Year of Covid

By Dora-Olivia Vicol - 31 March 2021

The past 12 months have been a rollercoaster for people all over the world. At the Work Rights Centre, we've heard from over 1,000 people, particularly migrant workers in the low paid sector. Download our Year of Covid report to discover what we've learnt, or read the summary here.

The year of Covid has pushed migrant workers in the low skilled sector to the limit. From 01 March 2020 to 10 March 2021, Work Rights Centre advisers heard from 1,057 people. This is almost double the figures from last year.

In many ways, the issues they brought to advisers’ attention reflect the impact of Covid on economic activity, and the uncertainty of Brexit.

  • 1 in 4 struggled to understand the Government’s Covid support schemes;
  • 1 in 5 required urgent financial help;
  • 1 in 6 had questions about the EU Settlement Scheme indicating that, however much the Government sought to ‘get Brexit done’, Brexit is still on the minds of many EU nationals.

Additionally, migrant workers’ inquiries also capture wider labour market vulnerabilities which preceded the pandemic, but were exaggerated by it.

  • Women were twice more likely to be unemployed than men;
  • Among respondents who were economically active, men were almost three times as likely to be self-employed, reflecting Eastern European migrants’ over-representation in this status;
  • A small but significant minority of both men and women were working on the black market, in positions lacking any employment security.

Despite the pressures generated by Covid and Brexit, Work Rights Centre advisers can make a real difference to people’s lives, and sense of security;

  • 2 in 3 beneficiaries who asked for our help in drafting a CV and preparing for an interview, were also successful in getting a job;
  • 9 out of 10 either successfully solved the issue they experienced when they sought support from the charity, or moved into a better position;
  • charity advisers helped beneficiaries recover over £21,000 in unpaid wages and fees in 2020.

Learning from these findings, we recommend a few clear avenues for action.

  • Keep the Universal Credit lifeline. For migrant workers excluded from the Governement’s Coronavirus Job Support Scheme, this was the only source of support available.
  • Protect EU nationals’ rights after absence. No one deserves to lose their right to settle in the country they call home, because they took 6months to visit an ill relative abroad.
  • Give EU nationals the option of physical proof of status. Being a good worker, parent, neighbour, and member of society does not require digital competence. Proving (pre)settled status shouldn’t either.
  • Uphold a higher standard of good work. The Year of Covid has exposed deep-seated inequalities in job security. The Government can learn from it, to build a recovery centred on good work.

Read the full report here.

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