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Workers’ lives blighted by unfair working conditions

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​Report reveals thousands of lives affected by poor working conditions in Scotland

Unfair working practices are blighting the lives of thousands of Scots - leaving them in desperate and miserable situations, according to a new report.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) says it dealt with 46,540 instances of unfair treatment at work - an increase of 5.5% on the previous year with figures set to be even higher in 2015.

Examples include unfair dismissal, non-payment of wages, cancellation of holidays, bullying, racism and denial of sick pay.

Many workers have told CAS they would like to take their case to tribunals but can’t afford to do so.

CAS’ Fair Enough? report sets out the problems in detail and suggests solutions to make Scotland’s workplaces fairer.

It is being sent to ministers, MPs and MSPs.

CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said: “In Scotland we like to see ourselves as a generally fair, socially just country. Sadly, the evidence seen by CAB advisers every day tells a different story. We know that many Scots who are unemployed face severe hardship. But many who do have jobs are living on low incomes and also facing extremely unfair conditions at work.

“The evidence we present is a snapshot of the kind of employment cases we see. Of course it’s important to say that most employers are fair and treat their staff well. But sadly it’s clear that there are many rogue employers in Scotland, and also that the system is in many ways stacked against workers who want to challenge unfairness at work.”

The sort of cases outlined in the report include people being dismissed in unfair circumstances, including for being off sick, attempting to take holiday, or informed of their dismissal by text message.

Some of the unfair employment practices we see put workers in difficult, complex and miserable situations - Rob Gowans

There are also instances of employees who were not paid at all by their employers, in one case for six months’ full-time work.

And the report records instances where employers failed to pay their employees’ income tax and national insurance, leaving them to pick up the bill - as well as employers refusing to allow employees to take paid holiday.

“Some of the unfair employment practices we see put workers in difficult, complex and miserable situations,” said Gowans.

“In exposing these we want to raise awareness of these problems, but also to argue the case for change. All of the problems we identify in this report can be fixed, and we suggest ways of doing that.”

Recommendations include removing employment tribunal fees and creating a new statutory employment commission to oversee the enforcement of employment law and promote fair employment.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Employment law is reserved to the UK government.

"While the vast majority of employers in Scotland are lawful and exercise a duty of care to their employees, there are unfortunately people who flout the law.

"The Scottish Government fully recognises the importance of making workplaces fairer.

"We have announced our intention to set up a Fair Work Convention to encourage government, employers, trade unions and employees to work together to establish progressive workplace practices, boost innovation and productivity.

"We are also considering the implications of the new powers around tribunals that are being transferred as part of the Smith process."