Under the table jobs – what are they?
These are jobs which you don’t have legal permission to work — it could be a full-time job at a school or part-time or even occasional private lessons. People tend to assume that no taxes are paid when a job is under the table, but anecdotal evidence suggests that employers have a multitude of ways of paying under the table and often have to pay taxes in some way, even if the employee isn’t properly documented. (Maybe I’m using the term wrong, and it specifically refers to jobs where taxes aren’t paid — but in the EFL world it seems that “being undocumented” and “not paying taxes” may overlap but are not always synonymous.)
Why work them?
Sometimes the person wants to work the job (and a school wants to employ that person) and the work permit takes either an unrealistic amount of time or effort to attain given the year-long duration of the work. Some may start a job unofficially intending to do the paperwork and get the permit eventually, others may not care. In some cases, the work may be there and the permit impossible to attain.
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What are the risks?
Employers usually face harsh consequences if they are caught employing people illegally. It would seem that the harshest punishment an employee could receive would be a fine or deportation; certainly they wouldn’t be able to keep working. For many the stress of not knowing what would or could happen is negative enough, and if you don’t have legal permission to work, it would be very easy for an employer to take advantage of you — if they decide not to pay you, you would have little or no recourse except to quit.
I’ve heard an anecdote about a teacher being asked to leave the school in the middle of a class because some inspectors were coming and he wasn’t documented. I also know someone (not a teacher) who was detained for several hours on suspicion of working illegally in the UK. It didn’t go any further than this for these people, but even so, these situations were unpleasant and scary.
Where do people find under the table jobs?
Probably only quite informally only as employers are not likely to advertise that they are looking for people to employ illegally, or even to enter into an email discussion with a potential employee who they’d have to pay under the table. I’d guess that most people find under the table jobs through the friend of a friend, or in person once they’re already located in a city.
Is it worth the risk?
This depends on your perspective. With so many legal jobs available in the EFL world, it seems unnecessary to seek out under the table work.