Inconsistent treatment of seasonal workers leaves some facing unaffordable health costs

More needs to be done to protect Jersey's seasonal workers, according to a scrutiny panel set up to look into complaints from permit holders about the conditions they have faced.

The Work Permit Holder Welfare Review Panel criticised a lack of centralised support or advisory service for people living and working in Jersey on a permit.

The group's chairperson, Deputy Beatriz Porée, said people on work permits reported "discrimination and abuse of power" by their employers.

However, she says most of the feedback from affected workers has been positive.

There has been an 800% increase in the number of work permits issued since 2019, reflecting a shortage in workers.

One of the big issues raised for seasonal workers in Jersey is the inequality of the island's healthcare system.

Work permit holders are deemed to be "guests" in Jersey and can only get free treatment in an emergency.

They have to pay full price for GP appointments and prescriptions without any government subsidies until they have been a resident for six months.

With many permit holders earning minimum wage, some are forced to put off treatment due to its lack of affordability.

Tarlieford McCauley travelled to Jersey from Ghana and works under the permit scheme.

Despite paying taxes from the moment he arrived, he found his wages were drained by costly GP appointments.

Mr McCauley had to visit the doctor three times during his stay which cost between £100-150 per appointment.

Some seasonal workers have left the island due to unaffordable healthcare, according to Lesley Katsande Credit: ITV Channel

Lesley Katsande from Friends of Africa said: "Cancer, asthma or mental health conditions don't wait for six months.

"We have another lady who actually had to fly home to get help because it was so expensive here."

Of 200 permit holders the scrutiny panel spoke to, 104 said they needed medical care since they have been working in Jersey.

Only 50 were advised to take out health insurance while 120 hadn’t been told how the health system works.

The review panel concluded that this has to change and suggested the cost of health insurance should be covered by employers.

However, businesses are pushing for the government to cover the cost through funds generated by taxes seasonal workers pay.

Jersey's Home Affairs Minister, Deputy Helen Miles, said she recognised there are areas for improvement and that these matters will receive serious consideration and prompt action.

She said: “The review provides insights into the experiences of our work permit holders in Jersey and I am heartened that the majority of contributors reported positive experiences.

"However, I recognise that the report also identifies areas for improvement, some of which concern immigration policy.

"These matters will receive serious consideration and prompt action where necessary."

She promised to give a more detailed response in due course.

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