Migrant workers – rights at work 

Who is this fact sheet for? This fact sheet gives information about your rights at work. Almost all workers have rights at work. This includes migrant workers who have come from abroad to work in the UK. Migrant workers often work in hotels or restaurants, food processing, fruit picking and shellfish gathering. 

However, if you don't have permission from the Immigration authorities (UK Border Agency) to work in the UK and are working illegally, you will have very few rights. If you're working in the UK illegally, or aren't sure whether you have permission to work here, most of the information in this fact sheet won't apply to you. You must get advice as soon as possible from an expert adviser. 

If you're from a European Union country, you do not have to get permission to work in the UK unless you are from  Romania or Bulgaria, or from Croatia (from 1 July 2013). If you're from those countries, you have to be registered  under the Workers Registration Scheme before you can work in the UK. 

Your rights at work 

Workers have rights because there are laws about how the person you work for (your employer) is allowed to treat you. There are things you can do if your employer breaks the law. However, if you're a migrant worker and you try to sort out a problem at work, you're more likely to be at risk than other workers of losing your job, any accommodation which goes with it and even your right to stay in the UK. 

The rights explained in this fact sheet might not be the only rights you have. To find out more, you should get advice (see below). 

The right to a minimum wage 

There are rules about how much an hour your employer must pay you. The very least they must pay you is an amount called the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This will depend on your age. If you are doing agricultural work, for example, crop or fruit picking, the rules about how much you should get are slightly different from other types of job. 

Your employer must give you a pay-slip, telling you how much you have been paid. You might find that your employer takes money from your wages for things like your accommodation, meals, training, the cost of travel to work, or the cost of travel to the UK. They might also be taking money from your wages to pay off the costs of arranging the job for you. There are rules about how much money your employer can take from your wages to pay for things like these, and there is a set amount of money below which your wages must not go. There is a maximum amount for accommodation which can be taken into account when calculating whether you are getting the NMW. 

If your employer is taking money from your wages for accommodation or training, they can only do this if you have agreed to it in writing. But even if you have agreed to this, your employer is not allowed to pay you less than the NMW. If you think you aren't being paid all the money you are owed, you should get advice. 

If you need further advice on the National Minimum Wage, you can call the Pay and Work rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. The helpline is confidential and you get can get advice in different languages.

 

Extract of factsheet available at http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/work_e/work_factsheets.htm

Copyright © 2002-2012 Citizens Advice. All rights reserved Registered charity no: 279057 Company no: 1436945 England

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We would like to thank the Citizen's Advice Bureau for allowing us to use this factsheet. Further factsheets can be downloaded from this website:

Citizens Advice - work factsheets

  • Have you ever been paid below the minimum wage
  • Do you know what to do if you are

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