"The conversation about good quality, accessible and affordable childcare in England tends to focus on professional families and more ‘formal’ types of childcare, such as nurseries and childminders. But this means ignoring the big injustices around care faced by migrants, in particular:
– Migrants working as nannies, domestic workers or au pairs in private homes – the majority of whom are migrant and racialised women – who often cannot access basic labour rights; and
– Migrant parents, many of whom, under Britain’s 'hostile environment' regime, are not entitled to key childcare benefits.
One of the most insidious UK anti-migrant policies is the ‘family worker exemption’ – a policy that excludes live-in domestic workers from the national minimum wage. This includes those working in their employers’ homes – such as domestic workers, nannies, and au pairs – who are predominantly migrant and racialised women and who do not have formal employment agreements in place.
Live-in domestic workers do not fall under UK employment law, which means they are not even entitled to a wage if the worker is treated ‘as a member of the family’. They are also excluded from maximum working time regulations that cap a working week at 48 hours, meaning many are forced to work 50-plus hours a week, and deprived of employment rights such as maternity leave, sick pay, annual leave, and regular breaks.
The exemption was introduced in 1999 to make it possible for families to host au pairs for “pocket money” as part of a so-called cultural exchange, but in practice it has exposed primarily migrant women to exploitation and abuse. Many report physical abuse, a lack of access to food, and homelessness if they speak up about their conditions (because employers then kick them out). These women also have no recourse to trade unions due to not being counted as workers.
In March 2022, the government agreed to scrap the exemption, but has still not announced a timescale to do this – or any further details. As a result, this punitive policy is still in place, exacerbating poverty among the many migrant and racialised women who provide paid care in private homes"
Deutsch also raises that "As a result, [of the the No Recourse to Public Funds condition] ... many migrant parents are barred from accessing critical support including child benefit, child tax credits and the tax-free childcare scheme, even if they are legally employed. Even though children in migrant families are entitled to 15 hours a week free childcare, lack of information often means that uptake remains too low.
Childcare is already unaffordable for the majority of families in the UK, but these exclusionary NRPF rules hamper migrant families, and especially mothers, from accessing even the very limited support there is, and ultimately hamper access to paid work."
– Veronica Deutsch of Post Pandemic Childcare discusses the injustices both these groups face and highlights the need for campaigns for reform of the childcare system to support and listen to grassroots migrant groups.
Read more at: https://views-voices.oxfam.org.uk/2023/03/migrant-women-unjust-childcare-system/