'Shocking abuse' of foreign employees alleged against UK care providers

July 10, 2023
'Shocking abuse' of foreign employees alleged against UK care providers Care providers are allegedly using "shocking abuse" against migrant workers by making them pay back thousands of pounds in recruitment costs, house them in subpar housing, and make them work 80-hour weeks. Christina McAnea, the general secretary of Unison, the health care trade union, has written to the social care minister, Helen Whately, urging the government to step in and demanding a meeting over a situation she described as “a crisis”. In the year to March, about 58,000 people came from countries including the Philippines to help fill approximately 165,000 vacancies in the social care workforce. But Unison said it was receiving increasing reports about care workers who were:
  • Required to be permanently on call
  • Working 19-hour shifts without breaks
  • Having wages withheld
  • Required to pay large sums to recruitment agencies, which are then split with the care operator.
The union quoted the case of Lisa, a nurse from the Philippines, who had more than £10,000 deducted from her salary when she handed in her notice. Listed in the charges were costs that the Home Office explicitly forbids from being passed on to workers, such as the immigration skills charge. 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. “The government must stop unscrupulous care employers from luring overseas workers under false pretences, only to then exploit and harass them,” said McAnea. “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. This makes the case for why a national care service, that mirrors the NHS, is needed so urgently.” The demand for Whately to take action comes after the Observer revealed last month that nurses hired from India to work in a social care chain had been left in debt and were in some cases suicidal after being stranded without pay for months. McAnea wrote to Whately: “These workers deserve our praise, thanks and good working conditions, not the outright exploitation many are facing. Care worker ill-treatment is rife, irrespective of migration status. But unscrupulous employers have greater powers over migrant care workers, which leads to the most extreme and disgraceful practices.” Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, an association of care home providers, said: “Migrant workers should be entitled to the same working conditions as all care staff and should always be treated with dignity and respect and not exploited because of they are overseas workers.” Concerns should be reported to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care. “All employers of international health and care staff must follow the code of practice to make sure staff are recruited ethically and are treated with respect,” they said. “No staff should face any kind of abuse, especially when raising concerns with their employer. It is unacceptable and staff can contact the Care Quality Commission if they witness or are a victim of malpractice.”

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