SoR joins healthcare unions to call for action on harassment of international recruits

International NHS recruits are being bullied, harassed, and discriminated against, according to unions

Published: 26 April 2024 Trade Union & IR

The Society of Radiographers has joined other health unions in calling for action to tackle bullying of international recruits. 

SoR has joined the Royal College of Midwives and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy to produce new guidance for recruiting health professionals to the UK.

The guidance comes in response to the treatment of international recruits – which these health unions found was poor, with recruits being bullied, harassed, and discriminated against.

Poor experiences and best practice

Now the three unions have drawn on the poor experience of overseas-recruited members, as well as best practice experiences, to compile a standards and principles document following consultation with membership and equality networks.

The standards and principles produced by the three unions covers recruitment into the NHS and the independent sector. The unions plan to produce advice guides, providing international recruits with essential information about their rights at every stage of the recruitment process.  

These cover:

  • Advertising for international recruits 
  • Interviewing and appointment, including offering contracts and support with visa applications  
  • Moving to the UK 
  • Induction in the workplace, including professional induction and support 
  • Professional development and on-going personal and professional support for the healthcare professional and any dependents.

The three organisations also hope that other unions and professional organisations working in health and social care will sign up to their standards and principles document.  

Increasingly reliant

The SoR explained the NHS is “increasingly reliant” on overseas recruits to fill vacant roles, as the average vacancy rate for radiography has risen to 13.4 per cent.

As a result, 15 per cent of all registered radiographers are currently recruited overseas.

With the NHS increasingly reliant on overseas recruits to fill vacant roles, many international workers are left vulnerable to unscrupulous recruiters and private providers. 

'Shocking levels of racism'

Dean Rogers, executive director for industrial strategy and member relations at the Society of Radiographers, said: “Internationally trained radiographers are likely to play a critical role in recruitment and retention for the foreseeable future. We have seen far too many examples of horrifying treatment of overseas professionals."

Mr Rogers added the SoR had recently represented a member whose case against an independent provider “featured elements of modern slavery."

He explained: “The judge in the resulting employment tribunal commented on the shocking levels of racism involved.” 

'Due diligence is not being carried out'

The NHS has also been implicated in recruiting radiographers from countries on the World Health Organisation’s red list, meaning that health professionals who work there should not be targeted for overseas recruitment. 

Mr Rogers said: “In one instance, the NHS used an outsourced agency to recruit a radiographer from a red-list country. The agency then forced the radiographer to take a pregnancy test and sacked her when it found out she was pregnant – leaving her family homeless just before Christmas. 

“The government’s codes of practice aren’t working, because they are not being policed and due diligence is not being carried out.” 

'Built by migrant labour'

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) have also witnessed international recruits who have been left vulnerable, isolated, and at real risk.  

Alice Sorby, director of employment relations at the RCM, said: “Internationally educated midwives make an invaluable contribution to the NHS. They are a vital cog in our health service, and yet all too often they are not treated with the respect they deserve.  

“Sadly, they face bullying and harassment in the workplace as well as employment issues, and recently we have seen denial of family visas despite reassurance from employers they would be able to bring them along with them. 

“Access to basic employment rights and equal treatment with other NHS staff should be the bare minimum, but unfortunately these principles and standards are instead required to hold poor practice to account. The NHS was built by migrant labour and would be nowhere without its internationally recruited staff.” 

Jim Fahie, assistant director at the CSP, said: “Our members face similar issues when they have been recruited from abroad. By pooling our thoughts and sharing resources, we can empower members through examples of best practice and guidance documents, which we will develop and build on through the year.” 

Find out more about the guidance here.

(Image: Dean Rogers)