TUC publishes new guide to enforcement agencies to stop abuse of rights at work

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date: 2 December 2011

embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 5 December 2011

The TUC has published a guide to the UK's key enforcement agencies to coincide with a conference aimed at tackling exploitation in the workplace taking place at the TUC's headquarters today (Monday).

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.

For more information visit http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/employment-matters/strategies/umf/round-t...

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Enforcing Basic Workplace Rights is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/177/enforcingbasicworkplacerights.doc

- The conferenceis from 9.45am­­­­­­­­­­­­­­-3.45pm at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS on Monday 5 December. For more information about the event please contact Emma Hendy on ehendy@tuc.org.uk

- For media accreditation for the event please contact the press office.

- The 150,000 stat is based on taking the number of workers paid below the relevant minimum wage (NMW) rate in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings - published as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Low Pay Estimates - and subtracting those who fall under the legitimate NMW exemptions, identified through the Labour Force Survey. This estimation excludes most workers in the grey economy, as they are unlikely to show up in the ONS earnings statistics. Therefore it is the lowest possible estimate of underpayment - but 150,000 workers losing out is in itself enough to generate great concern, says the TUC.

- More UMF-funded support for union reps and workers is available at www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-19833-f0.cfm

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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