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Illegal non-EU workers common in care work and catering industry

Problems associated with illegal work include poor working conditions and risks to fundamental worker’s rights, a new report has found.

The report notes that many non-EU workers illegally work in the catering industry.
The report notes that many non-EU workers illegally work in the catering industry.
Image: Sergei Domashenko/Shutterstock

A NEW REPORT on illegal employment in Ireland has found that illegal non-EU workers are common in child and elderly care and the catering industry.

The ESRI published new research today examining the illegal employment of non-EU nationals in Ireland.

The report identified a range of negative outcomes from illegal employment including risks to fundamental worker’s rights, poor working conditions and non-payment of taxes.

Non-EU students, legally resident migrants and undocumented migrants were the main groups found to be working illegally. The report noted that many of the undocumented migrants entered the country legally and overstayed.

Non-EU nationals are not allowed to work in Ireland without an employment permit, unless their residence permit states otherwise. Non-EU students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and 40 hours a week during holidays without the having to hold an employment permit.

It was found that work outside of these hours is still prevalent among the international student population despite efforts to eliminate the practice.

‘Compelled to tolerate poor wages’ 

“Illegal or undeclared work is not confined to non-EU nationals. However, given their more precarious residence status non-EU nationals are more at risk of adverse effects,” report author Samantha Arnold commented.

Undocumented migrants may feel compelled to tolerate poor wages and working conditions rather than be identified.

The new research draws on a study from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MCRI) which found that almost all undocumented migrants surveyed were in employment, frequently in child and elderly care positions.

These workers can be vulnerable to exploitation as labour inspectors cannot visit private homes unannounced, severely restricting their ability to regulate this sector.

In March TheJournal.ie spoke to a Brazilian au pair who worked 70 hour weeks for as little as €2 per hour.

Catering Industry

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found illegal employment to be most prevalent in the catering sector, including in fast food and takeaway restaurants.

Nearly 5,000 inspections were carried out in 2016, with 404 possible breaches of the Employment Permits Acts detected.

The study also found that prosecutions under the Immigration Act for illegal employment are uncommon.

The WRC has the power to prosecute both employers and employees under employment law, but the focus is usually on the employer, who is given an opportunity to rectify the matter.

The MRCI note that the worker usually loses their job at that point.

“This study highlights the challenges faced by labour inspectors in regard to illegally employed migrants,” Arnold continued.

Balancing their duty to report immigration breaches with their role of protecting workers’ rights to fair wages and conditions.

“The study highlights the need for policy responses to address both immigration and labour market-related contributing factors,” she concluded.

Read: ‘The system is a joke’: A quarter of Irish fishing vessels caught with illegal workers>

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