It provided some basic but fundamental rights including giving workers the right to change employer and renew their visa.
Unfortunately, the visa terms were drastically changed in 2012 when the government introduced the ‘tied visa’ meaning that the visa was tied to the original employer. This could result in workers becoming trapped with exploitative employers and unable to challenge abuse when it arose.
In 2016, some changes were made to the visa after the government accepted that this was wrong and permitted them to change employer, but only whilst their original 6-month visa was valid.
This is problematic for many reasons – if workers have only months or weeks remaining on their visa and their passports are confiscated by their employer, they have few options. Without their ID, proof of their right to work and in the absence of references, workers are forced to take any work in order to survive. This undermines the rationale for having the right to change employer and means workers might not find safe and decent re-employment.
The original Overseas Domestic Worker visa has been recognised nationally and internationally as the best form of protection for this workforce. As a result, Kalayaan, The Voice of Domestic Workers and other organisations in the Anti-Slavery sector have worked together to petition the UK Government to reinstate the pre-2012 Overseas Domestic Worker visa and protect vulnerable workers in the UK.
Wonderfully, the petition received more than 10,000 signatories and so the Government has to respond.