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Migrant care workers exploited by unscrupulous employers in U.K.

  • Published on
    July 10, 2023
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  • Category:
    Law & Policy
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General secretary of the U.K. healthcare trade union Unison, Christina McAnea, has written to the U.K.’s social care minister, Helen Whately urging her to address increasing reports by overseas care workers of “shocking abuse”.

Forms of exploitation include workers being required to be permanently on call, working 19-hour shifts without breaks, having wages withheld and being required to pay large illegal sums to recruitment agencies. These types of abuses are indicators of modern slavery with similar exploitation being reported by migrant workers at the FIFA 2022 World Cup and agricultural workers in the U.S. among many others. 

The big payback: illegal recruitment fees and withheld wages

The demand for action by McAnea was triggered by a recent report in the Observer about nurses from India hired to work in social care services in the U.K. The report found that many were left in debt and stranded in the U.K., unable to leave and in some cases being left suicidal after going months without pay.

Unison has received similar reports from overseas workers about thousands of pounds being deducted from workers’ pay when they hand in their notice. The illegal “charges” the unscrupulous employers were trying to collect are costs the law explicitly forbids being passed on to workers.  

Robert Booth at the Guardian reports:

Sandra, also from the Philippines, was chased for more than £8,000 when she resigned. She and other migrant workers were accommodated in the care home but were permanently on call and asked to work when they were meant to be off. She alleged unsafe working practices and was frequently unpaid for the extra work and hours she was made to do, the unions said.

Migrant caregivers are the backbone of the care sector in many countries and the issue of exploitation due to their migration status is also sadly ubiquitous. The Times of Israel reported earlier this year on a similar system of abuse taking place with illegal placement fees for foreign care workers in Israel as high as $25,000 USD. This insidious form of modern slavery through debt bondage and labor exploitation must stop, wherever it is taking place.

Unscrupulous employers must be held accountable

McAnea stated:

“The government must stop unscrupulous care employers from luring overseas workers under false pretenses, only to then exploit and harass them. These practices have no place in a modern society. Migrant staff deserve nothing but respect and dignity for coming to look after those who need care the most.”

From the start of 2023, migrant workers have been coming to the U.K. to help fill the approximately 165,000 vacancies in the social care workforce. As of March, approximately 58,000 people had migrated to the U.K. from across the globe to fill this crucial gap in caregiving.

We are urgently calling on the U.K. to ensure migrant workers are protected from exploitation and abuse. Sign the petition calling for safe migration for all.


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