Our employment legalisation is there for a reason: to protect workers from any unscrupulous employers and ensure a fair minimum condition is achieved for all.
This may seem like an obvious thing, and should go without saying, but all employers should follow the law. Yet this currently is not what is happening.
Just today we’ve seen 191 employers, including major names from the British high street like Pret A Manger and John Lewis, have not been paying their employees the minimum wage. This has impacted more than 34,000 workers.
Of these 191 employers, almost half wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniforms and expenses, and almost a third failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked. Almost a fifth of employers paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.
This is a problem that also goes beyond pay. We know from our work with members across the country that some employers also do not adhere to health and safety legislation, something which became more more acute during the pandemic, as well as existing laws around fair dismissals and workplace discrimination.
Nobody and no company should be above the law, and all workers should be entitled to their legal rights of fair treatment.
So what can be done about this?
The solution is a more regular and robust enforcement of employment law. The government should step up inspections to catch every employer that underpays staff, ensuring that nobody is paid less than the legal minimum.
The government’s recent announcement of the creation of an enforcement body and defending workers was disappointingly nothing but a PR stunt which is not backed by any meaningful plan to strengthen workers’ rights. Any enforcement body needs the legislative teeth and proper funding to meaningfully enforce legislation and hold employers to account.
British workers have put their lives on the line to keep us all safe and the country going throughout the pandemic, they deserve actions, not empty promises. As we compete for a better working world, it’s time to ensure our employment law is robustly enforced.