LONDON: Overseas workers invited to the UK to plug gaps in health and social care sectors are being “exploited on a grand scale” with some being paid as little as five pounds an hour, according to a media report.
Around 78,000 people got visas to come to the UK and work in social care in the year to June 2023. Most of these recruits have come from Nigeria, India and Zimbabwe and are charged thousands of pounds in unexpected fees, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Ever since the Home Office added care workers to the shortage occupation list, 14 per cent of them in England are now from non-EU countries (excluding the UK), while seven per cent are from the EU.
An employer demanded 4,000 pounds for “training costs” when a migrant care worker tried to leave for a job in the NHS, and another was hit with hidden administration fees including 395 pounds for a “cultural induction”, the newspaper reported, citing Unison, a trade union.
A worker from Botswana, who was helped by Unison, said she worked in domiciliary care from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week but was paid less than half the legal minimum. The company laid her off after losing the council care contract and now she fears being deported.
As per the rules, if a worker is laid off, or their employer shuts down, they must find a new sponsoring employer within 60 days, else face deportation — giving employers additional power over workers.
Annie, a care worker from Botswana, was paid for about only six hours while she worked 15-hour days, including waiting for appointments and driving between clients.
In addition, her employer withheld much of her wages for three consecutive months, only repaying her later, and also required her to share a room with a stranger, the news report said.
“The care system would implode without migrant care staff. Demonising these workers will do nothing to solve the social care crisis,” Unison general secretary, Christina McAnea, said.
“Ministers must stop being complicit in allowing this abuse to happen. The government needs to reform immigration rules, not make them more draconian,” The Guardian quoted McAnea as saying.
A government spokesperson told the Guardian that they “do not tolerate abuse in the labour market and where we identify exploitative practices being undertaken by sponsors we take action. This can include the revocation of their licence”.
The incidents of exploitation come days after it was reported that immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has drawn up options to curb immigration, including banning care workers from bringing dependants, or restricting them to one relative.
The UK’s net migration figure peaked at 745,000 in the year to December 2022 — three times higher than the level before Brexit, according to revised estimates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday.
According to the data, the biggest contributor to non-EU immigration was migrants coming for work — particularly to fill shortages in the health and social care sectors — which rose to 33 per cent, from 23 per cent in the year ending June 2022.
India was among the top three non-EU nationalities for immigration in the year to June with 35,091 Indian health and care workers bringing 47,432 relatives during the period. (IANS)