Government investigates evidence EU nationals are blocked from jobs and from renting or buying homes
The government equalities office is to examine growing evidence that EU nationals in the UK are being illegally prevented from renting or buying properties, getting jobs and booking holidays.
Nick Gibb, the equalities minister, said he was responding after Labour and the EU citizens rights campaign group the3million sent him a dossier of more than two dozen examples of job, housing and other adverts, many of which invite applications only from those with UK or Irish citizenship.
In a parliamentary answer, Gibb told MPs that he office is aware of, and is looking into reports of rising discrimination against EU nationals looking for work in the UK or buying property and services after Brexit.
Campaigners repeatedly found job adverts that clearly specify that those applying must have British passports. Examples collected include an advert for a graduate sales executive in Bristol specifying German language skills but restricting the job to full UK passport holders. An advert for a Solihull-based research job with an international management consultancy specified that the candidate must have the right to stay and work permanently in the UK, and a valid UK passport. Another job recovering hire cars from France and Spain and delivering them back to Britain was restricted to UK passport holders only.
Other examples collected by Labour and the3million included:
- Rental properties advertised for UK citizens only or outlining different terms for EU nationals.
- Travel agencies declining to take bookings from non-British or non-Irish citizens and cancelling the holidays already booked by EU nationals from other countries.
- A law firm advising that employment contracts incorporate clauses that specify that the loss of right to work will result in immediate dismissal.
However, a number of the companies included in the dossier mostly little-known firms or agencies said their ads were either old, made in error or posted with a typo when contacted by the Guardian. Two said their original advertisements involved administrative or clerical errors and had been reposted with clearer wording.
The Guardian spoke with a number of EU nationals who recalled recent instances of discrimination. Natasha, a 42-year-old Polish teaching assistant who asked for her surname to remain private, said she was completely blindsided when a education recruitment agency asked her for proof of permission to work in the UK.
I was completely taken aback and thought it must be incompetence but their response was very confused saying I need a permanent residency document or a work permit, neither of which you need, said Natasha, who has been in the UK for six years and entitled to work under EU law.
It freaked me out. At the time I needed work.
She added that she and her friends are also afraid to move from rented accommodation because landlords dont know if they will make them secure tenants after March 2019.
Labour MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, who forwarded the examples to ministers, said he was deeply concerned that EU nationals were experiencing discrimination within the service industry and within the labour market.
The junior shadow Brexit minister said: I am sure that you would agree these reports are a cause for alarm, reflecting uncertainty across the business sector and discrimination experienced by EU nationals. The lack of detail forthcoming from the government is contributing to this climate of uncertainty and confusion.
A Commons written answer by Gibb, slipped out on Saturday, responded by saying that Britain had some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the world and pledging to ensure that these rights were protected.
The government equalities office is aware of, and is looking into, the reports of discrimination against non-UK EU nationals seeking employment which [have been] forwarded to the secretary of state for exiting the EU, it said.
The GEO sponsors the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has powers to enforce the Equality Act 2010 in cases where it suspects unlawful discrimination in employment may have occurred.
The Department for Education confirmed it was looking at the dossier of evidence supplied to it but denied that the investigation constituted any form of official review or inquiry.
Blomfield responded to the announcement of the review saying: This investigation into these extremely worrying cases is welcome, but it must lead to action. The government needs to be clear that discrimination will not be tolerated.
A 41-year-old German woman who arrived in the UK in 1998, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was refused a test drive at a car dealership in Stockport because her driving licence was European and due to Brexit no longer valid.
She said: I felt angry, upset and singled out. My other half (British) got very annoyed and verbal. My other half tweeted outrage and they replied to him and said to get in touch with head office.
Another woman in Edinburgh, 48, who arrived in the UK from Greece 25 years ago, said she was told she needed a British passport to apply to finance furniture.
I was committed to make a big purchase and I had to break it, she said. In the end I paid for 1,500 worth of goods and the rest of the kitchen units were bought by my joiner. I was denied a financial service by an EU company operating in the UK due to my EU passport. This does not feel right. I think some people are using Brexit as an excuse to bully us.
A spokesperson for the3Million campaign group said the dossier was only the tip of the iceberg: Discrimination is subtle and often hard to prove. The examples we have seen in job adverts are only the tip of the iceberg.