If you have been following this section over the past year or so, you will have noticed how there has been a concerted effort to report on the issues of employment law that are being affected by the economic difficulties being faced within the country. In fact, some previous articles have gone so far as to make predictions on what might be expected in this regard; alas, it would seem that many of these assertions are now coming to fruition.
At a time when most small and medium-sized businesses are really struggling to keep their heads above water, it cannot be helpful that changes in employment law see these hard-pushed employers having to dip even deeper into their pockets to cover escalating financial obligations: anything from paternity/maternity pay to an extra bank holiday this year - leading to a very unproductive three-day week.
There is no denying the fact that most employers will feel that they are caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment. At the same time, however, employees are not finding this economic crisis to be any easier. In many cases, redundancies are being announced, especially in the public sector, and those that are lucky enough to keep hold of their employment may well be confronting a reduction in working hours and pay rises that are either non-existent or well below the relatively high rate of inflation at the moment.
This vicious circle must have fueled the fact that a massive 87,000 cases have been handled through the Citizens Advice Bureau alone over the last three years. These cases have all related to employees failing to receive the minimal statutory rights connected with their employment. The problems most commonly being reported to the CAB are employees not being permitted to take paid leave entitlement or not being allocated lawful breaks.
Most of these unlawful employers rely on the fact that their workforce may not be fully aware of their full entitlement to paid leave. They may even go further in that they come up with excuses to the employee, in an effort to get away without having to pay them for their leave from the business. There is one frightful case that was reported from the CAB, whereby a bar worker was only permitted to take a week’s holiday in an 18-month period, and this was actually unpaid at that time.
There are other problems further connected with this issue and these are that the employees most affected by such unlawful employers tend to be working in roles of employment that are already considered vulnerable: these include workers in care homes, cleaners, bar staff, retail staff, clerical staff and builders. Also, the majority of cases being reported are coming from female part-time employees who may already be struggling to find a balance between their work and home life.
Obviously, for the vast majority of employers that adhere to their legal obligations in this regard, this can be very frustrating indeed. Suggestions have been made that some kind of government agency may be in order to oversee the fact that all employers are complying with their minimal statutory obligations. It is such a shame that so many employers have had to be tackled over this issue. It is all very well that Parliament is legislating new employment laws at a rate of knots, but we need to ensure that such obligations are being complied with across the board - otherwise what is the point?