Employing migrant workers in Northern Ireland

How to support migrant workers in your business


A new immigration system applies to people arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance. Employers need a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK.

Please note: this requirement excludes Irish citizens and those who already have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

See employing EU citizens in the UK.

Migrant workers may face a number of unique challenges in the workplace, including communication or language barriers, cultural differences or their international qualifications not being recognised in Northern Ireland. As an employer, you should be aware of these challenges and identify ways in which you can support any migrant workers you may employ.

Implement policies and procedures

Your policies and procedures should promote equality of opportunity in the workplace, especially your equal opportunities and harassment policies and procedures.

Read more on policies on discipline, grievance, bullying and harassment.

You should have equality and diversity policies in place and ensure they are followed and understood across the business. Read more on equality and diversity policies.

Encouraging input from staff when creating and reviewing policies can be useful in ensuring that they are implemented throughout the organisation.

The Equality Commission provides free model policies that are available to download from the Equality Commission's website.

You should also regularly review these policies in relation to relevant issues such as language and religious and cultural needs.

Provide equality and diversity training

Providing equality and diversity training for all workers could also help to embed the correct procedures and values into your business. You should also include bullying and harassment and dignity at work within this training.

Bullying and harassment training specifically for line managers/supervisors would help them to spot signs of bullying or harassment and decide on the best way to deal with any issues that may arise.

Line managers should also monitor the effectiveness of staff training and be proactive in addressing any issues that arise eg a worker having difficulty mixing with other staff.

In addition, having a suitable induction process set up for non-UK nationals is essential in helping them to integrate and settle into the business and the new culture.

See taking migrant workers through their induction.

Focus on language and communication

You should ensure migrant workers understand their legal rights and responsibilities, even if this means translating important documents.

You could also use a mentoring system, where less experienced workers are paired with experienced colleagues who speak the same language.

You could also put flexible arrangements in place to allow attendance at courses in 'workplace English' for speakers of other languages. This would help to reduce the need for translation.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes focus on speaking and listening, reading and writing, vocabulary and punctuation and grammar. There are courses available at different levels of competence.

Find out more about ESOL.

You could also help with integration among staff by organising team events where everyone can get involved eg fundraising events.

Provide training and development opportunities

It is good practice to ensure all employees have the opportunity to develop and enhance their skills, both personally and professionally.

See advice and funding for training.