Recession means low-paid workers are more vulnerable than ever, warns O’Grady


The TUC today publishes a guide to the UK’s key enforcement agencies to coincide with a conference aimed at tackling exploitation in the workplace taking place at Congress House.

The booklet, funded by the TUC’s Union Modernisation Fund (UMF), has been published to raise awareness of basic rights at work amidst concerns that thousands of workers across the UK are being exploited by unscrupulous employers.

The TUC believes that at any time at least 150,000 workers are not being paid the minimum wage when they are due it, and that the onset of the recession has led to more workers being cheated. Therefore awareness of enforcement agencies and what they can do is more important than ever before, the TUC argues.

Enforcing Basic Workplace Rights, which is aimed at union officials and reps, outlines the role that the UK’s four main statutory enforcement agencies – the HMRC National Minimum Wage enforcement team, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the Health and Safety Executive, plays in enforcing basic workplace rights. It also outlines the powers of enforcement officers and what sanctions employers can face for breaking employment law.

The guide also includes information about the government’s Pay and Work Rights helpline – a confidential helpline which provides help and advice on basic employment rights and also provides a single point of entry for those wanting to access the statutory enforcement agencies.

Enforcing Basic Workplace Rights is published to coincide with a UMF dissemination conference in London to discuss how to tackle vulnerable employment and better protect workers from abuse by rogue employers.

Speakers at the conference include TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady, Minister for Employment Relations Ed Davey MP, Shadow Minister for Employment Relations Ian Murray MP, Ethical Trading Initiative Head of Programmes Debbie Coulter, Professor Sonia McKay from the Working Lives Research Institute and Community Links Research and Policy Manager Aaron Barbour.

Frances O’Grady said: “Tackling vulnerable employment is a key concern for unions. With the labour market struggling to recover from the recession and increasing numbers of those in work facing temporary and insecure employment, action to improve job quality for low-paid workers is as urgent as ever.

“Workers in low-paid sectors such as care, cleaning, hospitality, security and construction can find themselves working excessively long hours, sometimes with no contract of employment. Their work can be insecure and they are regularly paid below the minimum wage.

“Today’s conference will give MPs, policy makers, community organisations, union reps and researchers the opportunity to hear first-hand from unions who have been actively engaged in tackling vulnerable employment. It will allow government and shadow ministers the opportunity to give their views on how exploitation at work can be reduced.”

The UMF Round 3 aims to provide tailored support to unions seeking to improve working with vulnerable workers via training and information-sharing; develop new skills in promoting and protecting the rights of vulnerable workers and integrating their needs into negotiations with employers; develop new resources for unions (specifically regarding informal, agency, younger and casual workers); encourage closer working between unions and enforcement agencies.

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