Domestic workers who come to the UK in the employment of diplomats come under different rules to those who come with none diplomatic employers. Unlike other domestic workers, diplomatic domestic workers are not permitted to change employer outside of the diplomatic mission with which they entered. Clearly in cases where workers have suffered extreme abuse at the hands of a diplomat, including trafficking into forced labour, it is unrealistic to think it is an option for them to find a job with that same diplomat’s colleague.
This leaves domestic workers who accompany diplomats to the UK without any recourse to change employer without breaking the law and so encourages abuse by unscrupulous employers. It also leaves many diplomatic domestic workers in a position where they continue to endure unacceptable conditions of forced labour as they have no way of leaving legally. Others leave often without knowing the law and become undocumented and so vulnerable to further abuse.
Diplomatic employers’ immunity to prosecution only makes the situation worse, as these employers are less likely to comply with basic UK employment law. Many diplomatic domestic workers are unable to return home as they haven’t been paid for long periods of time and need these unpaid wages to pay off debts.
Kalayaan is campaigning for diplomatic domestic workers to have the same basic protection, to change employers, as other domestic workers, allowing them to escape abuse.