STARTING WORK IN TURKEY?
Working foreigners, you have to know your rights!
According to basic Turkish law, every foreign national who works in Turkey for a salary, wage, commission or other similar remuneration has to have social security. In other words, given that you have a work permit and don’t work illegally in Turkey, you have access to the Turkish social security system and can benefit from certain social rights. And of course, you can also refer to the country’s labor legislation.
But do you actually know your rights, codified in the Turkish social security legislation? If not, it is worth taking a look so that you don’t get shortchanged.
Like every Turkish citizen, foreign employees are insured by their employers, who have to pay the compulsory insurance costs on their behalf to the state’s Social Security Institution (SGK).
Social security premiums currently amount to 36.5 percent of the net wage, but you shouldn’t worry about this because the employee’s contribution is directly deducted from the salary by the employer and paid together with the employer’s share to the SGK.
In any case, you should urgently speak with your employer about this matter and make sure that he or she is really paying these premiums. An employer must register every new employee with the insurance institution at least one day before the employee starts to work.
You may inform yourself about the respective requirements at the SGK Web site (www.sgk.gov.tr). Generally you will need three copies of the application form (Sigortalı İşe Giriş Bildirgesi, downloadable from the SGK Web site), a passport photo, a copy of your passport and a copy of your work permit to submit to the authorities.
Once you become a member of the public social insurance system in Turkey, the question arises, what will you gain? Refer to the Social Security and General Health Insurance Law No. 5510, also known as the latest social security reform.
This law regulates things like pension funds, unemployment and health. It was put on the books in June 2006, though its terms and provisions entered into force on January 2007.
You may download the Turkish version of this law at the SGK Web site. A short overview of the most important facts and changes after the last security reform follows. Generally, in case of any health problems or accidents, medical treatments at state hospitals are free.
These treatments should cover all your basic needs, though for any extras or out of the ordinary treatment, including, for example, very expensive operations or medicine, you will be charged additional fees.
Family members (spouse and children) are always co-insured, though people earning less than one-third of the minimum wage and those who receive unemployment benefits receive all health services at no cost.
The minimum age required for retirement is currently 58 for women and 60 for men. This will gradually increase to 65 over the next several years. Also, a worker may receive unemployment benefits as long as he or she worked for at least 600 days before being forced to leave the position.
Those falling into this category will also be able to enjoy free medical benefits until they find a new job. If you do not complete this 600-day period, you will simply be denied all unemployment benefits.
Another useful source is Law No. 4857, which entered into force in June 2003. It is better known as the Labor Code. You may find parts of this law translated into English on the Turkish online law forum www.turkhukuksitesi.com. Putting all the scattered pieces together might be tough, so we’ve already prepackaged the most important facts.
According to this law, full-time employment should not exceed 45 hours per week and the work must be executed between the time periods specified by the employer. Part-time work should not exceed an amount of 20 hours per week. Traveling times to and from work are included in these hours.
It is illegal in Turkey to employ workers under the age of 15, or under the age of 18 when the work is done under particularly heavy or dangerous conditions (mining, night shifts).
Moreover, there is a minimum wage which is regularly revised by the authorities. Overtime work may never exceed a maximum of 270 hours a year or 90 days per year. In any case, overtime must be paid.
Work on public holidays must be paid double. After one year of service, employees are entitled to 14 days of paid leave. Female employees are entitled to a period of six months unpaid leave following a period of 16 weeks of normal paid leave before and after giving birth (eight weeks before and eight weeks after birth). Male employees in the public sector are allowed three days of paternity leave.
Last but not least, if your employment is “unofficial,” you naturally cannot take advantage of public insurance. If this is the case, it is strongly recommended that you purchase private insurance.
There are many local and foreign insurance companies that fall under the scope of social security in Turkey. The Insurance Auditing Board of the Treasury Undersecretariat audits these companies.
The costs of private insurance are usually very high, but this does give you access to private hospitals, special retirement premiums, etc. Furthermore, you may still look for adequate insurance in your home country.
Just keep in mind that having no insurance in Turkey is not only a walk on the tightrope, it may also result in high fine.