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Author: Pasi Poikela
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This report focuses on the relationship between employers and migrant workers in the United Kingdom. The report aims to highlight the advantages and disadvantages for both sides, but by putting more emphasis on the perspective of the migrant workers.

Keywords: migrant work, flexible work, vulnerability

It can be argued the rise and spread of flexible work is one of the most significant developments in contemporary industrial relations, but the amount of knowledge on immigration’s effect on flexible work is currently very limited. Flexible work concerns non-standard forms of labour, particularly part-time and temporary work contracts, but it also concerns flexible working done by full time employees, such as working overtime.

Migration has been a feature of human development and creation of civilizations since the earliest communities in history developed, but both economic and forced, recent and contemporary migration have reached unforeseen scales and are highly likely to remain globally dominant political, economic and socio-cultural features for the foreseeable future (Baum, 2012). People who migrate have different backgrounds and different reasons for migrating and according to Castles (2000) migrants can be classified as temporary labour migrants, highly skilled and business migrants, family members, and irregular migrants.
Tourism and hospitality industry is an attractive option for migrant workers since its relatively easily accessible in terms of skills and language requirements, vacancies caused by seasonality, and high labour turnover (Janta et al., 2012). Migration creates culturally plural societies, which means that when many people with varying cultural backgrounds come to live together, a diverse society is created. After the enlargement of the EU in 2004, UK was one of the three countries that allowed migrants from the new member countries to enter their labour markets with little to no restrictions, an opportunity that many migrants took advantage of.

A common issue for tourism and hospitality industry is the difficulty of attracting and retaining suitable employees, since in tourism and hospitality industry consumer expectations are demanding and constantly changing. Joppe (2012) states that seasonal and cyclical nature of the tourism and hospitality industry makes relying on migrant workforce an appealing solution for many employers, since they can expand and contract their workforce according to the fluctuations of tourism demand. The rapid increase of immigrant labour has in many countries started to exceed its initial share in total employment, especially in Southern European countries, as well as Ireland and the United Kingdom (Joppe, 2012).

Diverse workforces are challenging to manage for organisational leaders, and as a result of increasing immigration effectively learning to manage an increasingly growing amount of potential new employees has become significantly more important. The tourism and hospitality industry is increasingly more dependent on migrant employees, who are used as a temporary bandage to the shortage of skills that plagues the industry, which in turn promotes the recruitment of workers with lower salary expectations (Zopiatis et al., 2013). One of the key problems that managers have to address is that migrants can be a source of community tension, especially if they are seen as a burden on local community resources, as competition for jobs or as challenging local social norms if they have problems with integrating into the host community. Janta et al. (2011) argue that tourism employment may intensify the lack of integration, for instance when employment patterns restrict the social mobility of immigrants or when organisations put emphasis on reinforcing of ethnic enclaves and social closure, though they also argue that tourism employment can also benefit immigrants by offering more opportunities for social inclusion in some instances.

The UK hotel industry is relying increasingly on migrant workers, though migrant workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country’s labour force. The problems for migrant workers are made more significant due to factors such as immigration status or limited skills in English language, and this promotes the commonly existing imbalance in power between the migrant employees and their employers, which in turn can make it more difficult for the migrants to address the difficult situations they find themselves in. The migrants in the UK generally are forced to accept the most precarious labour contracts, unless they are hired directly to skilled occupations. An example of exploitation is Park Plaza hotels in London. According to an investigation done by BBC reporters in 2009, Migrant employees are also more vulnerable to exploitation, Park Plaza hotels in London underpaid and overworked some of their East European migrant employees, and some employees were paid less than the minimum wage per hour, as well as made to work longer days without being compensated.


Baum, T. (2012) Migrant workers in the international hotel industry. International Migration Paper. 112.
Janta, H., Ladkin, A., Brown, L., Lugosi, P. (2011) Migrant relationships and tourism employment. Annals of Tourism Research. 38 (4), 1322-1343.
Joppe, M. (2012) Migrant workers: Challenges and opportunities in addressing tourism labour shortages. Tourism management. 33, 662-671.