Nepalese Farm Worker Sues Ex-Employer for Unpaid Wages, Discrimination.


Sapana Pangeni, a 31-year-old Nepalese farm worker, is suing her former employer in what advocates say is the first case of its kind. Pangeni came to the UK on a seasonal visa to pick berries, but claims she faced poor working conditions and wage theft.

Fruit Pickers

Fruit Pickers

In a witness statement, Pangeni said her hands bled because she was not provided with gloves, and she was forced to live in an unheated caravan with five men during the winter of 2022 on a farm near Reading, Southern England.

Pangeni’s case highlights the challenges faced by migrant workers under the UK’s seasonal worker visa program. These visas are granted to support farmers who struggle to find enough local labourers for essential field work, which often involves long hours and low pay. As fewer Europeans are interested in this work, and workers from Russia and Ukraine stay away due to the war, the UK has approved around 45,000 seasonal visas for 2025. In 2023, workers came from as far as Nepal, Kazakhstan, and Indonesia to fill these roles.

According to advocates at the Work Rights Centre, who are supporting Pangeni’s case, the system is “ripe for exploitation.” Pangeni’s case is the first to be brought to an employment tribunal by a labourer on the seasonal worker policy. If successful, it could set a precedent for other migrant workers to challenge wage theft and discrimination.

Pangeni said, “There are many people who have suffered exploitation who cannot speak out about their situation. I hope that my case will be a source of inspiration to them. I want other workers to know that they can challenge employers who underpay or mistreat them.”

The issue has drawn the attention of major supermarkets and industry groups, with a government survey last year finding that nearly a sixth of seasonal workers reported not being paid in full, and some paying recruitment fees before arriving in the UK. Workers on these temporary visas are allowed to stay for up to six months and cannot bring their families or claim benefits.

Pangeni is bringing a case against EU Plants Limited, the farm where she worked from November 2022 to January 2023. If she wins, she could receive thousands of pounds in compensation, and the case could increase the amount of damages that other migrant workers can seek from employers, according to the Work Rights Centre’s CEO, Dora-Olivia Vicol.

EU Plants Limited, which is defending the claim, did not respond to requests for comment.

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