The plights of migrant domestic workers in the UK: a legal perspective
Salih, Ismail Idowu
As a group of migrant workers, overseas domestic workers (‘‘ODWs’’) have been extensively studied in the migration, geography, and sociology disciplines. Legal scholarly publications addressing the shortfalls in the rights of these workers are beginning to catch up. The International Labour Organization (‘‘ILO’’) supports the argument that ODWs are by far the most vulnerable group of migrant workers. In the United Kingdom, the problem faced by ODWs is complicated by the hostile immigration policy and exclusion clauses in the employment law. Despite the ODWs having been exposed to a series of abuses, exploitations, and occupational health and safety hazards like workers in other occupations, they are unduly excluded from the protection and benefits available to those other workers. This thesis used a combined doctrinal and empirical approach to examine failed immigration policies, ambiguities in the employment law, exclusion clauses in the health and safety law and working time regulation, and how the justice system has been failing the ODWs. The research found the UK Government’s refusal to extend some key employment legislations to protect household workers, the non-implementation of major international frameworks that protect domestic workers, and the inseparable link between employment and immigration create hurdles to achieve justice for ODWs. The thesis argues that although ODWs’ personal attributes, such as poor socio-economic background, may constitute a vulnerability risk, ODWs’ experiences are marred by the current visa system that increases their reliance on employers and has significantly tilted the employer-employee power in the employer’s favour, leading to continued abuse, exploitation, injustice, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery. This thesis advocates a review of the policy on ODWs, a re-examination of the strict link between immigration and employment, and a review of the law on employment discrimination. Finally, the thesis found a link between culture, ethnicity, and exploitation; this link needs further study.