TUC report reveals extent of mistreatment of vulnerable staff

The needs of the UK’s most vulnerable workers are not being met, with “repeat offender” employers partly to blame, a report has found.

Research by the Centre for Employment Studies Research revealed that four in five (79%) employment advisers, who report on mistreatment across low-paid and female-dominated sectors of the economy, said they received reports of unfair dismissal on a weekly basis.

Two-thirds (67%) also receive problems with pay either weekly or more frequently, while six out of 10 deal with working time and contractual rights in the same timeframe.

More than 85 respondents from Citizens Advice (CAB) and the Law Centres Federation (LCF) were polled in the TUC-commissioned study, and Brendan Barber, TUC general-secretary, said the findings were “not a pretty picture”.

“We were shocked at the extent of abuses of employment rights,” Barber said. “It is unacceptable that these practices exist today, and equally unfair that when they do, services to help vulnerable workers are left over-stretched and under-funded.

“Sustainable funding is also needed for independent employment rights advice, so that when workers experience problems they can access support, and government, trade unions and employers need to work together to make sure this happens,” he said.

The most common areas to experience problems were private care homes (86%), hotels and restaurants (76%), cleaning companies (79%) and wholesale and retail.

More than half the advisers said they came across “repeat offenders”. Additionally, 62% of CAB advisers and 81% of LCF advisers said temporary workers were seen frequently.

Barber called on the government to increase the reach of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and grant greater powers to enforcement agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive and HM Revenue & Customs’ minimum wage enforcement unit.

“Agencies need the capacity to take proactive work that prevents mistreatment at work from happening in the first place,” said Barber. “Extending the GLA to other low-paid sectors characterised by temporary work would also make a huge impact.”

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