Migrant Workers - Frequently asked questions
Can my employer charge me for personal protective equipment (PPE)?
It's illegal for your employer to make you pay for any personal protective equipment or clothing (PPE) you need to protect your health and safety at work. It's also illegal for your employer to take a refundable deposit from you for it.
You must have PPE for use at work wherever there are risks to your health and safety that can't be adequately controlled in other ways. PPE includes wet or cold weather clothing, which may be particularly important for work outdoors.
Labour providers and users can make an arrangement about which of them will pay for any PPE required, but can not pass on the cost of this to you. However, they can make a deduction from your final wages if you don't return any equipment issued to you when you leave the employment for which it was issued. But they can only do this if it was made clear in your contract when you started work.
My employer make us share PPE. Is this OK?
For short-duration use (e.g. where it is only required for short cleaning jobs), shared use of PPE is OK, provided that the employer takes proper care to ensure it is washed, cleaned (which should include disinfection where necessary) and dried in accordance with manufacturer's instructions before re-use.
What about toilet and washing facilities and clean drinking water?
Your employer must provide washing, toilet, rest and changing facilities for you when you're at work, and somewhere clean to eat and drink during breaks.
Toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer, as well as drinking water, are particularly important if you’re working in remote, outdoor locations or premises with manual activities, such as labouring or planting and harvesting agricultural produce, and construction.
Your employer must also provide a place to store clothing and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn during work.
Further guidance can be found in HSE's leaflet workplace health, safety and welfare
What about first aid?
Accidents and illness can happen at any time and first aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones. Your employer must make sure that you can get emergency first aid if you need it.
First-aid arrangements will depend on the particular circumstances in your workplace. As a minimum, your employer must:
- have a properly stocked first-aid box
- appoint someone to take charge of first-aid arrangements
- explain clearly to you what the first-aid arrangements are
You employer will decide if the workplace needs a first-aider. This will be someone who has been trained, and is qualified in first aid at work or emergency first aid at work.
What about training?
Your employer must give you the information, instruction and training you need to carry out your job safely and without risk to your health.
What you need will depend on the nature of the work: information, instruction and training could be simple instructions provided by a supervisor; or it could be a formal course providing comprehensive basic training and accredited qualifications.
Regardless of who is doing the training (i.e. the user/hirer, agency/labour provider etc or someone else), the labour provider and user should between them:
- Explain clearly to you who will provide induction and job-related training, when it will be done, and how
- Give you the induction training and any necessary job-related/vocational training you need
- Give you relevant information about the risks you may be exposed to, and the precautions you need to take to avoid them
- Consider your needs if you do not speak English well, and whether there is a need for extra help, such as interpretation, translated materials or the use of simple English. DVDs can be an effective way to train people where understanding of English is a problem
- Make sure that you have received and understood the information, instruction and training you need to work safely, and can follow it properly
- Make sure that you are adequately supervised, and know how to raise any concerns about your health and safety with your supervisor, and are familiar with any emergency arrangements or procedures.
Can I get help with language issues?
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses are available if you need to improve your English:
Qualifications designed to teach you the essential English you might need in the workplace. You may have to pay something towards a course, but if you are able to speak and read / write English, you will probably find it easier to work safely and healthily, fit in and make progress, both at work and in everyday life.
Can I transfer or use any qualifications or skills including vocational qualifications obtained in my home country when working in Britain?
Generally, British health and safety law does not recognise overseas qualifications or tests of competence, unless it's a formal, national-level qualification. If it is, then your employer may be able to get its equivalence certificated by the UK competent authority, the UK National Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC). If not, you will probably have to undergo a test, and possibly retraining, if you are doing a job where you need specific skills (such as driving a fork-lift truck, or using a chainsaw). This is because your employer has a legal duty to make sure you are competent for the work you do.
In the construction industry, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card is recognised as a way of showing proof of a worker's skills. The organisation responsible for overseeing skills and training in the industry is Construction Skills.
What must my employer do if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have given birth within the past six months then you should let your employer know (in writing). Your employer should already have considered any risks to women of child-bearing age, particularly if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, and made sure these risks are kept under control. But telling your employer about your pregnancy, or that you are a new mother, will help your employer decide whether he needs to take any particular action to protect you.
If the risk assessment has identified any risks to your health and safety, or your baby's, your employer must take action to remove, reduce or control the risk.
If the risk can't be removed, your employer must:
- temporarily adjust your working conditions and/or hours of work; or if that is not possible:
- offer you suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available; or if that is not possible:
- suspend you from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect your health and safety, and that of your baby.
- These rights when you're pregnant are covered by the Employment Rights Act 1996.
For further details, see new and expectant mothers.
What if I have a concern about health and safety at work?
First of all you should:
- Talk to your employer, manager or supervisor
- Talk to your Trade Union-appointed safety representative if there is one
If this doesn't sort the matter out, and you want to make a complaint about health and safety conditions at a work, we can give you information and advice, and may investigate your concerns further.
If you work in a business for which HSE does not enforce health and safety laws, like a shop, office or most warehouses, we will give you instead the contact details for the Local Authority in whose area the business is situated. You will then need to contact the Authority's Environmental Health department to make your complaint.
When HSE looks into a complaint it does not release the identity of the person who has complained. We won’t tell the employer that there has been a complaint unless you tell us it's OK to do this.
Further details can be found at complaints about workplace health and safety.
Report your complaint using our online form - If you are not able to use this online form then you can report your complaint by phoning our Complaints and Advisory Team on 0300 0031647 in office hours.
Remember, you also have other basic rights such as limits on how long you have to work, time off, rest breaks and paid annual leave.
HSE has also produced a pocket card aimed at overseas workers:
This provides basic and essential information on your rights and responsibilities under health and safety legislation - the information applies to all industries, not just agriculture and food processing. We have translated it into several different languages.
You may find it helpful to read other HSE publications that have been translated into languages other than English.
What can I do to make sure my employment rights at work are protected?
Help and advice for workers and employers on rights and obligations at work
Acas helpline advisers provide free and confidential advice to both employers and employees who are seeking information on employment rights and rules or who are involved in an employment dispute.
Acas has an online helpline tool, which can answer your questions. Find out more about how Acas can help including our helpline online service.
Acas can help answer questions related to:
- employment rights
- discipline and grievance
- pay and the National Minimum Wage
- contracts and terms and conditions
- working time, rest breaks and holiday entitlement
- equality in the workplace
- working for an employment agency or gangmaster
- gangmaster and employment agency licensing.
Acas helpline number
Telephone: 0300 123 1100
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 9am to 1pm
You can make a direct complaint about your employer to the relevant government enforcement body as follows:
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) - about the National Minimum Wage
- Employment Agency Standards inspectorate - about employment agency legislation (except Agency Worker Regulations)
- Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) – about agency workers in agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering or associated processing and packaging
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - about working time issues, including maximum weekly working hours
- Defra - about agricultural wages
You can also make a complaint on behalf of someone else.
Can my employer charge me for accommodation?
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.
Further information and guidance on the application of the law applying to residential accommodation can be obtained from local authorities.
What if I am living in rented accommodation that is unsafe, overcrowded or poorly maintained?
Your landlord has duties under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to arrange maintenance by a Gas Safe registered engineer for all pipework, appliances and flues which they own and have provided for your use. Your landlord must also arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. They must keep a record of the safety check for 2 years and issue a copy to each existing tenant within 28 days of the check being completed and issue a copy to any new tenants before they move in.
Poor living conditions can also have a huge impact on both tenants and neighbours. If you have a concern about the quality of accommodation provided by your landlord then contact your local housing authority or Citizens Advice Bureau. You may find advice from the housing charity Shelter useful.