Time to put an end to pay scandal

Ronnie Campbell wins the Blyth Valley seat at the Northumberland General Election count 2017
Ronnie Campbell wins the Blyth Valley seat at the Northumberland General Election count 2017

A message to my constituents – enjoy what’s left of your summer holiday, but check your payslips when returning to work.

The government has done little or nothing to tackle zero-hour contracts, the gig economy and other ways by which the rich get richer and the low-paid get poorer.

Now researchers have found that unscrupulous bosses are cheating British workers out of at least £1.5bn a year in holiday pay to which they are legally entitled.

And a further £1.2bn of wages owed for hours worked are unpaid each year, according to a research group at Middlesex University Business School.

Employers failing to pay basic wages are a widespread problem, but the weakness of any kind of enforcement means they can generally get away with it.

The research suggests that cheating is most likely to happen in firms that supply recreation and amusement, food and drink, hairdressing, nail bars, dry cleaning, temporary agency working and the hotel trade.

Where workers have variable hours and no payslips, employers are able to make a significant financial gain by cheating them a little and often, and it is hard for workers to keep track of the hours worked or to prove what they are owed.

Citizens Advice experienced a doubling of cases of “wages theft” between 2014 and 2017, with about 9,000 workers asking for help in recovering deliberately unpaid wages, and 75,000 having problems with pay and entitlements in this last year.

The right to paid holiday in the UK – now 28 days a year for full-time workers – was introduced as part of the European working time directive.

For those with variable hours it is the equivalent of 12.07 per cent of their average pay, but workers are often not made aware they are entitled to it, or are only paid it if they challenge employers.

There is no penalty on employers for failing to pay.

This is a scandal and it must be stopped.