Key changes sought in UK domestic workers visa regulations

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jan 12, 2016 23:06 IST
Campaign groups have been arguing that domestic workers from Indian and other non-EU countries who work in the United Kingdom should be allowed to change employment instead of being tied to their original sponsor. (Shutterstock Images)

The demand of campaigners that domestic workers from India and other non-EU countries be allowed to change employment instead of being “tied” to employers who sponsored their UK visa has been endorsed by an influential independent review.

Campaign groups such as Kalayaan, Liberty and Southall Black Sisters have highlighted instances of non-EU domestic workers who suffer abuse from their employers but are unable to change employment since a change to rules in April 2012 “tied” their visa to their employer.

The Independent Review of the Overseas Domestic Workers Visa has recommended to the Home Office in its latest report that to prevent abuse, domestic workers should be granted the right to change employment.

The domestic workers visa is used by Indians and others moving to Britain, including diplomats. Such workers can work in the UK for a maximum period of two-and-a-half years; the visa does not lead to permanent settlement.

“This review has found no evidence that a tie to a single employer does anything other than increase the risk of abuse and therefore increases actual abuse,” the reviewer, James Ewins, said in his report.

He added: “On the balance of the evidence currently available, this review finds that the existence of a tie to a specific employer and the absence of a universal right to change employer and apply for extensions of the visa are incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers while in the UK.”

The Home Office has not responded to the recommendations, but a spokesman said: “This government is committed to stopping modern slavery in all its forms. We are working to ensure we provide all victims of modern slavery and trafficking with the protection and support they need.”

Welcoming the review’s findings and recommendations, Kalayaan recalled the David Cameron government’s stated intention to implement them.

The House of Lords successfully voted to insert a clause in the Modern Slavery Bill in February last to allow domestic workers a change of employment.

However, it was overturned when the bill returned to the House of Commons, and the bill received royal assent in March, dismaying campaigners who wanted domestic workers to be given the right to change employment.

India is among the top 5 source countries for domestic workers in the United Kingdom.

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