Migrant workers are ‘taken advantage of’

The bureau has seen an increase in employment enquiries
The bureau has seen an increase in employment enquiries

MIGRANT workers with little knowledge of their employment rights are being taken advantage of by some local employers.

A study of client cases over the past year by Eastbourne Citizens Advice Bureau has revealed an increase in the number of complaints relating to employment issues. The majority of victims were migrant workers, and in many cases the employers were in clear breach of employment law.

Thirty-four cases were analysed and the complainants included:

• One employee who was not paid for three months and who was sacked when he complained.

• An employee who did not receive holiday pay for two and a half years.

• An employee who was refused a contract despite having worked for the company for six years, and whose hours were reduced when she broached the subject.

• An employee who complained of being sexually harrassed and who was moved, rather than the offender.

• A worker whose hours were reduced so that Statutory Sick Pay could be avoided.

• A woman whose employement was terminated when she became pregnant during her probationary period.

• An employee who was dismissed after complaining about lack of health and safety procedures.

The Bureau, which saw a 21 per cent increase in employment enquiries over the past year, has advised the victims of possible lines of action including Employment Tribunals and ACAS.

Bureau manager Alan Bruzon said, “As expected the recession has played a major part in so much as many employees are so worried about losing their jobs that they put up with being treated poorly and unlawfully.

“It is also significant that the majority of those concerned were migrant workers who had no knowledge of their rights or how to access them.

“We know that the majority of employers in Eastbourne apply employment legislation properly, but there are clearly some who, either deliberately or through their own lack of knowledge, are taking advantage of the vulnerable. We intend to monitor the situation but for many workers coming to Eastbourne it is not a happy experience.”

Eastbourne CAB receives funding from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to provide help over discrimination in employment and is currently looking to recruit a new worker to help with this much needed area of advice.

The Bureau is also working with the CAB in neighbouring Wealden to share access to advisers who can speak a variety of languages.