21 June 2017
Research from Middlesex University London has found that employers withhold £1.2 billion in wages and £1.5 billion in holiday pay from workers every year.
The interim report from the institution’s Unpaid Britain project, entitled The Weighted Scales of Economic Justice, also found that there were 23,000 occasions on which unpaid or delayed wage payments made workers were left without food.
Shockingly, the researchers also uncovered a “widespread culture of repeat offenders” when it comes to underpaying workers and reported that employers can withhold payment with impunity. Indeed, around half of the directors of dissolved companies that defaulted on wages were later able to become directors of other firms.
Lead author, Nick Clark from Middlesex University London, warned this could just be the “tip of the iceberg” when it came to the true scale of unpaid wages.
“One of the problems is that there is no official data on non-payment. Not paying wages is a civil rather than a criminal offence which means there are no crime statistics,” he explained, saying his team had had great difficulty finding accurate figures on this breach of workers’ rights.
Other employment laws are also being broken, the study showed, with one in workers not receiving a payslip and one in 20 given no paid holidays at all.
The biggest offenders were the sports activities, amusement and recreation, food and beverage service sectors.
In London, arts, entertainment and construction employers were particularly prone to Employment Tribunal cases involving unpaid wages.
“Our interim findings demonstrate that there is a desperate need for improved workers’ protection and better guidance on their rights and how these can be enforced. With an uncertain Brexit around the corner there has never been a more important time to safeguard, protect and enhance workers’ rights,” Nick Clark said.
Indeed, the Institute of Employment Rights warns that the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the international trade deals that follow, could put workers’ rights at risk if they are not properly protected.
However, we argue that we should not stop at simple maintaining the workers’ rights we have gained through our membership of the EU, but build on them. In our Manifesto for Labour Law – which was adopted by the Labour Party as its blueprint for the 2017 General Election manifesto – we set out 25 recommendations for the reform of employment law, which we believe will play a major role in reversing inequality and improving the quality of life of the UK’s workers.
Join us in London on 19 July to discuss the threats and opportunities posed by Brexit and international trade deals with a panel of leading lawyers, academics and campaigners from across the UK.
Wednesday 19 July 2017
A one-day conference
Unite the Union, London
At this one-day conference, some of the UK’s leading academics, lawyers and campaigners will discuss the threats to employment law posed by Brexit, as well as proposing ideas for how workers’ rights can be protected and even improved upon during the negotiations with the EU, as well as in future trade deals.
Read more and book your place
Click here to read more about our Manifesto for Labour Law