7 Overseas domestic workers |
223. The experiences of overseas domestic workers
who are ill-treated by their employers are "often at the
exploitative end of employment or at the cusp of domestic servitude",
but some of these workers are also subject to extreme exploitative
and violent behaviour.
Part 1 of the Committee Bill offers protection to those whose
experiences "slip over into domestic servitude and the worst
but neither it nor the Government's draft Bill addresses the less
extreme forms of abuse which would in other circumstances be more
properly dealt in the civil courts or through an employment tribunal.
224. The difficulties faced by this group of workers
appear to have been compounded by changes made to Immigration
Rules in 2012 which had the net effect of removing their right
to change employer, and thus denying them one means of removal
from an abusive situation.
The Impact Assessment that accompanied the 2012 changes stated
that the ability of these workers to change employer and access
the UK labour market was "contrary to general Government
policy on low skilled migration". It acknowledged the "vulnerability
to abuse and exploitation" of these workers, but suggested
that "up to 60% of employer changes are not related to abusive
employment" and that anyway there were other mechanisms in
place, including the NRM, to protect those experiencing abusive
225. Evidence we received challenges the assumption
that such mechanisms provide adequate protection: we were given
examples of employers interpreting for workers at key interviews,
or keeping hold of their workers' passports during immigration
control. Another witness described the effect of the 2012 changes
as "absolutely disastrous" for overseas domestic workers.
One of the factors we found most distressing was that those who
are contacted by these workers are now often unable to help as
the victims are in effect tied to their employer.
Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises
their abuse; it is slavery and is therefore incongruous with our
aim to act decisively to protect the victims of modern slavery.
226. It was suggested to us that abuse was a problem
for a disproportionate number of workers who held diplomatic domestic
Diplomatic domestic workers are treated differently to other overseas
domestic workers for immigration purposes but they have the same
restriction upon them in terms of an inability to change employer.
Their employer is also protected from prosecution under UK law
by diplomatic immunity. ATLEU suggested that ensuring that diplomatic
domestic workers were given leave to enter only if they had direct
contractual arrangements with the Embassy or other diplomatic
mission would enable those in an abusive employment condition
to bring claims against their employer in the UK courts, albeit
perhaps in a limited range of circumstances.
227. We recommend the Home Office reverse the
changes to the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa. This would at the
very least allow organisations and agencies to remove a worker
from an abusive employment situation immediately. It would also
enable the abuse to be reported to the police without fear that
the victim would be deported as a result. This in turn would facilitate
the prosecution of modern slavery offences.
228. Enabling diplomatic domestic workers to bring
claims against their employer would be a powerful deterrent to
abuse. We recommend the Government consider the merits of granting
visas to diplomatic domestic workers only where they have contractual
arrangements directly with the Embassy or other diplomatic mission.
334 Q 82 (Chris Randall) Back
Q125 (Marissa Begonia) Back
Q 82 (Chris Randall) Back
Q 84 (Chris Randall) Back
Q 82 (Julia Harris); Q125 (Marissa Begonia) Back
QQ110 (Chris Randall); Q 129 (Kate Roberts) Back
Q 88 (Chris Randall) Back
Written evidence from Human Rights Watch Back