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Work, Wages and Wellbeing in the Scottish Labour Market Inquiry

CAS submission to the Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee

Scotland’s Citizens Advice Service is the most common external source of advice for employees who experience problems at work. In 2014/15 clients sought advice on 50,625 new employment issues, a number that has been increasing in recent years. Additionally, citizens advice bureaux see first-hand the effects of in-work poverty, with a growing number of working clients seeking advice because they are struggling to pay for essentials. These twin problems – unfair employment practices and low paid jobs – represent a worrying trend in recent years and ones which CAS believes need to be addressed.


  • Citizens advice bureaux regularly see examples of extremely unfair treatment at work. Many of these cases, such as employees being paid less than the National Minimum Wage – or not being paid at all - women being dismissed when pregnant, instances of racist and sexist bullying in the workplace, or workers being denied sick pay or paid holiday, are illegal, but since the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees are very difficult for workers to challenge.

  • Increasingly citizens advice bureaux are advising clients who are in work but are struggling to pay for essentials

  • The number of new employment issues in citizens advice bureaux has risen by 12% between 2011 and 2015. This includes a sharp rise in advice given on pay and entitlements, dispute resolution and self-employment.

  • The number of zero hours contracts in the UK is estimated to have grown to 1.8 million. Citizens advice bureaux in Scotland have highlighted a number of problems stemming from the way zero hours contracts have been used by employers, and their growing prevalence is a serious cause for concern.

  • In-work poverty amongst adults and children has risen in Scotland since 2008.

  • As well as leaving working families struggling, in-work poverty also means that individuals have little disposable income to spend in Scotland’s economy.

  • People who worked in low quality, stressful and insecure jobs have poorer general health and a lower satisfaction with daily activities than those that were unemployed. 

  • The Scottish Government should take action to improve enforcement of employment Tribunal awards in Scotland, and remove fees for bringing a claim following the further devolution process.

  • New Statutory Guidance on Public Procurement should promote fair employment and fair pay as far as is legally possible.

  • The Scottish Government and local authorities must work together to ensure that suitable, affordable childcare is provided for working parents in all areas of Scotland, to prevent childcare costs causing in-work poverty or forcing parents to leave their jobs.

Rob Gowans
Publication date
August 2015
Publication type
Number of pages