Employing Migrant Workers

What are migrant workers?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a migrant worker as: “someone who is or has been working in Great Britain (GB) in the last 12 months, and has come to GB from abroad to work within the last 5 years”.

Key risk factors:

  • language barriers
  • cultural barriers and differences
  • possible poor health leading to increased susceptibility to risk
  • possible lack of willingness to integrate
  • different perceptions of risk
  • possible employment of illegal immigrants.

Recommendations for employers:

  • ensure risk assessments consider risks specific to migrant workers
  • ensure migrant workers are recruited only if they meet the statutory criteria and provide specified evidence
  • ensure the records of required documentation checks are retained, failure to do so can result in prosecution
  • ensure training and information are understandable for migrant workers, and are understood in practice
  • ensure transport, used for transporting workers, is suitable and is maintained in good condition
  • consider a programme of support and mentoring, eg help with forms and claims
  • ensure managers have tools, skills and knowledge to manage migrant workers appropriately
  • ensure terms and conditions are comparable with non-migrant workers
  • develop team working and people management to ensure migrant workers are engaged and integrated.

Control measures and risk reduction techniques:

  • assess and monitor labour providers, ie recruitment agencies and gang masters
  • establish mutual responsibilities with labour providers and develop contracts and service level agreements
  • check the entitlement of migrant workers to work in UK and keep specified evidence
  • provide induction and ongoing training that is comprehensible to migrants
  • consider support programmes including information packs, mentoring, language training etc
  • ensure terms and conditions are comparable across the migrant and non-migrant workforce
  • assess previous training, qualifications and experience to ensure their validity in the UK for the specific work
  • provide increased supervision where needed due to cultural or language differences
  • involve migrant workers effectively in consultation and communication processes to ensure that their concerns and risks are adequately addressed
  • establish any need for translation and investigate services available, eg through Citizens Advice Bureau
  • where acting as a private landlord, ensure checks are made of the immigration status of tenants.

Legal duties:

  • The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006
  • The Immigration Act 2014
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996
  • The Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Case Law

The best known case of the health and safety of migrant workers being mis- managed is that of the cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in 2005, as a result of the fast changing tides. The gang master who was responsible for them was sentenced to 21 years in prison, for their manslaughter and for causing illegal immigrants to work in the UK.

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