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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

Specific occupations & special groups: migrant workers

A migrant worker is a person who travels from one area to another in search of work. Migrant workers may travel from inside and outside the United Kingdom although the term is more commonly associated with workers coming from abroad (NMWM06320).

In their 2006 report the Low Pay Commission (NMWM02010) found evidence that migrant workers may be willing to accept very low pay - below the minimum wage - and other poor employment conditions because of the comparatively low wages in their country of origin. The Low Pay Commission recommended that the Government step-up enforcement of the minimum wage in sectors that employ many migrant workers, such as agriculture and food processing and packing, and that these sectors should be selected as a priority for a programme of targeted enforcement.

However, some migrant workers may be working illegally (NMWM05200), in which case the national minimum wage will not apply to those workers and cannot be enforced. Anyone working in agriculture (NMWM06020) may be covered by the agricultural minimum wage legislation, which is the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Scottish and Northern Irish equivalents (NMWM02060).

In addition, some migrant workers may be covered by the Worker Registration Scheme (NMWM06330) or be affected by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (NMWM06130), which began licensing labour providers in the agriculture and food processing sectors from April 2006.

Another sector that engages a high number of migrant workers is the catering and hospitality sector.