In early 2017 we have started a mentoring project delivering a job seeking support programme for disadvantaged Eastern European migrants.
We support and advise people on their journey to integration in the UK, we want to develop people’s skills, confidence, experience and capacity to lead fulfilled lives as contributing members of local communities.
L, a young woman from Romania came to us after being unlawfully dismissed from her job from a Romanian bakery in north London. She was told not to come to work the next day and not given a proper reason. Our work rights adviser helped her with this case and managed to get her pay for 2 weeks of notice that she was entitled to.
But after this episode, L was demoralised, afraid to look for another job, disappointed. She had done nothing wrong and she thought she was friends with the people who owned the business.
She started building her confidence back when she got the money from her ex employer, in her words: “I was happy to find out that I had rights and that there’s organisations such as yours who can help people understand their rights and demand them.”
Meanwhile, we matched her with an experienced volunteer that helped her develop a good CV and portfolio of her work as a baker. In a matter of weeks, she found another job to match her skills and experience. She now works in a multicultural environment and is able to practice her English every day as well. Her job is better paid and she enjoys it more than the last one.
Her mentor helped her build back her confidence and played a key role in L. getting back on her feet again.
Often, Eastern European migrants find jobs within their social networks. Although this works out OK for some, for many it becomes a story of exploitation.
Exploitation within communities is fairly common with Eastern Europeans and it results from barriers to access to the open British labour market, such as lack of language skills or unfamiliarity with recruitment practices and processes. Moreover, it is very common among British employers to employ an Eastern European supervisor or line manager who also participates in exploitation.
With our support L. managed to break this cycle and better her life.