Czech jobseekers often fall victim to bogus job agents in UK

Photo: European Commission

The United Kingdom is one of only three old EU countries that opened their labour markets to the citizens of new member states after last year's enlargement. According to UK statistics, some 15,000 Czechs have registered for work in the United Kingdom since accession in May 2004. Many have found a job to their satisfaction but there are also plenty of those who have fallen prey to bogus job agents.

Photo: European Commission
Twenty-three-year old Misa came to the UK to find a restaurant job. She met a young Czech man in London who promised to find her a job in a five-star hotel. He showed her the hotel's website, collected a fee from her and that was the last she ever saw of him. This and many similar stories can be found on the websites of the Czech expat community in the United Kingdom on which young Czechs share their job-hunting experience.

The recommended way to start searching for a UK job is to contact the British Embassy in Prague.

On the Embassy's website, jobseekers can find detailed information in both English and Czech about the requirements and necessary applications. There are also links to government agencies, such as the UK government job board.

Once in the UK, there are a number of agencies which can help out Czech applicants with the red tape. One of them is Hana Pownall's Czech Contact based in Peterborough.

Photo: European Commission
"My agency provides assistant help. We just give a helping hand for a start because loads of applicants don't speak English at all. My job here is just to help them. I go with them to the employment agencies. I help them fill in the application forms and then I do the calls for the interviews, I search newspapers for them and answer the employment agencies' phone calls."

Do many people contact you?

"I do get probably 20-30 e-mails a day but unfortunately, if the applicant doesn't speak any English whatsoever, and other people, like agencies, tell them they will find a job for them - it's a complete lie. Because if there is no English, there is no possibility to find employment because the law here has changed and even employment agencies who used to employ people with no English, can now be fined up to 5,000 pounds if they employ somebody who is not able to do the Induction in Health and Safety in the UK."

Have you spoken to many people who have been cheated by bogus agents?

"Yes, I have. There were a few of people who called me in the middle of the night to tell me what happened. They came to London, they paid loads of money at King's Cross Station and they were just taken to a hotel and left with no money whatsoever with a promise to have a job the next day. But they have never heard from the person again. So they just went back home really disappointed."

According to Hana Pownall it is absolutely vital for the applicants to speak enough English to be able to fill out the necessary forms for themselves and not be so helpless as to become easy prey for crooks. But as learning English is for many people the main reason for looking for a job in the UK, they may be trapped in a bit of a vicious circle.