The Government is reviewing its policy on restricting asylum seekers' rights to work.Jump to full report >>
The Government is reviewing its policy on restricting asylum seekers’ rights to work.
Current policy is that, as a general rule, asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK. They can only apply for permission to work if:
If granted, permission to work only allows asylum seekers to take up jobs on the UK’s official Shortage Occupation List. It expires once the asylum claim has been finally determined (ie when all appeal rights are exhausted). Asylum seekers’ dependent family members are not allowed to work.
The UK’s policies have attracted criticism for over a decade, including from NGOs, trade unions, churches and some Parliamentarians. Calls for change have tended to focus on:
Suggested advantages of extending asylum seekers’ rights to work include that it would:
The justifications for restricting asylum seekers’ employment rights have emphasised concerns that giving more favourable rights might act as a ‘pull-factor’ to the UK. Campaigners have argued that there is little credible evidence to support this assertion.
The combination of a 12-month waiting period for eligibility to work and limiting opportunities to the Shortage Occupation List makes the UK’s policy one of the most restrictive amongst comparable states.
EU law requires Member States to grant asylum seekers access to their labour market after nine months waiting for a decision. Member States can apply more favourable provisions and/or grant access to the labour market subject to conditions (and many do either/both). Beyond the EU, Canada and Australia allow asylum seekers to work immediately; in the USA they are eligible after six months.
Commons Briefing papers SN01908
Author: Melanie Gower