Beyond Employment Tribunals: Enforcement of Employment Rights by EU-8 Migrant Workers

01 Dec 2017

Many EU-8 migrant workers work in low-skilled, low paid jobs, particularly sectors such as food processing and agriculture. Our interest lies in the experience of those migrant workers in the UK and specifically what happens when they are denied their employment rights. In earlier work, we have already shown that there was a significant underuse by EU-8 migrant workers of Employment Tribunals (ETs). So the questions for this article are threefold. First, why do so few EU-8 migrant workers enforce their employment rights before ETs and to what extent do legal, economic, political and cultural landscapes, as they are experienced by migrant workers, constrain or enable enforcement action? Second, if migrant workers do not resort to ETs, what do they do? Do they simply move on, or do they use alternative enforcement mechanisms (such as the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority)? How effective are these other enforcement processes and institutions in protecting the rights of migrant and similarly vulnerable domestic workers? And third, what might be done to improve the enforcement of employment rights for EU-8 migrant workers and for other vulnerable workers on the UK labour market, including non-EU migrants, especially in the light of the new labour market enforcement agency (LMEA)? We argue that the establishment of a Pay and Work Rights Ombudsman might help address some of the problems experienced by EU-8 migrant workers and other vulnerable national workers.