3,400 care workers have received a total of £650,000 in back pay following a HM Revenue and Customs began an investigation into the sector’s national minimum wage situation.
At least 130 care providers have been investigated in the last 12 months and fines totalling £122,249 have been issued to companies that were paying staff below the minimum wage since April 2015.
Many of the cases involved care workers who were not paid for the time they took travelling between jobs. Others were underpaid for the hours they spent delivering live-in care. Paramedics and firefighters are not paid only for time spent treating patients or putting out fires and HMRC considers that home care workers should not be treated any differently. To exclude this time can result in the National Minimum Wage Act being breached.
17 care workers, employed on zero-hours contracts are currently involved in ongoing legal action against contractor Sevacare. They claim they are paid just £3.27 an hour, as they are effectively working 24 hours a day once waiting time is included. In one case, they live in the home of an elderly woman with severe dementia for seven days at a time.
The minimum wage currently stands at £7.20 per hour for over 25s, but estimates are that about 16,000 care jobs are paid below this level, leading to an average underpayment of £815 a year per worker. Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson, has stated that “anyone entitled to the national minimum wage should receive it. Paying anything less than this is illegal and unacceptable.” Therefore we can expect more regulatory interest and tribunal claims in this sector.
The news marks arguably the most significant ever intervention by HMRC into pay issues in an individual sector, which was carried out in response to a series of complaints from unions and individual care workers. HMRC has said that its next target could be employers that use freelance staff on a long-term basis.
This serves as a warning to all sectors who are not abiding to wage laws in relation to employees. An HMRC spokesman said, “all businesses, irrespective of their size or business sector, are responsible for paying the correct minimum wage to their staff. HMRC continues to crack down on employers that ignore the law.”
By Gina Mukova
Image used under CC courtesy of Brian Bullockhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/bcpltd/Read More
The term “precarious employment” is being used more and more. Another term for it is the “gig economy”. A Government-commissioned inquiry into modern employment practices is gearing up. Precarious workers are those who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights. They are subject to unstable employment, lower wages and even more dangerous working conditions. They rarely receive family-friendly rights or pensions and are often denied the right to join a union. Women, minorities and migrant workers are much more likely to fill these kinds of jobs.
The number of workers in the UK in precarious positions has grown by almost 2 million in the last ten years. This comes as a result that more and more businesses prefer using more self-employed workers and are increasingly recruiting staff on temporary and zero-hours contracts.
For example, companies such as Tesco and Argos use thousands of agency temps. Also, currently, Sainsbury’s is using 54 different employment agencies for its temporary warehouse workers. The taxi company Uber are among firms relying on 4.7 million “self-employed” workers, although see our recent article on the legal challenge by two of its drivers.
The increase in precarious workers has stirred up anxiety about low pay to the extent that more than 10,000 people called the Acas helpline from May to September 2016 voicing concerns that they were not receiving the statutory minimum. This is a 73% increase on the same period last year. This means that the UK currently has more full-time employees in low pay (as a percentage) than all but seven of the 22 developed nations in the OECD.
The long-term employment trend has hit young adults the hardest. The proportion of working 16- to 20-year-olds in low pay rose from 58% in 1990 to 77% in 2015, while the proportion aged 21 to 25 rose from 22% to 40%, according to Resolution Foundation analysis. This can hardly be encouraging for the next generation of employees. However, older workers have become less likely to suffer from low pay.
There are currently about 750,000 more people are on zero-hours contracts than in 2006, and over 200,000 more people are working as temps, according to the government’s labour force survey.
It remains to be seen if these statistics will be affected by the formal trigger of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by Prime Minister Theresa May – see our Brexit series for more details.
By Gina Mukova
Image used under CC courtesy of Ding Yuin ShanRead More
Hundreds of lawyers are arguing about Brexit at a consitutional and government level. Businesses are uncertain about Brexit, leaving many areas of our society anxious about the future.
Many countries, including Japan, the United States and Canada have voiced their worries over the past few months of the potential impact that a poorly-handled Brexit could have on their ability to run their businesses from the UK.
Some companies are showing concern, not only with the impending departure from the EU itself, but also with the lack of clear information being published by the government about its position in negotiating the future after triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Lincolnshire employer, Smiffy’s, has already voiced their concern over the time taken to break ground with Brexit. They say they have experienced a loss of sales, and only expect this to increase as time goes on and a lack of direction remains. As a result of this, they have made plans to move their headquarters to the Netherlands echoing the fears of other companies earlier in the year such as banking giant JP Morgan and Vodafone.
One fear is the lack of access to the single market. Many see this as a step backwards. Another is the impact of a restriction on EU migration, with many employers saying that this could reduce the level of skill and expertise available in the job market.
However, there is a flipside to the argument. Whilst some businesses are expressing concern, others (albeit smaller businesses) have said they could potentially benefit from the lack of bureaucratic restraint on trade and business which some see as inherent within the EU.
Theresa May is steadfast in her plan to enact Article 50 by the end of March 2017. There had been fears that this could be postponed but she has secured this timetable in a vote in the House of Commons.
It wasn’t long before lawyers became involved; a High Court ruling at the beginning of November ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without support from the House of Commons. This is being appealed to the Supreme Court and the outcome of that appeal is not known.
This had an enormous impact; the value of the pound rocketed to a four-week high. If the ruling of the Supreme Court in January 2017 upholds this decision, we think that it is likely that the desire of businesses to escape the UK to avoid the impact of a “hard” Brexit will be lessened. Hard Brexit is leaving without obtaining a prior agreement on EU tariffs, meaning we fall back on less favourable ETO rules.
Will Theresa May manage to negotiate a “soft” Brexit , protecting jobs abroad and securing trade with our old partners? Or, will the advocates of a “hard” or “clean” Brexit emerge victorious, effectively ending our relationship with Europe in favour of, what they argue to be, more lucrative opportunities with the rest of the world and an end to the restraint placed on the UK by excessive bureaucracy? At this point, it is still uncertain, and this lack of certainty is beginning to show itself now in decisions that will undoubtedly affect our society as a whole, and importantly, our businesses.
by Connor Singleton
Part of our Brexit seriesRead More
Diversity at the workplace is a preoccupying issue for discrimination lawyers. The law recognises that certain groups of people are discriminated against because of their gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity.
In 2010 the Equality Act confirmed the legality of positive action for employers, while making positive discrimination unlawful. What is the difference? Positive action aims to erase inequalities in employment and promote diversity. However, those who disapprove of positive discrimination argue that to be equal, employers should be blind to all characteristics that could potentially lead to discrimination, and hire their employees solely based on their ability to do the work. The problem is that, even if all candidates are equally qualified and experience, the ‘blind’ approach will do nothing to redress an imbalance of minorities in the workplace
There is a fine line between positive action and positive discrimination, as discrimination lawyers know. Positive discrimination is employing individuals solely based on their under-represented social group. For example, setting out to hire Asians, regardless of skills or experience in order to improve diversity. Only disabled people can benefit from positive discrimination. To set out to hire, say, lesbians or younger men would be unlawful.
Positive discrimination is employing individuals solely based on their under-represented social group. For example, setting out to hire Asians, regardless of skills or experience in order to improve diversity. Only disabled people can benefit from positive discrimination. To set out to hire, say, lesbians or younger men would be unlawful.
On the other hand, positive action is allowed. Employers are permitted to favour one out of a number of equally adequate candidates on the basis of their protected status. However doing so is not mandatory and there is a perception that doing it, even for laudable reasons, would get employers into trouble if candidates found out. We have never seen, for example, a rejection letter that says ‘We are sorry not to pursue your application as there were women of child-bearing age who were just as qualified and we wish to hire on of them to improve our diversity statistics’. Nor would any sane employer record that reasoning in an internal memo, even though the law would protect them. To do so would just invite litigation on the basis that the disappointed candidate was better suited for the job and discriminated against.
So why are quotas in the workplace unlawful? It can be explained by the fact that our society is meritocratic, therefore the most deserving applicant should be hired. The term ‘as qualified’ can be ambiguous. For example, two candidates could have very different profiles: one could have no work experience but a degree, whereas his competitor could have a lot of work experience but no qualification.
One reason why an employer might want to have a more diverse workforce is that it is a great defence when faced with a discrimination claim. It is harder to complain that your employer is institutionally racist if all races are well-represented in the workforce
Employers should always be objective, set out specific and unambiguous criteria for the selection of their candidates, and finally, understand which groups are under-represented and aim to redress this balance with positive action, albeit that discrimination lawyers advise them not be too transparent about doing it.
By Lily Wilde
Image used under CC courtesy of DryHundredFearRead More