Who are undocumented migrant workers?
An undocumented migrant worker is someone, mostly without a legal residence permit, who works without a valid work visa. Undocumented migrant workers have come here seeking a better future for themselves and their family.
In Belgium, these workers are found mainly in particular sectors, including construction and domestic help. Many work long days in poor conditions for less than the minimum wage. Their jobs are uncertain and they have no prospects of unemployment benefits or a pension.
Do undocumented migrant workers have rights?
Yes. Labor laws apply to all who work. Even for illegal employment, the rules regarding minimum wages, working hours, workplace accidents, and workplace health and safety apply. Further, employers risk a considerable fine if they are caught employing people illegally.
Unfortunately, there are many barriers to exercising these rights. Many undocumented migrant workers accept poor working conditions over no work at all, or fear their employer or the Belgian authorities too much to complain. Further, proving clandestine employment in a court is difficult.
Employers of undocumented workers can, as a result, ignore labor laws without being prosecuted. Further, they do not pay social security contributions. Not surprisingly, undocumented workers remain an attractive option for many employers.