The Office of the Labor Attaché (Labor Section) of the Philippine Embassy is tasked with promoting employment opportunities of Filipino workers and ensuring their protection and welfare.
In line with this, it sees to it that the labor and social welfare laws of the UK are fairly applied to all Filipino workers.
Pursuant to its mandate, the Office of the Labor Attaché - in conjunction with the over-all thrusts of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Department of Labor and Employment – seeks to implement five key programs: (1) employment facilitation, (2) employment preservation, (3) employment enhancement, (4) policy development and formulation, and (5) community linkages, networking and information dissemination.
The following are some of the principal services and functions of the Labor Section:
- Verification of employment contracts & recruitment documents
- Workers’ registration/documentation
- Counselling on work-related concerns/work permits/visa
- Conciliation/negotiation with employers
- Labor marketing/promotion of Filipino human resources
- Promotion of OWWA membership & Issuance of E-Card
- Issuance of Balik-Manggagawa (OEC) certificate
- Community linkages and information dissemination
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) ON LABOUR, EMPLOYMENT AND IMMIGRATION
Profile of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the UK
Q : How many Filipinos are there in the United Kingdom (UK)?
A : There are approximately 200,000 Filipinos in the UK based on the 2013 estimate of the Philippine Embassy in London. However, it is estimated that about 85% of them are either British citizens or permanent residents already. The said figure includes Filipino spouses and their children. The rest of the Filipinos are still on work visas. There are also those on student visas in the UK and some number of undocumented or irregular Filipino workers who are believed to have overstayed beyond the validity period of their entry visas.
Q : In what sectors or occupations can we find Filipinos working in the UK?
A : Most of the Filipinos in the UK are working in the health sector as nurses, carers, radiographers, and others. A good number of Filipinos can also be found working in the household sector as nannies, housekeepers/domestic workers, drivers, cleaners, and the like. We can also find Filipinos working as accountants, salesmen, marketing agents, chefs, hotel and restaurant workers, overhead electricians, pipe welders, and many others.
Q : In what parts of the UK are Filipinos being employed?
A : Filipino workers can be found in almost all parts of the UK. However, about 70% of them are concentrated in Greater London area and England. The rest are distributed in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Q : Are there Filipino community organizations in the UK?
A : Yes. There are roughly more than a hundred Filipino community organizations throughout the UK that have been organized according to ethnic, regional, professional, religious, cultural, and sports orientation, among others. Most of these organizations are accredited by the Philippine Embassy in London.
UK Laws Affecting OFWs (Immigration and Employment)
Q : It has been reported recently that the UK has adopted a tough policy on immigration. Does the UK government still allow the entry of non-European migrant workers, such as Filipinos, to work in the UK? What are the current policies and regulations?
A : Yes, migrant workers particularly non-European workers are still allowed to work in the UK but the UK government seeks to attract only the particular skills and occupations that are needed in the UK. It has implemented the Points-Based Immigration System (PBS) where migrant skilled workers have to earn enough points in order to qualify to work in the UK. It has also set an annual limit of migrant workers to be allowed to come to the UK beginning 2011.
Q : Is it true that under the UK PBS, it has now become difficult for non-EEA nationals to come and work in the UK?
A : The UK PBS seeks to attract only skilled workers who can contribute to the UK economy. It aims to fill in the gaps in the workforce such as those occupations with no ready pool of workers in the UK. This means that for low skilled jobs as well as those jobs which can readily be supplied by UK and EU nationals, the PBS makes it difficult for migrant workers to pass the points assessment for sponsorship. Thus, where UK employers can easily find local workers to do a particular job by advertising the same, migrant workers will not be able to earn the required points for sponsorship. To earn the required points, the job offered must either be in the government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) or that it must have been previously advertised to satisfy the Resident Labor Market Test (RMLT) and that it can be shown that there were no suitable workers from within the UK and EEA.
Q : What is the Points-Based System and how does it operate?
A : The Points-Based System is an immigration system introduced by the UK in 2008 to streamline the various visa routes to the UK and replace them with a five-tier system. Under this system, migrants must pass a points assessment before they can get permission to enter or remain in the UK. The PBS covers migrants from outside the EEA as well as those already in the UK.
Q : What are these five tiers and how does they work?
A : The five tiers are the visa routes to come to the UK. These are: Tier 1 (Highly skilled workers); Tier 2 (Skilled Workers with Job Offer); Tier 3 (Low Skilled Workers); Tier 4 (Students) and Tier 5 (Temporary Workers).
Each of these tiers has different points requirements. Points are awarded according to certain attributes such as qualifications, earnings, or salary offer, experience, age, English language competence, maintenance funds, and others. Points are also awarded based on the level of need in specific occupations in the UK.
Currently Tier 3 is suspended in view of the government’s position that there is enough supply of low-skilled workers in the UK and EEA.
Q : How is Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker) different from Tier 2 (Skilled Worker)? Under what Tier do general migrant workers fall under?
A : Tier 1, which is divided into the categories of general, investor, entrepreneur, and post-study worker, do not need a job offer or a sponsor. This tier allows highly skilled workers to come to the UK for self-employment opportunities based on their previous earnings. Tier 1 also allows high net worth individuals to invest in the UK or set up business and seeks to retain able international graduates to work in the UK.
On the other hand, Tier 2 applicants need a sponsor and a job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. Tier 2 is divided into the categories of general skilled workers, intra-corporate transfer, sportspeople, and Minister of Religion. Migrant workers applying to work in the UK must apply for a Tier 2 visa which is also called the sponsored skilled worker category.
Q : How does one apply for a job in the UK? What are the requirements for Tier 2 visa?
A : An applicant who wants to apply for a job in the UK must make sure that the employer is a licensed sponsor registered by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The list of registered sponsors can be found at the UKBA website at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk. An employer whose name is not listed in the registry of licensed sponsors will not be able to issue a certificate of sponsorship which is a requirement for Tier 2 visa application at the British Embassy. The applicant must also make sure that s/he has the necessary qualifications to pass the points assessment for Tier 2 visa application, namely educational qualification, salary offer or future expected earnings, English language competency, and availability of maintenance funds. The applicant needs to get at least 70 points to be eligible for Tier 2 visa. The points-based calculator can be accessed at the UKBA website.
To be sure, Filipino interested applicants are advised to apply through POEA licensed recruitment agencies in light of the recent proliferation of scam recruitment in the UK through the internet.
Q : What is a certificate of sponsorship? How is it different from the old work permit?
A : All UK employers who wish to hire or recruit non-EEA migrant workers are required to issue a certificate of sponsorship, which is not a physical document like the work permit but is a unique reference number issued through a system known as the “Sponsor Management System (SMS).” Sponsor employers granted a license will be given access to SMS via a User ID and password. An application for Tier 2 visa at the British Embassy will not be approved without a valid certificate of sponsorship. The old work permit document has already been done away with.
Q : What are the occupations included in the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and how many points do they earn?
A : A job position that is included in the SOL will automatically earn for the migrant worker a score of 50 points. In this case, there is no need for him to earn additional points for qualification and salary offer (although the employer must be satisfied about the qualifications of the migrant worker). A migrant worker, however, need to satisfy the English language (10 points) and maintenance fund requirements (10 points) to make up for the total score of 70 points.
The UK government comes out with a periodic revised list of shortage occupations based on the recommendation submitted by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the latest of which was issued in November 2011.
Q : What is the resident labor market test?
A : The resident labor market test is an advertising test to show that no suitably qualified settled worker is available to fill a particular job vacancy. Thus, if a job is not in the list of shortage occupations, the employer must first advertise the job vacancy for 28 days before he is allowed to recruit migrant workers to take on the job.
Q : In what particular occupations or sector under Tier 2 have Filipinos been recruited or hired to work in the UK?
A : Filipino migrant workers in the UK are mostly concentrated in the health and medical sector working as nurses, care assistants, radiographers, and others. They can also be found working in the following sectors: electricity transmission and distribution, oil and gas industry, aircraft maintenance, domestic or household sector, among others. Filipinos who have already acquired permanent residency as well as those holding dependant and spouse visas can also be found working in the hotel and food industry, sales and marketing, among others.
Q : Is the UK still hiring Filipino nurses?
A : The UK has not announced any restriction in the recruitment of overseas nurses and has left the matter entirely to the discretion of the various hospitals and Trusts under the National Health Service. The recruitment of overseas nurses is also subject to the annual limit announced by the UK government in the number of non-EU workers allowed to work in the UK as well as visa allocation granted to each hospital or trust. Due to the recent policy changes, recruitment of Filipino nurses, health care workers, and other skilled workers has greatly slowed down.
Q : What are the requirements for Filipino nurses to be eligible to come and work in the UK?
A : A Filipino nurse who wishes to work in the UK must apply for a pre-registration nursing programme at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) UK. As a requirement for NMC pre-registration, the applicant must have taken the International English Language Test System (IELTS) with an over-all score of 7.0 and a separate score of 7.0 each for listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The registration procedures can be accessed at the NMC website at www.nmc-uk.or/registration/. Once s/he has met all the pre-registration requirements, the applicant-nurse can now apply for a job in the UK through POEA-licensed recruitment agencies with job orders from UK employers. Please note that the NMC pre-registration is important for the nurse’s training placement as part of the UK Overseas Nursing Program (ONP).
Q : Is the IELTS test score of 7.0 applicable to all other job applications?
A : The IELTS test score of 7.0 is a requirement only for NMC registration and does not apply to other occupations.
Q : Where can one take IELTS test in the Philippines?
A : There are about 24 IELTS testing centers throughout the Philippines. For details, you may inquire from the British Council offices in the Philippines.
Q : Is there an “open hiring” policy for domestic workers in the UK? What are the visa requirements?
A : No, there is no open hiring policy for overseas domestic workers (ODWs). Effective 6 April 2012, UK immigration rules provide that ODWs in private households will only be allowed to accompany visitors (their employers) on ODW visa and must leave UK with the visitor after a maximum of 6 months. They may not extend their stay, switch employer, sponsor dependants or settle in UK from this route. On the other hand, ODWs in diplomatic households will be allowed to stay for the duration of the stay of the diplomat for whom they are working, for a maximum of 5 years whichever comes first. They may not switch employer or settle in the UK from this route, but may sponsor dependants. Additional information can be found at: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/othercategories/domesticworkers/
Q : Can a Filipino apply to work as an “au pair” in a UK household?
A : No, a Filipino is not eligible for an “au pair” visa to come to the UK. Under the UK immigration rules, the Philippines is not included in the list of “au pair” countries. Hence, no visa will be issued to the Filipino applicant.
Q : Can migrant workers in the UK apply for leave to remain or permanent settlement in the UK?
A : Yes, provided they meet the requirements of the UK government. Those in Tier 2 who would apply for settlement from 6 April 2016 and entered under the rules in force from 06 April 2011 must be paid at least £35,000/annum or the going rate in the relevant UKBA Code of Practice, whichever is higher. Exceptions to this are those for occupations in the Shortage Occupation List, those in PhD-level jobs and ministers of religion. The £35,000 threshold will be held at that level until April 2018.
Tier 2 General, ministers of religion, and sportsperson migrants will be able to stay for 6 years in Tier 2 for initial leave of 3 years and an extension of up to 3 years. They can apply for settlement, if eligible based on criteria, after 5 years and at any point up to the expiry of their leave. Those who do not apply for or obtain settlement must leave UK on expiry of their leave and wait for 12 months (cooling off period) before applying to return to Tier 2.
Q : Can a migrant worker bring his/her family to the UK? Are the spouse and dependent children of migrant workers entitled to work in the UK?
A : Unless the migrant worker’s job category is prohibited from doing so (i.e. domestic workers per rules effective 6 April 2012), s/he can apply to the UK Home Office to bring his/her spouse and dependent children to the UK provided s/he can provide for support, accommodation, and maintenance to his/her family. Dependent spouses and children of working age have the right to work without the need of permission from the UK Home Office.
Q : What is the current minimum wage in the UK?
A : The national minimum wage per hour in the UK as of 1 October 2013 is £6.31 for workers aged 21 and above, £5.03 for those aged 18-20, and £3.20 for those below 18 years old.
Q : What is the maximum working hours in the UK?
A : The maximum weekly working hours is 48 hours. The employee cannot be forced to work in excess of the maximum working hours. However, s/he has the right to opt out of the 48 hours weekly but it must be voluntary and done in writing. An employee may cancel the opt-out agreement provided s/he gives at least one week notice to the employer.
Services Provided by POLO-London
Q : What are the services being provided by POLO-London?
A : Pursuant with the mandate of POLO-London on employment facilitation, enhancement, preservation, and protection of the rights of Filipino workers, the following programs and services are being implemented by the Post:
- Verification of employment contracts and recruitment documents
- Accreditation of employers and placement agencies
- Conciliation and negotiation with UK employers on work-related as well as welfare cases of Filipino workers
- Registration of Filipino workers particularly those coming to work in the UK directly from third countries like the Middle East, Asia, and others
- Issuance of OEC (exit clearance) to vacationing workers
- Promotion of OWWA on-site membership
- Provision of free skills upgrading training programs on basic computer operations, basic English, hairdressing, culinary arts, fruit/vegetable and soap carving
Q : How can we reach POLO-London?
A : POLO-London can be reached thru the following means:
Website: www.philemb-uk.org (Labor & Welfare)
Office: Building 6 Philippine Embassy, Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HG
Important Telephone Numbers in the Philippines:
DOLE : 00632 527 8000 (Call Center)
POEA : 00632 722 1159 (Office of the Administrator)
OWWA: 00632 551 6641/551 1560 (24/7 Operations Center)