EU Citizens risk of Exploitation in the Workplace

According to the latest research led by FLEX (Focus on Labour Exploitation) and LEAG (Labour Exploitation Advisory Group), there may be an increased risk of exploitation in the workplace in the UK as a result of Brexit. The two organisations have reported that in the aftermath of the referendum many EU citizens have been told that they no longer hold equal rights compared to UK citizens

The lack of clarity as to the position of overseas workers from official sources, coupled with inconsistent misinformation currently being circulated has encouraged some employers to introduce exploitative working conditions under the erroneous belief that the rights of overseas workers have been eroded by Brexit and they no longer have parity with UK citizens. On two counts this is incorrect; first EU citizens currently hold the same rights as UK citizens and secondly the UK is still within the European Union therefore absolutely nothing can have changed with regard to employee rights.

LEAG reports that foreign workers are reporting worsening conditions, abuse and exploitation, due to the impact of Brexit and the questions that hang over EU citzens’ migrant status, particularly in respect of itinerant and other workers from EU countries whose jobs are somewhat precarious. The organisation has received a 734% increase in requests for advice on EU citizens’ status in relation to exploitive practices in the workplace.

The mood of uncertainty and hostility created by the Brexit referendum appears to be providing the perfect opportunity for some unscrupulous employers to create a climate of fear on the assumption that EU citizens’ status is lesser than that of a UK citizen. Although the British government is very keen on regulating immigration after Brexit, it is yet to create plans to protect workers that may be vulnerable to exploitation. Since many workers believe their future rights to remain in the UK will depend on evidence of previous employment, they are scared of leaving or complaining about abusive working conditions as to do so may compromise their future in the UK.

Nick Gibb, Minister for Equalities, for the British government, has reported receiving a dossier containing dozens of examples of jobs and housing adverts illegally restricting the right of application to UK and Irish nationals only. For example an advert for a job entailing recovering hire cars from France and Spain and delivering back to the UK was restricted to UK nationals only. A number of Real Estate agencies have been reported to have advertised properties rental adverts for UK citizens only or have outlined different terms for EU citizens.

A 42-year-old Polish woman applying for a job as a teaching assistant was asked to provide evidence of her right to reside and work in the UK, which EU citizens currently are not required to do. A 41-year-old German woman (in the UK since 1998) was denied a test-drive at a car dealership due to her driving licence being European despite it being currently valid in the UK.

EU immigrants and many businesses are urgently in need of easily understandable and accessible information about the position of EU citizens currently living and working in the UK both at present and for the future. Discrimination can sometimes very subtle and very difficult to prove. Only consistent and reliable information can put an end to this climate of uncertainty and confusion.

If you wish to know how Brexit may affect your future in the UK, please do not hesitate to contact or telephone 203 102 9482