Pandemic has allowed some bad bosses to run amok
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for a crackdown on bad bosses as a new dossier reveals the extent of rogue employers across Scotland during the pandemic.
Health and safety issues, misuse of the furlough scheme and paying less than the legal minimum wage all appeared.
In a submission to the Low Pay Commission on the rates for the National Minimum Wage, CAS reveals the experiences of workers who sought advice from CABs across the country including;
- A South of Scotland CAB client was refused furlough as the employer claims the National Insurance would cost too much. Employer is a large hotel chain.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client made redundant in advance of the end of the first period of furlough. When furlough was extended, the client was not rehired. Client believes he would have kept his job if this had been announced sooner and now faces financial hardship and rent and utilities arrears.
- An East of Scotland CAB client who was denied the opportunity to work from home despite having childcare responsibilities. Client’s employer denied her request to be furloughed as they have advised furlough is only for use when jobs are at risk and have further denied her right to work from home.
- A North of Scotland CAB client facing redundancy if she does not return to work from her office. Client is a single parent and is struggling to organise childcare while schools were closed.
- An East of Scotland CAB client forced onto a zero hours contract at the end of the first period of furlough. Client was refused redundancy and has had no work since signing the new contract. Client is now left claiming Universal Credit.
- A North of Scotland CAB client facing employment difficulties. Client went on maternity leave prior to the pandemic and upon returning to work was told that her hours were no longer available. Since then, client has only been offered work on an as and when basis. Client asked to be furloughed but was told the company was not utilising the furlough scheme.
- An East of Scotland CAB client who was 13-weeks pregnant being asked to return to work without a proper risk assessment. Client has asked to be allowed to remain on furlough or begin her maternity leave early but her employer has been unsympathetic to these requests. Client is fearful for her own safety and that of her baby.
CAS has welcomed the UK Government’s commitment to set up an enforcement agency to crack down on bad employers, but has called for it to be prioritised and given proper funding.
The charity also tells the Low Pay Commission it supports increasing the National living Wage to the rate of the Real Living Wage, and abolishing different rates of pay for different ages of workers.
Over the course of the pandemic, the Citizens Advice network saw an increase in demand for employment advice.
In total the network help people 74,994 with employment advice which amounts to 8% of all advice provided across the network last year.
This made employment the third most popular advice area, behind only social security and debt advice. This is a marked increase from 2019-20, where employment ranked fourth in terms of the most popular advice area and accounted for only 5% of all advice given.
Employment advice has also been highly represented in search terms on CAS’ Advice for Scotland website, which in 2020/21 saw an almost 40% increase in users compared to the previous year.
CAS Social Justice Spokesperson Nina Ballantyne said: “The pandemic was a once in a lifetime challenge to employers, and the vast majority of them treated staff well, reacted flexibility and supported their workers, but we have seen some cases of employers behaving shamefully.
“The furlough scheme was an opportunity to support people and employers throughout the pandemic and in the main it worked really well – but some employers have misused it in various ways to the detriment of workers, or simply not used it at all.
“We appreciate this has been an incredibly difficult year for employers across industries as well as working people – but there’s no excuse to break the law and not recognise the rights working people have.
“That’s why we support proposals for an employment enforcement agency to crack down on bad bosses, but it needs to be a watchdog with teeth – given the priority and the funding it needs to do its job properly.
“If anyone is struggling with an employment issue then the CAB network is here to help, we dealt with thousands of employment related cases last year and our advice is always free, impartial and confidential.”