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The Health and Safety Executive describes a migrant worker as one who has come to the UK within the past 5 years in order to find or to take up a specific post. Workers from other countries have long been a used by UK industry and indeed they are vital for some industries. Seasonal workers have been used in the agricultural sector for many, many years. However, the growth of the European Community has increased the number of persons interested in working abroad and this, coupled with a lack of interest among British workers to undertake the more demanding or menial work, has resulted in rapid growth in the numbers of foreign workers in the UK. Between December 2003 and December 2010 the Polish-born population of the UK increased from 75,000 to 532,000. There is concern that migrant workers may:
Foreign and migrant workers are employed in many sectors of UK industry. Traditionally they would have been found in the hospitality and leisure sector, in agriculture, in construction and healthcare. More recently they have been employed in occupations as diverse as security and accountancy. It is difficult to determine exactly how many migrant and foreign workers there are in the UK. Each year the agricultural sector employs around 20,000 workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme. There is a scheme for holidaymakers who wish to work - estimated at around 40,000 each year. And within the European Community the freedom to travel, to trade and work wherever one wishes within the EC boundaries is increasing the number of foreign workers in the UK. It is not unexpected that workers from poorer, less prosperous countries are interested in working in the UK. The influx of foreign workers may have been overstated by the popular Press but is certainly large. The number of working-age foreign-born people in the UK increased from 2.9 million in 1993 to nearly 6 million in 2011.
Employers should try to ensure that they employ bona fide foreign workers and not "illegals" e.g. those without a work permit, illegal immigrants etc. The employment of foreign workers is not something to be undertaken without full consideration of the possible additional risks involved. There is also public concern about the possibility exploitation of foreign workers as seems to have been the case with the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers.
Foreign workers employed in the UK enjoy the same protection as UK workers and have the same rights and responsibilities. When UK employers undertake risk assessments they must take into account any additional risks arising from differing cultural backgrounds or a limited command of English - either written or spoken and take appropriate control actions.
The tragic death of 20 Chinese cockle pickers has resulted in the passing of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 which attempts to control the activities of gangmasters and reduce exploitation and unsafe working practices.
Foreign workers will face the same risks as any other worker but for them there are additional problems, namely that they may not have a clear grasp of the risks or understand the control actions required.
Foreign workers with a limited command of spoken English may not fully understand safety briefings or training. Those with a limited understanding of written English may not be able to understand the signs and instruction on machines. It would not be sensible or reasonable to assume that they can operate plant and equipment or that they have experience of such equipment from working in their own country.
Border Agency - guidance on sponsoring workers
HSE - guidance on employing migrant workers
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.
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