Allow overseas domestic workers the right to change employers in the UK - FreedomUnited.org

Allow overseas domestic workers the right to change employers in the UK

Domestic workers from overseas can find themselves in the U.K. working for employers that abuse them, give them hardly any food, afford them little or no pay and often lock them in the very homes they are working in.

Astonishingly U.K. law stops migrant domestic workers from leaving these employers. The tied visa system in the U.K., equivalent to what is commonly known as the kafala system in the Middle East, means workers have to remain with the employer they arrived with to remain legal under immigration rules.

We know that giving these workers the right to find another employer makes them less vulnerable to modern slavery. 1

Sara’s Story

“We don’t have any days off. We don’t have any freedom.”

When we spoke to Sara*, a survivor of domestic slavery, we knew we had to do something to help.

Excited for a new opportunity and the chance to help her family financially, Sara, an Indian national, was brought to the UK by a family to work as a domestic worker in their home. But far from the life she imagined, she found herself locked in the house, working round the clock, with no-one to turn to for help.

With support from a neighbour, Sara was able to escape. Now she wants to do everything she can to help domestic workers still trapped in slavery.

“Now I am free. I [am] so happy.” Sara

In 2012, the U.K. Government introduced the tied visa, which prevents overseas domestic workers from changing employers. Fortunately for Sara, she entered the U.K. before 2012 and was able to find another job and support herself after escaping slavery. Now that is not an option. The tied visa increases the risk of domestic slavery because trying to escape from exploitative situations could mean facing arrest, removal from the U.K., or even further exploitation.2

Please call on the U.K. government to support the end of the tied visa system for migrant domestic workers.

  • 26 March 2015: The UK Modern Slavery Act became law. Unfortunately no provisions were made in the Act to change the tied visa system, but the government has committed to an independent review of this by July this year, which will include looking at the restrictions on domestic workers to change employers. We will monitor this and keep you updated.

  • Disappointingly, UK MPs voted narrowly against ending the tied visa system in the UK by 67 votes following a debate in Parliament on the Modern Slavery Bill.

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

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Ruth Negus
Ruth Negus
5 months ago

Slavery should not exist in 2022. Workers should get a living wage wherever they live. Climate change is real and large companies should take responsibility and improve.

Call on the UK to end tied visas for migrant domestic workers

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To the UK government,

Under the current tied visa system, overseas domestic workers residing in the UK are at risk of being trapped in modern slavery and exploitation.

The Independent Review of the Overseas Domestic Workers Visa commissioned by the UK government in 2015, found that the tied visa is ‘incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers’. Yet, years later, overseas domestic workers in the UK are still subjected to this tied visa system.

If the UK is serious in its efforts to prevent exploitation and end violence against women and girls, it must restore rights for this workforce. I urge you to support the reinstatement of the pre-2012 visa regime to better protect overseas domestic workers from exploitation and modern slavery.

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