Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:21 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Caroline Robinson:

Yes, certainly. We have looked quite extensively at other temporary migration programmes around the world and previous schemes in the UK, and we certainly see a risk in relation to recruitment fees. As I mentioned earlier, there is the possibility of elevated fees and also, as Members will be aware, the definition of debt bondage is an increased fee that is disproportionate to the initial fee paid, and using that fee to coerce an individual into an exploitative working condition.

We see that as a real risk in relation to overseas recruitment, but there are also the high fees that people will have to pay for their visa and for their travel to the UK. Obviously, because we know more of the detail on the seasonal workers pilot, we know that people will be coming for a short period of time—a six-month period—and, as Meri said, on zero-hours contracts, so there is no guarantee of a high rate of pay necessarily, and with potentially quite high up-front fees. So the risk is great there.

Also, we have looked at things like bilateral labour agreements. For example, Canada and Mexico have established an agreement on agricultural workers, where clear terms are established in terms of the minimum hours that workers will have, the minimum working week and the hours that people can be guaranteed, so that there are clear terms for workers, and so workers can budget accordingly and not face the risk of a huge debt that they cannot then repay, or, as I mentioned, a debt that increases disproportionately in relation to the initial debt, which is a risk.