Thousands of casual workers and those in insecure employment are at growing risk of “wage theft” from “unscrupulous employers”, a leading charity has warned.
Citizens Advice say confusing working hours, poor administration and legal loopholes mean some workers are underpaid, while others are not paid at all.
The number of people who contacted the charity for help with pay and entitlements issues in 2015 rose by 4 percent to 67,000 on the previous year.
In total, Citizens Advice helped with 380,000 employment issues in 2015, with one in six directly related to pay and working entitlements.
At the same time, Advice Trends published by Citizens Advice reveal that the number of workers affected by unauthorised deductions to pay increased by 84 percent, with the charity warning that a growing number of workers are effectively being denied pay for hours worked.
Whilst the charity accepts and recognises that fluctuating working patterns could lead to honest mistakes, in some cases employers were found to be deliberately withholding pay from wages without reason for long periods. Others misrepresented people’s working hours, or paid below national minimum wage.
Citizens Advice gives an example of a cleaner who needed help after going months without proper pay. Her employer eventually paid what was owed, but later cut her wages to below the minimum wage without informing her.
People who have a dispute with an employer over pay and entitlements can contact the resolution service ACAS, or take their employer to court. But Citizens Advice say fees introduced in 2013 mean the number of applications has plummeted by two thirds.
Evidence submitted by the leading advice charity to the Justice Select Committee in November 2015, warned that high fees were deterring workers from pursuing legal action against unscrupulous employers.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Bad business practices mean workers aren’t getting the pay they’ve worked hard for.
“Constantly changing shifts and confusion over working hours can lead to genuine mistakes where people aren’t always paid what they’re owed.
“At the same time, unscrupulous employers are misrepresenting people’s work and deliberately underpaying them, making it hard for people to prove that they’ve been shortchanged.
“As more people are in casual and insecure work, it’s particularly concerning that there’s an emerging trend of pay errors and wage theft which can further undermine people’s financial security.
“It is really important that employers take care to make sure people are paid the hours they have worked. Anyone struggling with a pay issue can get help from Citizens Advice.”