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Polish Workers, Not Everyone is a Good Worker

I first started using Polish Workers in 2004 when I had manufacturing plants in Somerset and Devon. Why? I simply couldn’t get Brits to work for me that were hard working and reliable. I tried everything, advertising, the job centres (what a nightmare!) networking and on several occasions we were unable to meet orders which is an absolute disaster in business.

Having discovered Eastern European workers and in particular Polish Workers we had to overcome initial UK prejudice to these “foreigners stealing our jobs” and getting accommodation was a challenge. However through performance the Polish Workers quickly won over people in the work place and society as a whole and the early days were the halcyon days of using Polish workers. Highly educated, intelligent, flexible, hard working, interested and communicative a list of attributes dreamed of by British employers having to deal at the bottom end of the market for talent.

A piece in the Spectator resonates with me and we have similar stories to tell but need to add some balance to the story in that not everything is rosy in the land of the Polish Worker some for understandable reasons some though could lead to long term problems more of which below.

Polish Workers follow the money, who can blame them. Exchange rates influence location choices and sterling’s weakness until the Euro crisis has meant the UK has dropped down the pecking order of choice and in 2011 ranked number 4 behind Norway, Holland and Germany having been second for several years.

This might reverse in 2012 more due to euro weakness that the £’s fundamental strength but we are talking about significant amounts. The £ got as low as 1.05 in 2011 but is now back to @ 1.20 a 15% difference and, if on low wages, this makes a huge difference.

Demand has naturally fallen during the recession and has shown itself in several ways. Perfectly good Polish Workers have lost their jobs for a variety of reasons. Bankruptcy of the employer, blanket cut backs to survive, rationalisation within groups, investment in mechanisation, simply lower orders. All those effected in this way we would put in the bad luck group worthy of help just as are any other workers, whatever their nationality.

However we have noted the following trends in 2011 following the relaxation on entry requirements and access to benefits that occurred in May 2011

  • The quality of the workers is not what it was as a generalisation. We are getting towards the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality from Poland as the pay rates only attract those not able to get work elsewhere.
  • The attitudes are not what they were, especially with the “second time around Poles” who exhibit the same tendencies as the locals now that they can exercise access to benefits
  • Benefit tourism is increasing. We have seen workers deliberately lose there jobs after 3 months as this is the generally understood time delay  before access to benefits can occur
  • Polish regulations protecting workers rights – health declarations and police checks are no longer standard and if your routines are not robust you’ll get the undesirables coming through so you have to be rigorous.

Turning to the “second time around Poles” you need to establish why they are available and if it is because they’ve been sacked then use the same caution as you would in any other employment situation. Not every Polish Worker is a good Polish worker so approach the secondary market with caution.

I have no problem trying to help the genuine cases and indeed work on schemes to take Polish teams out of the UK and place them elsewhere in the European Union thus reducing the UK’s unemployment burden. However we say no to more people than we say yes to as they have to convince us that they actually do want to work long term rather than merely playing the benefits system.

The Spectator has certainly got it right  in that working for a net £0.05 an hour extra is ridiculous and that is why Skills Provision has been a long term supporter of Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals.

Any employer needing assistance with the general challenge of running multicultural work forces or needing to review the mix in the light of the Agency Worker Regulations is more than welcome to a free consultation via our quick enquiry section on out website.


Author: Chris Slay

Skills Provision will allow our articles/quotes to be reproduced on other formats as long as full accreditation is given.