Migrant nurse wins legal boost in unfair dismissal claim against UK firm | Care workers

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A migrant nurse could be eligible for a significant payout from a British healthcare company after an employment judge ruled he was likely to win his case for unfair dismissal, in a judgment that could pave the way for dozens of other such cases.

Natasha Joffe, an employment judge, ruled that Clinica Private Healthcare, a London-based healthcare provider, may have to pay Kirankumar Rathod unpaid wages after it dismissed him in 2023. The ruling could leave him eligible for a payout of more than £13,000.

Rathod was dismissed after raising concerns about the lack of work being offered to him and other colleagues who had also moved to the UK on the promise of full-time employment.

Campaigners hope the interim decision will prompt hundreds of others to come forward, after the Guardian revealed widespread allegations of worker exploitation in the sector last month. A final ruling on the case is expected later this year.

Sarmila Bose, the head of employment at the Work Rights Centre, which represented Rathod, said: “This is a highly significant judgment. It is the first time a care worker has won this type of relief in principle.”

Nicola Ranger, the acting head of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is a vital victory for migrant healthcare workers. This case is not the end of the matter because we know that exploitation is widespread across social care. Migrant care workers desperately need the next government to launch an urgent investigation and take action to ensure labour standards are upheld.”

Rathod’s case echoes dozens of others uncovered by the Guardian. More than 30 people said they had paid up to £20,000 to immigration agents – and sometimes employers themselves – to secure job offers, only to find little or no work when they arrived.

Many had taken on high levels of debt to secure the jobs and are now living in poverty in Britain, unable to secure regular work and unwilling to return home for fear of not being able to pay their debts.

After the Guardian uncovered the practices, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, promised that Labour would launch an investigation into the treatment of migrant care workers if it wins office.

Rathod said he came to the UK in 2023 having paid £22,000 to an immigration agent in India to obtain a visa and employment. He was given a certificate of sponsorship from Clinica that said he would be a care assistant, working 39 hours a week for just over £23,000 a year.

Having arrived in Britain, Rathod completed an induction course and three days of training, but he was subsequently given no work. According to the tribunal documents, he queried why he was not being offered shifts and was told: “It has been very difficult to find appropriate shifts for you all in the care homes which come with long hours per shifts, as majority of you wanted [sic].”

Rathod says he phoned his employer in November 2023 to protest once again at not being given work, and threatened to take legal action against them.

The next day he received a notice of termination that said he was being dismissed due to his “failure to take heed of several verbal warnings pertaining to insubordination towairds the employer and die company [sic].”

The case is ongoing. But in an interim ruling in June, Joffe found that Rathod would probably win his case of unfair dismissal, and so should be paid all unpaid wages between the date of his termination and the end of the case. This would amount to at least £13,000, and possibly far more depending on how long the case lasts.

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Joffe ruled: “The apparent irregularities in the way the claimant and other employees were treated in relation to their employment contract and certificates of sponsorship tended to suggest that there was something awry with the way in which the first respondent [Clinica] was running its business which it would not welcome having light shone on to.”

She added: “The contract offered a job which did not materialise and the subsequent behaviour of the respondents suggested the claimant and others were being strung along.”

Clinica did not respond to a request to comment.

During the legal proceedings, the firm told the court it would not be able to pay Rathod’s unpaid wages because it had since lost its licence to sponsor migrant workers, and so paying any such worker would be illegal. The judge will rule on that at a subsequent hearing at the end of July, with the final ruling expected to take several months longer.

Lawyers say that even the decision to grant interim relief in principle is a major victory for others who have found themselves in similar positions.

Jamila Duncan-Bosu, a solicitor at the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, said: “This is a very interesting and welcome judgment. Hopefully it is the beginning of the tide turning, and more workers will be in a position to come forward after this.”

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