Government launches advice leaflets for overseas workers

Workers
from new EU member states coming to the UK to take up job opportunities must be
protected from exploitation by unscrupulous employers, according to consumer
minister, Gerry Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe
was speaking at the launch of two employment rights leaflets that give
information to potentially vulnerable workers about employment rights and tax
and National Insurance responsibilities under UK employment law.

The
leaflets have been produced for Polish and Lithuanian nationals after the two
countries’ governments agreed to work with the DTI. The initiative follows the
successful launch last year of a similar leaflet for Portuguese workers.

Overseas
workers, who are entitled to work in the UK, are frequently recruited by
agencies for jobs in the agricultural and service sectors, but often arrive in
the UK with little or no knowledge of their employment rights, the Government
said.

Sutcliffe
said: "Workers coming to the UK from all the EU member states have the
same rights as UK workers. They can help fill important roles where there are
often skills or labour shortages, but it is simply unacceptable for any workers
to be treated unfairly."

The
new leaflets, translated into both languages, provide guidance specific to each
country, and other general guidance on working in the UK, including workers’
rights under UK employment legislation, and various useful contact numbers,
both at home and abroad.

These
include government departments and agencies that can help when things go wrong.

Evidence
from Citizens Advice Bureau shows that migrant workers can face problems linked
to:


Low pay – often below the National Minimum Wage


Poor standards of accommodation


Lack of awareness about their employment rights – EU workers may not be aware
that they have exactly the same employment rights as UK nationals, but they are
often told by the agencies that they are illegal immigrants within the UK,
creating a culture of fear and reluctance to seek advice


Language barriers – EU workers who don’t speak English find it difficult to
seek advice when they have problems.

By Michael Millar

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