducted within the framework of the project. However, for the maintenance and further development of the platform, there may be the possibility of introducing some paid services as well,” added the project manager.

Widespread violations in the public and private sectors

The law office of Hayk Harutyunyan, head of the project’s partner legal organisation, has helped a number of citizens in restoring their rights, both in court and out of it.

Hayk Harutyunyan explained that the widespread violations of labour rights in the public and private sectors are quite different.

“In the private sector, the practice of not registering employees persists, leaving them devoid of the protections guaranteed by the Labour Code. Even when employment contracts exist, the responsibilities of the employees are often unclear, further complicating the defence of their rights,” he noted.

In the public sector, the most common issues are around dismissals, based on personal reasons or without justification, and violations of the dismissal procedure.

“There are many examples in schools when principals dismiss teachers whose political views they disagree with, citing loss of trust or failure to fulfil work obligations as the grounds for dismissal. The cases resolved by the court reveal that principals mainly failed to adhere to proper dismissal procedures regarding notice and deadlines. At the same time, they were unable to present sufficient legal and factual grounds for the dismissal orders. Consequently, we have quite a large number of court rulings in favour of our applicants,” explained the lawyer.

He went on to explain that before dismissing an employee, the employer is obligated to request an explanation from the employee regarding the violation and to provide a reasonable period for response. However, this provision of the code is frequently disregarded.

Hayk Harutyunyan has also been involved in cases concerning violations of the rights of labour migrants in Armenia, primarily stemming from employers’ failure to sign employment contracts.

Legal on paper, illegal in reality

There are also many complaints from citizens regarding holidays. While holidays in the public sector are typically granted in accordance with the law, there are instances where employers bother employees, giving instructions even during holiday periods.

According to Hayk Harutyunyan, the picture in the private sector is much worse. There are numerous cases when employees are granted holiday on paper only, while in reality, they are deprived of the leave that they are entitled to according to the Labour Code.

“Despite the prevalence of violations, individuals apply for judicial resolution of the issue only after being fired or when their contract expires. Due to the limited job opportunities, employees often find themselves highly dependent on their employers and are afraid to speak out about violations of their rights,” said Hayk Harutyunyan.

‘Experience required’: a cul-de-sac for young people

One of the primary concerns for youth is employers who demand previous experience. According to the lawyer, such a requirement is not permitted by law, yet it remains a violation that is difficult to prove.

“This issue exists in both the private and public sectors. The reason for rejecting a job application due to lack of experience is not explicitly defined, making it difficult to address this issue in court. Regulating this area requires the use of state levers, to collect available vacancies and offer them to graduates based on their specialisation. On the one hand, this will enable newly graduated specialists to have a job, and on the other hand, it will help to manage the spectrum of specialisations needed by the state,” explained the lawyer.

Fear and stereotypes – cause of silence

According to Gharib Harutyunyan, trust in the platform is gradually increasing. “The rights of a number of beneficiaries of the platform have been restored both by judicial and extrajudicial procedure. Citizens share these examples with each other, contributing to the platform’s growing trust and attracting new users,” said Gharib Harutyunyan.

At the same time, he highlighted several primary obstacles that hinder citizens from pursuing the protection of their rights.

“There is still an atmosphere of fear among people: as far as they have to continue working in the same place, they are often afraid of spoiling their relationship with their employer. On the other hand, stereotypes also serve as a hindrance: many people continue to think that reporting violations means being an ‘informant’, so they prefer to abstain,” said the programme manager.

He added that according to their research, people are not sufficiently informed about their rights and are unaware that many issues can be resolved through legal means.

“In this regard, the role of the platform is crucial,” Gharib Harutyunyan emphasised.

More than 2,000 users

An increasing number of citizens are turning to the Labor-rights.am platform seeking answers to their questions.

“In total, more than 2,000 people have already used and are currently using the platform. To date, we have been able to support more than 150 people. The overall number of website visitors has exceeded 6,000,” says Gharib Harutyunyan, adding that the platform works with two lawyers and three other specialists.

“During this period, we have had a number of success stories. For example, a college employee who was fired without proper justification contacted us through the website. With the support of our lawyers, the applicant’s job was restored by court order. In another case, the employer withdrew his order, this time as a result of negotiations with lawyers. The job announcements tool on the platform is also working successfully, and many people have been hired as a result,” the project manager said.

Gharib Harutyunyan emphasised their strong desire to continuously enhance the platform. However, he acknowledged that the resources of the research centre are limited, and they need partners.

“Thanks to the time and resource investments of our centre and legal team, the platform continues its regular operation. However, our task is to further develop areas that require support. Therefore, we welcome new partnerships with organisations interested in this field,” Gharib Harutyunyan concluded.

Author: Gayane Yenokyan

Article published in ArmenianRussian and English by Mediamax.am



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