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Report outlines abuse of an unheard workforce


Latin American Women's Rights Service, LAWRS, report, employment, abuse, The Unheard Workforce, Experiences of Latin American migrant women,,cleaning, hospitality, domestic workThere is an urgent need for greater regulation and enforcement of labour legislation.

The Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) has launched its latest report: ‘The Unheard Workforce: Experiences of Latin American migrant women in cleaning, hospitality and domestic work’.

It presents an array of deeply concerning labour rights violations experienced by Latin American migrant women employed in three key feminised sectors of London’s manual labour: cleaning, hospitality, and domestic work.

Funded by Trust for London, the research drew on 326 cases of women supported at the Employment Rights Advice Service of the organisation.

Among the key results arising from these cases, researchers found that:

Over half of the workers faced breaches to their contracts (62 per cent). Unlawful deduction of wages was the most common type of abuse (151 cases, 46 per cent).

1 in 5 (20 per cent) experienced illegal underpayment of the National Minimum Wage.

17 per cent were unlawfully denied the annual leave they were entitled to, and 16 per cent were not paid accrued in lieu annual leave once they left the company.

Health and safety issues were present in 25 per cent of the cases – predominantly injury due to the nature of the work (33 per cent), limited or no protective equipment (17 per cent), and lack of training (12 per cent).

Over two in five (41 per cent) of women in the sample have experienced discrimination, harassment or unreasonable treatment.

66 per cent experienced bullying or unreasonable treatment as regular occurrences.

A large proportion endured verbal and/or faced physical abuse, 37 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

16 per cent of the women endured a total of 13 different types of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Abuse on the grounds of maternity was experienced by 9 per cent of women. This includes failure to pay for hours spent at prenatal appointments and denial of risk assessments during pregnancy; and

11 cases of potential trafficking for labour exploitation were identified: 7 were cleaners or hospitality workers and 4 were domestic workers.

This report presents the experiences of Latin American migrant women residing in London and working in low paid occupations.

Its purpose is to help address the gap in evidence surrounding the types and levels of abuse experienced in the sectors of cleaning, hospitality and domestic work, and raise awareness of the urgent need for greater regulation and enforcement of labour legislation.

More needs to be done by the government and labour enforcement bodies to ensure the protection of migrant women’s employment and fundamental human rights at work, and to hold employers and outsourcing companies to account, including to:

Recognise, understand and take proactive measures to tackle the high levels of exploitation in unregulated sectors of the labour market;

Develop appropriate responses to labour rights violations and trafficking that are gender-informed, while also being aware of the vulnerable status of migrants in the UK;

Place human rights and women’s rights above immigration control. Establishing a firewall that separates labour market enforcement from immigration control and opening pathways for all workers to safely report labour abuses;

Take action to tackle labour exploitation by working in collaboration with unions and supporting organisations for appropriate enforcement of employment rights in outsourced sectors;

Provide appropriate and regular training to labour enforcement and other relevant agencies, including the police, on gender-based violence at work and on victims’ identification, particularly in feminised sectors of the labour market;

Take steps to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace, including harassment involving third parties;

Improve access to information and justice among migrant workers who are unable to speak English and lack understanding of the system and of their rights; and

Officially recognise the Latin American community as an ethnic group by including the category ‘Latin American’ in equality and diversity frameworks.

To download the full report click here.

To watch a short documentary film “Undocumented Latin American migrant woman’s experiences of labour abuse in London” click here.

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