However, Citizens Advice is finding an increase in instances across the country of confusing working hours, poor administration and legal loopholes leading to workers being underpaid and in extreme cases not paid at all.
Citizens Advice helped clients with 380,000 employment issues in 2015, one in six of which were related to pay and entitlements, an increase of around 4% on the previous year. However, the number of cases of unauthorised deductions from wages earned doubled, from 4,900 in 2014 to 9,000 in 2015.
While a proportion of these cases of unauthorised deductions can be attributed to honest mistakes, often as a result of complicated working arrangements, Citizens Advice is suggesting there is an emerging trend of ‘wage theft’ where employers are deliberately underpaying workers. This is based on examples clients have encountered of employers:
– taking money from their wages without good reason
– misrepresenting people’s working hours
– paying below national minimum wage
– not paying wages for a long period of time or at all.
A cleaner sought help from Citizens Advice after going for months without proper pay. Her employer settled her back pay only to then cut her wages to below minimum wage without her knowledge.
A care worker worked between 12 and 50 hours a week on a zero hours contract and was regularly underpaid. She was prevented from accessing previous rotas so she couldn’t prove how many hours she had worked.
If you have a dispute with your employer you can get help from your local CAB or on line at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/ and you may be able to reach a settlement. If you can’t you may be faced with deciding whether to take your case to an Employment Tribunal. This is not an easy decision because since July 2013 a fee of £1,200 has been payable for unfair dismissal and discrimination cases (£390 for all other cases). There is also the possibility that even if a Tribunal finds in your favour you may still be faced with separate proceedings to get the money out of your employer.
The government introduced Employment Tribunal fees to incentivise earlier settlements, ease the cost to taxpayers and bring the employment tribunal in line with other justice systems. They have certainly achieved at least one of these objectives (latest official figures show a reduction of 66% in applications). The cost to workers who found the fees unaffordable, not being compensated for genuine grievances against their employers is unknowable.
In addition to employment advice you can get help with Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare if you:
– call 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.
– visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,
– or follow us on Twitter @Waverley CAB