This consultation response surveys the employment issues CAB clients have faced during the pandemic.
- During COVID-19, employment rose to the third most common advice need across the Citizens Advice Scotland network, with spikes in advice on redundancy and dismissal.
- Many frontline low paid workers have seen their working conditions worsen as a result of insecure contracts and fire and hire tactics during the pandemic. Better pay and conditions for these essential roles must be a cornerstone of the recovery, valuing their contribution by allowing workers a decent standard of living, financial resilience, and job security. Moreover, higher wages offer more disposable income to be spent in local communities, supporting demand.
- The pandemic has raised the cost of living for those on low-pay, with the extra time spent at home leading to increased food and utilities bills. Workers receiving the National Living Wage (NLW) still face budgeting struggles, through a combination of high costs, low wages, and limited and unpredictable social security support.
- CAB cases show evidence of employers in low-paid sectors being non-compliant in other areas, even if they are paid NLW or higher, including unpaid holiday and sick pay. Much of this non-compliance has taken place within the furlough scheme, making it harder for workers to determine how their employment rights are being breached.
- The pandemic and Brexit have hit tourism and hospitality particularly hard, where many roles will be low-paid. Brexit is also having an additional impact on EU nationals who advisers tell us may now face difficulties accessing social security they are entitled to.
- We warmly welcome the decision to lower the age threshold of the NLW and would recommend that in future different rates for different ages are abolished altogether.
- We also welcome the increase to NLW and other minimum rates but hope they can be raised further to at least meet the level of the independently-calculated voluntary Living Wage.
- The Government’s recommitment to a single enforcement body is to be welcomed, but this work must be prioritised and well-funded in order to achieve its aims.