The Unheard Workforce

The Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) is launching its latest report: “The Unheard Workforce: Experiences of Latin American migrant women in cleaning, hospitality and domestic work” 

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On the 17th July 2019, LAWRS launched the research “The Unheard Workforce: Experiences of Latin American migrant women in cleaning, hospitality and domestic work”. Funded by Trust for London

The research draws on 326 cases of women supported at the Employment Rights Advice Service of the organisation. It presents an array of deeply concerning labour rights violations experienced by Latin American migrant women employed in three key feminised sectors of London’s manual labour: cleaning, hospitality, and domestic work.

Among the key results arising from these cases, we found that:

  • Over half of the workers faced breaches to their contracts (62%). Unlawful deduction of wages was the most common type of abuse (151 cases, 46%).
  • 1 in 5 (20%) experienced illegal underpayment of the National Minimum Wage.
  • 17% were unlawfully denied the annual leave they were entitled to, and 16% were not paid accrued in lieu annual leave once they left the company.
  • Health and safety issues were present in 25% of the cases – predominantly injury due to the nature of the work (33%), limited or no protective equipment (17%), and lack of training (12%).
  • Over two in five (41%) of women in the sample have experienced discrimination, harassment or unreasonable treatment.
  • 66% experienced bullying or unreasonable treatment as regular occurrences.
  • A large proportion endured verbal and/or faced physical abuse, 37% and 11% respectively.
  • 16% of the women endured a total of 13 different types of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
  • Abuse on the grounds of maternity was experienced by 9% of women. This includes failure to pay for hours spent at prenatal appointments and denial of risk assessments during pregnancy.
  • 11 cases of potential trafficking for labour exploitation were identified: 7 were cleaners or hospitality workers and 4 were domestic workers.

“We are not machines or numbers. We are human beings who want to work and to be treated with dignity and respect. We want nothing more and nothing less.”

Watch the full short documentary below:

“Undocumented Latin American migrant woman’s experiences of labour abuse in London”

This documentary was made with the support of Media Trust by the filmmaker Andrew Contreras

LAWRS Latin American Women's Rights Service Anti-Slavery Day

Anti-Slavery Day

On Anti-Slavery day – October 18th – we want to add our voice to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

In the UK, Latin American women workers are affected by “in- work” poverty and remain concentrated in vulnerable, low-paid, over-exploitative, unregulated jobs. European data also indicates a much worse scenario, as Brazilians are one of the top five nationalities of trafficked victims in Europe.

Research by LAWRS showed that 57% of women experience verbal abuse and threats, 17% of them earn less than the national minimum wage and nearly 40% do not have a written contract.


LAWRS Latin American Women's Rights Service Anti-Slavery Day


“It is crucial that migrant women who experience extreme labour exploitation in outsourcing sectors like cleaning, catering and hospitality are recognised as victims regardless of the immigration status they hold. Establishing a firewall for safe reporting will ensure that labour enforcement and the police better identify vulnerabilities of insecure legal status used by traffickers and abusive employers,” says Nahir de la Silva, Policy and Communications Coordinator for Employment Rights at LAWRS.