The Wales TUC is calling on the Welsh Government to take on a bigger role in tackling bosses who are illegally denying people’s rights at work.
The call comes on the back of new Wales TUC research showing the extent to which employers in Wales have ignored Covid regulations.
Only 25 per cent of workers in Wales say that their employer has followed Covid safety rules. Further research from the TUC shows that nearly half of workers (46 percent) say their employer has not taken measures to improve airflow at their workplaces and 1 in 4 workers are working from the office or other workplaces despite being able to work from home.
Problems with employment rights are not confined to health and safety.
Official figures show that 20,000 workers in Wales are illegally paid below the minimum wage. This problem is particularly high for certain areas where the state plays a key role, like apprentices. For some age categories, around a third of apprentices receive illegal levels of pay.
Despite these figures, the UK’s former Director of Labour Market Enforcement has said that enforcement capacity is so weak that a company could expect to be investigated on minimum wage compliance only once every 500 years.
With the UK Government continuing to drag their heels on the introduction of a long-promised Employment Bill, the Wales TUC is calling on the Welsh Government to coordinate the work of devolved and non-devolved agencies working on labour exploitation and to make the enforcement of working rights central to its plans for the post-Covid recovery.
The union body is also pushing for Welsh Labour to begin work on meeting its manifesto commitment by campaigning for control of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be devolved to Wales. The HSE has seen its budget cut in half over the last ten years and its inspection activity has fallen by 27%.
Wales TUC General Secretary, Shavanah Taj, said:
“All too often Welsh employers ignore workers’ rights because they think there’ll be no consequences for breaking the law. And, depressingly, they’re usually right.
“Even during the covid crisis when the stakes couldn’t have been higher – when it was literally life or death – our research has shown that most employers disregarded the Welsh Government’s Covid guidance.
“The UK’s approach to enforcing rights at work is laughably weak by international standards and capacity has been ripped away by years of budget cuts.
“This new Welsh Government needs to recognise the grim reality of our labour market. For tens of thousands of people in Wales rights at work are purely theoretical.
“This is why unions are becoming more focused on which aspects of employment rights can be controlled in Wales. If the UK Government is going to continue to ignore this problem, the Welsh Government should be prepared to step up.”
Employer Covid Compliance data for Wales: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.
Total sample size was 1,194 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Wales (aged 16+).
Data on illegal underpayment: Minimum wage underpayment:
And issues for apprentices: