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Decent work for migrants? Examining the impacts of the UK frameworks of gangmasters legislation and modern slavery on working standards for irregularly present migrants


Decent work for migrants has been a preoccupation of a number of international organisations, in particular the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for more than a decade. The ILO’s Fair Migration Agenda was boosted by the publication of its ‘Fair Migration: Setting an ILO Agenda’ in 2014 followed by a Protocol in 2014 to its Forced Labour Convention (no. 29, 1930). The UK was enthusiastic in its support and ratified the Protocol in 2016. But between the ILO standards and UK implementation inconsistencies have appeared. In this paper, we use the UK example to analyse this implementation gap by examining how delivering decent work for migrants has proven elusive. We examine how the objective of decent work for migrants has been implemented in the UK from 2014 to 2016, dates of showcase pieces of legislation to counter labour exploitation of migrants yet limiting access to work. The outcome would be that irregularly present migrants have few remedies and diminished access to them as a result of changes which post-date the UK’s commitment to the Fair Migration Agenda and ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol.

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  1. In this paper, we focus only on the ILO standards in full knowledge that general UN human rights standards do also have implications in this field.

  2. This Good Work Plan implements a series of national recommendations on labour standards and applies to all workers, not only migrants see: [visited 1 February 2021]. The Plan does not focus on particular sectors (though reference is made to the low paid, hospitality and education) but does indicate issues in respect of agency workers.

  3. We use the term ‘irregularly present migrants’ to cover those persons to whom the state has failed to provide or extend permission to reside and to work, consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families 1990.

  4. This includes all EU nationals before Brexit, EU nationals with a pre-settled and settled status following Brexit or migrants with a valid Overseas Domestic Worker visa.

  5. See the Home Office's figures published in November 2020. On average, victims wait 344 days for the CGD – Home Office, ‘Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify Statistics UK, Quarter 3 2020 – July to September.’.


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Correspondence to Anita Magdalena Barylska.

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Guild, E., Barylska, A.M. Decent work for migrants? Examining the impacts of the UK frameworks of gangmasters legislation and modern slavery on working standards for irregularly present migrants. GPPG 1, 279–299 (2021).

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