Iron-clad patience: how understanding employment rights helped one EU national get back on her feet

By Ana-Maria Cirstea - 16 April 2020

A cheerful Romanian woman in her fifties, Mihaela arrived in the UK in 2017 and has been working in housekeeping ever since. She lives in a small flat on the outskirts of London together with her husband and teenage son. She describes herself as “a beginner in the UK” as she attempts to better her English and improve her trade. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with merely a week’s notice, Mihaela was let go from her job when her employer decided to return to Romania and ceased her cleaning business.

Due to having worked for only six months in this housekeeping company, Mihaela was ineligible for the government furlough scheme set up to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Recently unemployed and struggling to find a new job in the midst of a pandemic, Mihaela sought the advice of her acquaintances in London. At the recommendation of a family friend, she contacted the Work Rights Centre. “And ever since then, it’s as if my stress disappeared! No more bad days for me!”, the woman recounts. To provide financial assistance in light of her recent unemployment, our adviser’s first step was to help Mihaela apply for Universal Credit. In turn, Mihaela recommended WoRC’s services to her fifteen other co-workers who were in similar situations following their employer’s unexpected decision to halt her cleaning business. The casework officer dealing with Mihaela’s case, Adelina, also took the time to explain how the government furlough works, as well as how taxes are filed in the UK and what self-employment requires. Chuckling, Mihaela describes Adelina’s “iron-clad patience” when breaking down employment legislation, starting from the purpose of a NINO. 

The following step was to help Mihaela, her husband, and son apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. Mihaela explains that the application was crucial for her family’s future abroad. She would like her son to finish his education in the UK and hopes he will then continue onto university. Following the successful application for settlement, Mihaela’s case did not stop there. A few days later, she contacted Adelina to ask for her guidance regarding a disagreement with her landlord about rent payments through Universal Credit. Adelina liaised with the landlord and swiftly resolved the situation. Currently, Mihaela is receiving Universal Credit and is looking for a new job. 

Mihaela’s story and engagement with WoRC highlights the many roles and matters to which our advisers and volunteer attend. From securing unemployment benefits to liaising with landlords, our team helped Mihaela and her family receive financial assistance in a time of crisis, while also taking the time to diligently explain the basics of fiscal responsibility and employment rights in the UK.

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