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Population Policy Before Stronger Framework For Migrant Workers

The Social Security Minister says all the right safeguards do need to be put in place to protect short-term immigrant workers, but that a new population policy has to be sorted first.

Workers must have been paying social security contributions for six months before they're eligible for any sickness benefit.

Deputy Montfort Tadier has asked questions after hearing the experiences of Russian agricultural workers doing long shifts with little time off.

It's claimed that they had to ask for a single day off during the week, and they were unsure as to what their rights and responsibilities were.

Deputy Judy Martin says the government should make sure that people brought to Jersey for seasonal work have protection, in case they become incapacitated whilst here.

There were politicians that raised concerns about workers who could get seriously injured after just arriving in the island, especially those in labour roles.

Deputy Martin says this needs to be addressed.

"People - if they're working nine months January to September and then when they come back they are entitled straight away to six months for short term STIA (short-term incapacity allowance) but that's not good enough and we know that.

"The work will follow on from the work that we are doing on the migration project. This will establish a stronger framework for migrant workers, but it's important to do that work first so any benefits are aligned with the migration controls that we have changed.

"I think we need to educate the employers who are bringing people in and make sure they know their rights and absolutely the workers know their rights.

"If it could go to an insurance base very early, that is still going to have to be a discussion. Health works very differently to Social Security."

Deputy Martin says Ministers are committed to reviewing all government funding services for migrant workers, including social security contributions and benefits, before the end of 2022 or early 2023.

That led Deputy Tadier to ask what can be done in this term of office and called for 'simple things that can be done now' to help these workers, such as talking to employers in agriculture to establish a code of conduct and insurance cover in exchange for waiving social security contributions.

"It's not good, but we need to do more and I'm prepared to work with all the Ministers just to even get out there what the rights are of these workers." - Deputy Martin.

A debate on a new population policy is due for debate before the end of 2021.

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