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Advice for employers


This section gives essential guidance to employers, employment agencies, employment businesses, gangmasters and other labour providers on their responsibilities under health and safety law towards migrant workers. The same health and safety law applies to migrant workers as to the GB workforce, and everyone at work, including employers and workers, has responsibilities under it.

What do the terms used mean?

A migrant worker is considered to be someone who is or has been working in Great Britain (GB) in the last 12 months, and has come to GB from abroad to work within the last 5 years.

A labour provider is a person or company who supplies workers to a third party. This includes employment agencies, employment businesses and gangmasters.

A gangmaster is someone who supplies a worker to another person to do work to which the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 applies.

A labour user (user) is a person who hires or uses workers.

Who is responsible for the health and safety of migrant workers?

There is no simple answer to this question - it depends on the relationship between the labour provider and user and the circumstances under which the work is being carried out.

When a business uses workers supplied by an independent labour provider, the business and the labour provider have a shared responsibility to protect their health and safety, regardless of which one is the employer.

Determining who is the employer will in any case depend on the facts of each case

Further advice and guidance on determining employment status

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What do labour providers and users have to do?

Labour providers and users should clarify and agree their relationship and their respective responsibilities for health and safety.

To avoid any misunderstanding and confusion. Any agreement should be formalised in writing by way of a contract, service level agreement or other form of agreement, and should include the practical arrangements for the day-to-day management and supervision of the workers.

Both parties need:

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In Scotland, this advice can be found on the business gateway website.

What is risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to people. It lets you weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions to protect them or need to do more.

Assessing the risks from work activities is a legal requirement, but it is also the key to effectively managing health and safety. It reduces the potential for accidents and ill health that can not only ruin lives but also seriously affect your business if output is lost, or plant machinery or property is damaged.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), trade associations and other organisations have published advice and guidance on how to carry out risk assessments.

If you are a labour user you should:

If you are a labour provider you should:

Both labour providers and users should take account of the needs of overseas workers and consider:

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What about information, instruction, training and supervision?

If you are a labour provider you should:

If you are a labour user you should:

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Do I need to keep records?

Labour providers and users should make sure:

Can I get help with language issues?

You should consider providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for workers who need to improve their English. This can be done in the workplace itself or through local teaching providers, and either within or outside working hours subject to operational requirements. A range of flexible and work-focused ESOL qualifications, with health and safety content included, is now available.

Although health and safety law doesn't generally require workers to be able to speak English, learning English reduces communication difficulties and has been shown to lead to higher productivity and retention rates, as well as promoting integration outside work. Employers have a duty to provide comprehensible information to workers – this does not have to be in writing, or necessarily in English.

Other options include:

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What else do I need to do?

You will also need to make sure:

More detailed information on relevant law for employers is in the law section. Further information is also available on our publication pages.

Transport of workers to site

Vehicles used to transport temporary and overseas workers to and from their place(s) of work on the public highway are subject to road traffic law with respect to registration, licensing, roadworthiness and maintenance (including possession where appropriate of a valid MOT certificate) and insurance. Drivers should hold a current, valid licence, appropriate to the class of vehicle.

Vehicles and drivers used to transport workers on public roads can be subject to special arrangements if the passengers are charged for the journey. Any vehicle with nine or more passenger seats used for hire or reward must be registered as a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) and the driver must have a Passenger Carrying Vehicle entitlement on their driving licence.

If tractors and trailers are used to transport workers to field harvesting sites, ensure you follow the advice in Agricultural Information sheet number 36.


Although many overseas workers arrange their own accommodation, in some industries, particularly agriculture and healthcare, accommodation is often provided by the labour provider or user.

Permanent, fixed accommodation made available or supplied to overseas workers is subject:

Residential accommodation in caravans is subject to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. Sites normally require planning permission and are subject to licensing by the local authority.

Further information and guidance on the application of the law applying to residential accommodation can be obtained from local authorities.

How to contact HSE for further information

See also

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