Before moving in this country, I secured a job as housekeeper at a hotel, with accommodation and 3 meals a day included. On the contract was written “Notice period: one month”. The agency told that my employer will help me apply for NINO and anything else I need, there was no reason to worry.
In the first day, I had to sign an additional paper where was written that, if I resign, the notice period that I have to give is 6 weeks.
-And what if I am fired?
-Then the notice period is 1 week, said the girl.
-It’s not fair!
-Other hotels don’t give notice period at all.
I signed anyway, the girl took the papers and I never received a copy of them.
This is the first example of why immigrants should know their rights in UK.
If I would have known mines at that time, my employer wouldn’t have dared to lie me about the notice period.
The girl informed me that the next step is to open a bank account, so tomorrow in my lunch break I should go to book an appointment.
-Why on my lunch break? The banks closes at 5, I could go after work.
-Just a moment to check. Brian, do you know the schedule of the bank?
-It’s between 10 am and 4 pm, said the old, gentle guy.
-And at which bank should I go? I asked.
The girl went out with me and pointed to the “HSBC” sign, with the clear direction that there I should go.
The bank booked me an appointment for the next week. Again, I had to go during the work time and took one hour. After that, I had to wait some weeks until the bank announced me that my account is opened. I gave the papers to the employer and asked for an appointment to NINO. From the reception I received 3 dates when I could be available and was sent to book one myself, without any other details.
Once my account was opened, I gave the papers to the employer and asked about NINO. I received 3 dates and booked an appointment by myself. During the call, I had to answer countless questions and to write all their numbers. I could spell only 2-3 letters from the alphabet, so imagine the struggle.
This is the second example of why immigrants should know their rights in UK.
If I would have known mines at that time, I would have asked for someone who speaks my native language.
The interview was on the JobCentre from Liverpool. On Google were 2 Job Centres and didn’t know which one to pick, so I asked on the reception. Me and another couple received the same address.
-We were close to lose the appointment because the provided address was wrong. The Job Centre moved 2 years ago from that address.
My appointment was more than a month later compared to the date I arrived in UK. Still, I hadn’t received any salary.The employer said that can’t pay me because I don’t have my NINO. He tried to fool me that is illegal to do it. Angry, I searched on Gov.uk for the truth. My first discovery was an entire article about NINO, but nowhere mentioned if I could receive my salary without it. The second discovery was an article written for employers. There was said that is forbidden to pay your employees by using a dummy or temporary number. On the Job Centre, the interviewer told me that I should have been paid already, but without giving me any details, references or clue about how to fix the problem.
So, my first salary arrived after 2 months… with some unpaid working days.
This is the third example of why immigrants should know their rights in UK.
If I would have known mines at that time, I would have known that this counts as unlawful deductions and is a very serious reason to complain to the agency.
The entire company was discriminating the employees. For example, the immigrants received an induction book with rules and useful information. One of the rules was to speak only English in public areas. Other rule was to not pass through the bar. Meanwhile, my British workmates were freely speaking their native language and passing and sitting wherever they wanted. Plus, they were skipping work days for any reason you can imagine.
In a Friday, I was very sick at work. While my British workmates were just signing off and leaving, I had to continue to work until I finished cleaning the rooms. I knew the cause of my sickness and how much will last so I announced that on Sunday won’t come to work. The manager did not agree, but I was sick. So I went to a friend’s house, to avoid any harassment from my employer.
This is the fourth example of why immigrants should know their rights in UK.
If I would have known mines at that time, I would have understood that this is against the right of a safe workplace and is another very serious reason to complain to the agency.
On Monday, when I came back, the General Manager announced me that I no longer work there, till next day I should move out. When I asked about the notice period, he told me that I resigned and the legal term for this is “abandoning your employment”.
Here you can hear an audio record of that conversation. In case your employer says similar lies, to be able to recognise them. Please increase your volume to the maximum in order to hear the audio.
Until I found the next job, for one month, I slept on that friend’s sofa. According to the law, I was homeless. That friend lived in a different county, I had to go for a job interview in England so couldn’t apply immediately for benefits. I was entitled only for JobSeekers Allowance anyway.
Regarding my ex-employer, I had the feeling that what happened was not fair, so went to Citizens Advice. Based on papers, the guy from there told me that will be very easy to recover my money. The recordings were on a very low volume, so didn’t take them into account. This is how he said that I can’t sue my employer for discrimination. Still, he advised me write down all the recorded conversation, to prove that I was fired.
With this information, I started the procedure: sent a grievance. No answer. Contacted ACAS. On the phone, the general manager said that I resigned, but he will check with his accountant and will come back later. He never called back. Once I had the permission to sue the company, I tried to find a lawyer. Couldn’t find any because all of them where working office hours, exactly like me. I couldn’t even make an appointment because all the lunch breaks were exactly in the same time. I tried to contact again Citizens Advice by phone, during my lunch break, but no one answered. Without booking any appointment, I preferred to not take a day off from my new job. So, I sued the employer without any legal help. They didn’t send anything to the court, but because I misunderstood an email, I still showed up on the hearing.
Before the hearing, I transcribed one of the recordings. It was very clear that the General Manager discriminated me against another British workmate. That mate skipped many days from work, but lost his job in the same time with me, whom I skipped only 1 day. The Manager himself said that we both skipped work days, but he was fired while I… and he mumbles something. This story could have brought compensation for discrimination. But it didn’t, because I relied on someone else’s judgment instead of understanding by my own how the system works. Even in these circumstances, I won the process. It took many days of research on gov.uk, though.
This is the fifth example of why immigrants should know their rights in UK.
If I would have known mines at that time, I would have filed a complain for discrimination, too.
Now, looking backward, I understand how differently my life would be if I’d know from the beginning how things work. I would leave that job as fast as possible, complain to the working agency, ask them to move me to other employer. I would do my best to keep my employee status for at least 1 year, to have the right to reside.
My decision was to not let this happen with other immigrants, too. That’s why I asked the Immigrant School team to share my story. From the course’s curriculum, I understood that there are still many other details about British employment system that I don’t know. So I enrolled and enjoyed every single lesson. Thanks to my education degree, now I have an office job. This environment came with a whole set of rules, every single right respected, but with mean workmates. For me, the most important lesson was the one about HR terms. It was the cornerstone in the process of imposing a bit of respect in my workplace. Also, from personal experience, I can assure you that the lesson “Enforce your rights” totally reflects the reality. Oh, and I heard from work about most of the rights, but I understood them only from the course.
So, I definetely recommend the Work in UK. Hope you’ll enjoy it.