Researchers will discover more about the working conditions of agricultural and care workers

Migrant workers to collaborate with experts on new study to analyse impact of post-Brexit visas

Migrant care home and agricultural workers will co-create new research to analyse the impact of new visa rules introduced following Brexit.

The research will show more about living and working conditions of those who arrive in Britain to work on farms and with the elderly.

The project is among the first studies to be undertaken in the context of the new migration regimes following the end of free movement between the UK and the EU. It aims to analyse the effects of the visa conditions attached to short-term migration schemes on people’s vulnerability to exploitation. This includes access to protective labour market structures, such as union membership, and statutory enforcement and redress, for example through employment tribunals, and whether it creates vulnerability to exploitation.

The Seasonal Worker Visa (SWV) allows workers from a range of countries to enter the UK to work in agriculture for periods less than six months and limiting their right to change employers. A Health and Care Worker visa allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS or in adult social care.

Researchers will discover more about the working conditions of agricultural and care workers by engaging support workers in charities and NGOs to conduct interviews.

Dr Inga Thiemann from the University of Exeter, who is leading the project, said: “We want to centre migrant workers’ own voices and their lived experience in these sectors. We want to find out how they view their working conditions and which support they think would be useful to them. We feel it is important to base policy suggestions on that lived experience.”

The research project is led by the University of Exeter, in partnership with the University of Bristol, the University of York, and the University of Durham, as well as NGOs Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), with support from UNISON. It is hoped the findings will be used by policymakers in the future.

The team and their frontline NGO partners will conduct a survey and in-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups with migrant workers and their representative organisations on their experience of work, their bargaining power and access to protective mechanisms, as well as what they would like enforcement mechanisms to look like.

The researchers will also carry out desk-based research on ongoing changes to the labour market and new visa regimes prompted by Brexit, Covid-19 and recent legislative initiatives.

Dr Thiemann said: “There is growing evidence that both insecure visa regimes and insufficient labour protections contribute to migrant workers’ vulnerabilities to exploitation, discrimination and modern slavery. This project will investigate the specific vulnerabilities experienced by migrant agriculture and care workers on the new post-Brexit visa regimes.

“This project will actively engage migrant workers as co-creators of the research and collaboratively generate new data on their working conditions, experiences and risks of exploitation and access to protections and redress. It will also assess the suitability of the relevant laws and enforcement mechanisms to adequately protect workers.”

The project team also includes Dr Konstantinos Alexandris Polomarkakis, from the University of Exeter; Dr Natalie Sedacca, University of Durham; Dr Joyce Jiang, University of York; Dr Manoj Dias-Abey, University of Bristol; Meri Åhlberg, FLEX; Dr Lucila Granada, FLEX.

Date: 14 July 2022

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