Eliminating recruitment and employment fees… can we stand another rise in the cost of employing people?

Following a consultation meeting attended by Estera Amesz from AG Recruitment and Claire Houchin from BTF, a document has been circulated referred to as a ‘toolkit’ and called Eliminating Recruitment and Employment fees charged to workers in supply chains. It has been produced by a consortium of agencies focussed on ensuring responsible labour sourcing, the prevention of slavery and upholding human rights. The meeting was co hosted by Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and Association of Labour Providers (ALP), and it is driven by ALP which is heavily involved in ‘Clearview’, ‘Stronger together’, Fast Forward, ResponsibleRecruitmentToolkit.org (RRT), which form five out of seven supporting organisations promoting the tool kit and the ‘Employer Pay Principle’. While I think that we would all support ALPs laudable objective to promote responsible recruitment and good practise in the labour supply chain, it seems that some parts of the toolkit take that principal further than might be in the interests of ALP members and their customers.

The main focus of the meeting was to discuss who should cover the transport costs of seasonal workers getting from their country of origin and back again and also the principal that the cost of recruitment should be borne not by the worker but by the employer. Now this isn’t a perfect world, and in many parts of it there are big problems with exploitation, but in Britain these are the exception. In our sector, we are rigorously audited and employers pay fees to agencies to ensure they get good workers and to ensure compliance with the GLA regulations. Sadly the dominant model in many countries is to pass on some or all of these costs to the workers, effectively debt bondage with an agency making a ‘double dip’ collecting fees from both sides. Our proposed immigration regulations are seen as potentially making our migrant workers more vulnerable – “where visas are sponsored by one particular employer then, in effect, the migrant worker is legally tied to that employer if he or she wants to remain in the country, with little or no power to challenge abusive employment conditions” states the document.

The consultation document produced is for a global strategy but the bias of the consultee panel in the room was felt to presume that the worst of practices are prevalent in the UK; it references the Dhaka Statement on Migration, which primarily looks at the conditions of those recruited in third world countries to work in first world countries. We are recruiting from first world nations, to come and work in a well regulated and managed employment culture compliant with human rights legislation; you could therefore argue that Dhaka does not need to apply here.

UK PLC has an irritating habit of gold plating regulations and the concern here is that tool kits of this nature quickly move from being good practice to being a requirement of our customers/the regulators. On transport, what the tool kit seems to suggest is that any travel costs, however incurred by the worker, to and from their home country should be borne by the employer. Whereas, what the Dhaka principals say is that ‘placement’ fees should be covered by the end employer – and it is widely understood that a placement fee includes all fees levied by the recruiter as part of the recruitment package, but do not include costs incurred either independently by the employee making their own way across to the UK or made voluntarily through the recruiter.

Pages 16 and 21 of the document are particularly alarming – ‘why, when and how should transportations costs be covered?’ It details the process of recruitment through application, visas, travel, health checks etc, the implication being that these should be the responsibility of the employer. That we should in fact pay during a notice period and also for travel home again at the end of the season… the key test from the Dhaka statement includes when:

  • 1. The worker applies for a job directly with a labour provider in the destination country (through a website) and the job offer is made while the worker is still based in the origin country.
  • 2. The worker is a seasonal returner if they have an offer of work returning to a business.

There is also a suggestion that accommodation should be paid for… so, not stretching this at all we would be expected to pay for their recruitment (fair) and pay for their travel (not reasonable) UK law means that we cannot have them bound to one site so we have paid for travel to the UK to work anywhere? How nice of us!

Please treat this with the utmost importance as it is moving quite fast, there is a plan to issue the second draft of this document in March or April this year.

Please download the document at https://tinyurl.com/y8d8rsqp, read it and send your thoughts and details of its impact to info@labourproviders.org.uk