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Migrant care workers are being exploited and harassed by employers, Unison study finds

MIGRANTS coming to Britain to take up difficult-to-fill jobs in social care are facing “appalling treatment,” Unison has warned.

Many are forced to pay back thousands of pounds in fees and housed in substandard accommodation where they have to share beds with colleagues, the public-sector union said.

In a damning letter to Social Care Minister Helen Whately, Unison noted a “significant rise in reports of unacceptable treatment by unscrupulous employers towards workers from overseas.”

General secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government must stop unscrupulous care employers from luring overseas workers under false pretences, only to then exploit and harass them.

“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.”

The disturbing situation strengthens the “urgent” case for the establishment of a national care service in England, like that currently being developed in Scotland, Ms McAnea said. 

Some 58,000 people came to Britain to work in the sector in the 12 months to March, official figures show.

Employers often charge migrants upfront fees of up to £15,000 for finding them a job and housing, but many workers end up in poor accommodation, for which rent is deducted from their wages, the letter says.

Some are paid for just a fraction of the hours they work and are subjected to racist remarks, harassment and intimidation if they complain, while others work for several months without wages from bosses, who often claim that the money is going to recoup training or accommodation costs, it adds. 

The letter argues that such practices are “inevitable in a sector that is built on poor terms and conditions for all care workers, including poverty wages, no proper sick pay, failure to pay for travel time and zero-hours contracts.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent rejection of calls to scale back the visa route for social care is “a tacit acknowledgement of how much these workers are doing to prop up a system in crisis,” the union said. 

“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.”

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