All industries - Background information
At least 10% of the UK workforce is made up of overseas workers. The European Union (EU) expansion in 2004 and 2007 opened the labour market to a further 100 million citizens. More and more overseas workers are being employed in Britain in particular in industries such as: agriculture and food processing; catering and hospitality; cleaning; construction; healthcare; IT and the manufacturing industries.
Some British-based businesses use overseas agents to recruit people for them. Some agents are effectively employed by British-based businesses, while others appear to be completely free agents able to agree contracts with individual labour providers and labour users.
Working in industries where there are well-known health and safety risks, overseas workers may be more at risk because of:
- Relatively short periods of employment in Britain or being new to the job;
- Limited knowledge of British health and safety system;
- Their different experiences of health and safety regimes in Britain compared with their own countries;
- Their motivation in coming to Britain, particularly if the objective is to earn as much as possible, in as short a time as possible;
- Their ability to communicate effectively with other workers and supervisors, particularly in relation to their understanding of risk;
- Limited access to health and safety training and difficulty in understanding what is being offered;
- The failure of employers to check on their skills for work and their language skills;
- Employment relationships and unclear responsibilities for health and safety, in particular where workers are supplied by recruitment agencies or labour providers or are self-employed; and
- Their lack of knowledge of health and safety rights and how to raise them, including how they can get help.
Risk assessments should address the particular needs of migrant workers. Good communication, comprehensible information, instruction and training and access to supervisors with whom they can communicate are especially important. The duty on employers to provide information in a form that workers can understand (regardless of their background) is made clear in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (L21 ISBN 978 0 7176 2488 1).
Further information can be found in the industry specific sections.