Migrant workers and the changing psychological contract

Arthur Morgan (University of Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK)
Jocelyn Finniear (University of Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The influx of migrant workers in the UK has widespread interest. This group's experience of the British work place has evoked considerable debate ranging from the potential to be exploited through unscrupulous practices to allegations about taking away jobs from British workers. The purpose of this paper is to extend knowledge about the workplace experiences of migrant workers and discuss the implications this may offer for human resource management practice.


The method uses an interpretive approach as the principal method of inquiry. Insights are presented through the use of descriptive vignettes to preserve the contextual richness in participant's descriptions.


The dynamics of the psychological contract has been fundamentally affected by increasing numbers of migrant workers in the workplace. There is clear potential for a dual system to exist where migrant workers are treated differently in terms of recruitment, training and deployment. The ability to ensure employees work safely and are equipped to undertake their job roles is a key concern.

Research limitations/implications

The research reports an initial study and as such the findings, although representative of the group reported, may be atypical.

Practical implications

Employers and HR practitioners are missing an opportunity to recruit and deploy well motivated highly skilled individuals. Earlier research which focuses on quantitative‐based approaches may possess methodological problems which this research aims to highlight.


The use of in‐depth interviews allows a better informed understanding of the philosophical (and cultural) tensions to emerge. Such an approach offers insights which until now have eluded research focused upon more quantitatively oriented studies.



Morgan, A. and Finniear, J. (2009), "Migrant workers and the changing psychological contract", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 305-322. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090590910959272

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