2023-07-18 14:43

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TUC Warns Watering Down Working Time Rules Risks “Giving Cover” To Rogue Employers Who Exploit Workers

  • Changes help employers “cheat” workers out of pay and make it harder for workers to challenge underpayment
  • Union body warns of “low-paid burnt-out Britain” as ministers downgrade working hour protections
  • Number of people working excessive and unsocial hours has grown under the Conservatives, according to the government’s own assessment

The TUC warns that ministers’ plans to water down rules on how working time is recorded risk “giving cover” to rogue employers who exploit workers, and that bad employers who underpay and overwork staff could be given “a helping hand” by the government.

In a ruling that is binding on the UK, in 2019 the European Court of Justice ruled that employers should establish an “objective, reliable and accessible system” for recording hours. But the government has refused to introduce this ruling into British law and wants to keep the UK on a much weaker statutory footing.

Bosses will only be required to keep “adequate” records of hours worked under the Conservatives’ new plans.

Ministers could impose these changes using powers in the controversial REUL (Retained EU Law) Act, which recently received Royal Assent. Making a bad system even worse!

The union body says the proposals help employers who cheat workers out of pay. Although minimum wage regulations aren’t directly affected by the changes, good record-keeping is essential to stamp out minimum wage underpayment.

The government risks making an “already bad system even worse” with the changes, according to the TUC. Employers will be encouraged to skimp on record-keeping, making it harder for workers to challenge underpayment; says the TUC.

But many Trade Unionists would argue that, that of course is the precise aim of a Trade Union hating Tory Government that care little about the standard of living of working class people.

The claims by the Government that there is confusion over the need to keep records and the cost to business are very much exaggerated. AS is the case with H&S Regulations, the Tory Government always claim that anything which benefits the employees, is a 'burden on business'. By clicking on the image below, you can download the Impact Assessment:

image: WTD Impact Assessment - click to download

The TUC press release continues:

Minimum wage enforcement is already widely undermined by poor record keeping, particularly in sectors such as social care.

Research by Unison shows the majority of homecare staff are unpaid for travel between visits and struggle to prove the actual hours worked, leading to minimum wage abuses. More broadly, for too many workers, basic employment rights like holiday pay, the minimum wage and contracted working hours are illusory.

Employers know enforcement action is unlikely, so they can get away with lax recording and poor practice.

The TUC says that there are simply not enough inspectors to make sure minimum wages rules and other rights at work related to working time are enforced.

And the TUC says these changes send a signal to employers that they can further deprioritise good record-keeping. 

Unsafe and illegal working hours

The TUC says loosening reporting rules on working hours will also make it easier for bad employers to put workers through long, gruelling shifts without enough rest.

The union body says this is a “recipe for burnout Britain” - and has accused the government of ignoring its own evidence on unsafe and illegal working hours.

The government’s own impact assessment shows that the number of people working excessive and unsocial hours has grown under 13 years of Conservative government. A key group at risk are night shift workers. Data from the ONS reveals that proportion of night workers working over eight hours a day has risen from 40% to 50% since 2012.

This is in breach of the law which says night-workers should work an average of no more than eight hours a shift.

The TUC says current health and safety law is already not being enforced properly and that downgrading working-hours protections will put many at risk of fatigue and serious health conditions.

As well as being detrimental to family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. [And cancer]

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“There should be no hiding place for bad employers. But these plans give cover to bosses who exploit their staff. Minimum wage enforcement is already undermined by poor record keeping – these changes will make a bad system even worse.

He added:

“And watering down rules on recording working time is a gift to bad employers looking to exploit workers and put them through long, gruelling shifts without enough rest. The government’s own impact assessment couldn’t be any clearer. Safe limits on working hours are not being enforced properly by employers.”

In conclusion Paul said:

“But rather than legislating to fix this problem, ministers are diluting protections even further, and giving rogue employers who underpay and overwork staff a helping hand.

Ministers must think again and ditch these reckless plans. It is a recipe for low-paid, burnt-out Britain.”

Source: TUC

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