“Since 2012 migrant domestic workers arrive in the UK under very restrictive visa conditions. The Overseas Domestic Worker visa does not permit them to change employer and ties them to the employer with whom they arrived for a non-renewable period of six months. Domestic workers, particularly when they live in the employers’ household, are a vulnerable group of workers. They are also often excluded from labour protective laws. The UK visa has been heavily criticised by many for creating further vulnerability, and has even been linked to slavery. Between 15,000 and 16,000 such visas are issued each year, according to the Home Office, which does not provide any further information on arrivals but produces data on the nationality of the employers. About 80 per cent come from a very small number of countries in the Middle East.”
“Before arrival, workers’ salaries were reported to range between £100-250 per month, but could be as low as £50 per month. Interviewees reported working between 12 and 20 hours a day with no day off. Almost all interviewees said that they were not allowed out of the house unaccompanied. Many said that they did not eat at the same time as the employers and that nutrition was not always sufficient.”
“The employers still kept the workers’ passports and sometimes threatened them that, if they escaped, the police would imprison and deport them. … Almost all interviewees escaped their employers and became undocumented. One of the workers said that she asked her former employer to return her passport to her, but the employer asked her £2,000 for it. The majority of the interviewees said that they only learned after they escaped that they had no right to remain in the UK or work for another employer.”
“In 2015 the UK adopted the Modern Slavery Act. … An independent review by barrister James Ewins was published in December 2015. Ewins recommended a universal right to change employers for overseas domestic workers, as well as two and a half years maximum stay.”
The full article here.