Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Supporting Migrant Domestic Workers

Let’s start with the statistics:

There are nearly 19,000 people on overseas domestic visas in the UK. Migrant domestic workers (MDWs) can only come to the UK on a non-renewable six-month “tied visa”. They enter the UK with a named employer to work in the employer’s private household. In 2011, the UK declined to sign up to the UN International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention. It has been ratified by 26 other countries. In 2015, the government commissioned an independent review of the UK’s domestic visa policies. The report recommended an unconditional right for migrant domestic workers to change their employer and the right to apply for an annual extension of their visa for a maximum of two-and-a-half years. The government rejected the recommendations. Instead, it stated that a MDW could change employer, but only within the six-month original visa period, which could not be extended.  

MDWs are predominantly women, according to Kalayaan, a charity which works with migrant domestic workers in the UK to help them access their rights. Many MDWs complain of having experienced verbal or physical abuse, and some of working an average of 91 hours a week. Some have had their passports confiscated by their employers. Because of the hidden, private nature of the work and because many are unable to speak English, these women are socially isolated. According to the Global Slavery Index, migrant domestic workers are at increased risk of modern slavery, owing to the hidden nature of any exploitation that occurs in private households. The Modern Slavery Helpline offers advice on how to spot the signs of domestic slavery.

It’s vital the contribution migrant workers make to the UK economy is properly recognised and to resist all abuse, discrimination and inequality. I’m proud to be a migrant and I’m proud to stand with migrants!