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Scrooge Employers

22 Dec 2009

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have said many employers are making their employees' lives difficult this Christmas by adopting 'Scrooge-like' policies on issues like pay, hours, holidays and contracts

CABs Hit Out At 'Scrooge Employers' This Christmas

Reports from Scotland's 83 CABs showed that instances of 'unfair employer practice' numbered over 32,000 in the last financial year (2008/9) and CAS says that anecdotal evidence has shown these have continued at a similar rate throughout 2009. They have now unveiled a number of examples of such cases that have been reported from CABs even in the last few weeks, showing that the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well in the run-up to Christmas.

CAS Head of Social Policy Susan McPhee said,

"The recession is battering the economy and many companies are under severe financial pressures. Sadly, we have found that a number of employers are responding to this by putting the squeeze on their workers, and trying to save money by adopting unfair practices on issues like working hours, pay, holidays and contracts.

"Every month CAB advisers deal with people whose lives at work are being made difficult. People are having their hours of work suddenly reduced, or holidays cancelled. Others are having their rates of pay changed without warning. Many people of course have no contracts, which gives them little protection. Practices like these are unfair at the best of times, but especially at Christmas when so many people are struggling with the extra costs.

"The vast majority of employers do right by their employees, but these figurs show there is a significant number who do not. We understand that employers are suffering financial pressure. But so are their workers! Exploiting people by returning to outdated working practices is not the answer. There should be no place for Scrooge employers in Scotland!

"After all, we're not asking for any special kindness or generosity. All we are asking is that employers stick to the agreements they have made with their employees, and abide by the law. That surely is not too much to ask.

"So we call on all employers to make a New Years Resolution for 2010 that they will make sure their workers basic rights are maintained. And we urge any employees who think they are being treated unfairly to contact their local CAB where they will receive advice which is free, impartial and completely confidential."

CAS has unveiled some examples of recent cases of unfair working practices. NB These clients have requested anonymity, so are not available for interview. However they are all real cases, reported from CABs across Scotland in the last 4 weeks. They represent a typical cross-section of the kind of cases that are dealt with every month by Scottish CABs:

  • One group of workers were given the option of agreeing to either reduce their working hours or to be 'randomly' selected for redundancy.
  • One client whose working hours had suddenly been reduced without warning is now having signifcant problems meeting re-payments on loans taken out earlier in the year.
  • A client who had a letter of employment detailing his work schedule and work entitlements has now been asked to sign a contract which significantly alters these.
  • A client who worked 81 hours a week has been advised by his employer that he can only pay him for 69 hours.
  • An 18yr-old client was offered a job at £55pw for 21hrs work. Then, just before the contract was due to be signed, the employer changed the terms to 35hrs work for the same pay.
  • A 16yr-old trainee hairdresser was asked by her employer to leave school in order to take on a full-time job. When she did so, she was offered just £70pw for 40hrs. She has been refused a contract.
  • Another hairdresser has been offered a contract at less than £2.50 per hour. She has refused to sign this and has been told not to come to work until she does.
  • A client who has lived in the UK for more than 50 years has been advised by his former employer that he will not get a P45 because he does not have a legal work permit – this is contrary to advice from the local Jobcentre.
  • A client who had obtained verbal agreements from his employer about holidays - and who booked his holidays on this basis - has now been told that he may not take the leave after all.
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