February 15, 2016

The right to change employer- used by those who need it

Migrant domestic workers who accompanied an employer to the UK to work in their private household before the rules changed in April 2012 had the right to change employer. This right was an important protection which allowed those who needed to to escape abuse and find another job, and to go on and apply to renew their visa in the UK if they remained in full time work as a domestic worker in a private household in the UK.

The answer given on the 20th January 2016 by James Brokenshire MP to Jim Shannon MP’s question as to how many domestic workers from overseas applied for leave to remain in the UK in each of the last five years suggests that only 8% of those migrant domestic workers who entered on the Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa before April 2012 and who had the right to change employer and / or renew their visa and remain in the UK did so.

This is because in any of the given years there are at least 5 years of entrants on the ODW visa who would potentially be applying for Leave to Remain. Anyone who remains in the UK on the pre 2012 ODW visa has to apply to renew their visa annually until they become eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR eligibility for pre 2012 ODWs requires 5 years of lawful residence plus meeting the English language requirements. 5 years of leave to remain applications (or visa renewals) is an underestimate for some migrant domestic workers as some are not able to apply for ILR after 5 years, usually because they have not met the English language requirement. This means that in practice less than 8% of eligible ODWs may be successfully applying for leave to remain in the UK. The calculations for this can be found in the following table ODWs and LTR 2010-14 table

These figures suggests that the pre 2010 right to renew the visa and remain in the UK was an option used by a minority of workers on this visa. Given the reports of serious abuse and exploitation including trafficking made to organisations such as Kalayaan it is likely that it is those workers who were seriously mistreated by their employers who used the rights provided by the pre 2012 ODW visa to escape their employer, find other work as a domestic worker in the UK and move on and rebuild their lives.