International nurses are stuck in UK contracts

Posted on 27 April 2022

A recent report has revealed that some overseas nurses are currently ‘trapped’ in a toxic workplace due to exploitive contracts that mean that they can’t leave without paying a huge fee, causing them to be locked in the country, unless they pay a release.

A concerning result was discovered in an investigation by the Observer, NHS employers, care home workers and other migrant nurses are expected to pay large sums to cover joining costs if they decided to leave prior to a certain date.

One of the most severe scenarios found was a £14,000 fee for those who wanted to leave early, despite being in the job for five years.

A terrifying testimonial to this was of a nurse from the Philippines –she decided to leave claiming her workplace was unsafe, due to lack of training and over working. She was 11 months into a 36-month contract; and the care home was sponsoring her visa which limited her options. When she finally found a new employer who was willing to sponsor her visa, she was told she owed £9000 to the company for investment, including her uniform, training, and accommodation.

“We’re finding numerous cases of overseas nurses being badly exploited by employers.” Says Unison national nursing officer, Stuart Tuckwood. He has recently requested that the government take action and urgently enforce safeguarding to protect all migrant healthcare workers, who are living this exploitive nightmare.

52% of migrant nurses who took a survey by Nursing Narratives: Racism and the pandemic project agreed that they felt that working visas made them more vulnerable to victimisation and exploitation.

When questioned, the chief executive of NHS Employers flagged the government's code of practice for international recruitment, which states that international staff must not be charged any fees by recruitment agencies to gain employment in the UK.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was aware that some organisations used repayment clauses to recover upfront costs if candidates did not meet the terms of their contract. But they would be “concerned if repayment costs were disproportionate or punitive”.

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