Legal Seminar Series

How to Ensure Labour Rights of Undocumented Migrant Workers in a Changing Economy

6 – 13 – 20 – 27 October 2021

14:00 – 16:00 CET

English, Français

Undocumented workers have rights and protections under a variety of international, regional and national legal frameworks – as human beings, as workers and employees, and when victims of crime. This includes rights under several EU laws, including, for example, the right to working conditions which respect health, safety and dignity, with limited working hours and rest periods (Charter of Fundamental Rights), the right to unpaid wages and effective complaints mechanisms (Employers Sanctions Directive), and the right for the relevant financial guarantee institution to take over (with limited liability) outstanding claims in the case of employer insolvency (the Employers’ Insolvency Directive), as well as the rights, supports and services for victims, when victims of crime, including trafficking in human beings (Victim’s Directive, Anti-Trafficking Directive).


But they face significant challenges in exercising their rights in the workplace, whether through criminal courts, civil courts and employment tribunals, or complaints mechanisms of inspection authorities. This hampers efforts to ensure decent working conditions, to prevent and provide a remedy for exploitation, and ultimately to reform sectors in which exploitation of workers and undeclared work are widespread.


Critical barriers include, among others, fears and risks of immigration enforcement and retaliation from fraudulent employers, difficulties to provide sufficient proof, as well as inadequate access to information about their rights, legal advice and representation. Some workers face additional barriers because of gaps in labour law protections and accountability mechanisms for particular types of work or employment relationships, for example, when working as au pairs, domestic worker or sex worker, or when employed through recruitment agencies or online platforms.


This seminar series will equip practitioners and advocates with the tools to strengthen their defence of the rights of undocumented workers. More specifically, the aims of the series are to:


  • Support legal professionals and advocates of migrants’ rights and workers’ rights to use international and EU laws to claim undocumented migrants’ work-related rights


  • Learn from different national contexts and strategies to strengthen protection of undocumented workers’ labour rights in law and in practice;


  • Critically and strategically assess the use of criminal law remedies for undocumented workers;


  • Explore the various legal frameworks that establish accountability and liability of employers, including in situations of sub-contracting and recruitment chains.



Week 1: Wednesday 6 October 14.00 – 16.00

Undocumented workers’ rights as “workers” or “employees” under EU law and international law


Week 2: Wednesday 13 October 14.00 – 16.00

Undocumented workers’ rights: in law and practice: National case studies


Week 3: Wednesday 20 October 14.00 – 16.00

Criminal law approaches to exploitative working conditions


Week 4: Wednesday 27 October 14.00 – 16.00

Accountability frameworks and complaints mechanisms

Please check back regularly for updates on the agenda and speakers.


And follow us on Twitter @PICUM_post for additional information and content related to the seminar series.


For more information about the rights of undocumented workers, visit: Labour • PICUM

This event is co-organised by:

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Logo ILO
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