Unfair Work Practices Highlighted

Many Scots are facing "difficult, complex and miserable'' work situations due to unfair employment practices, according to a new report.

The Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux service dealt with 46,540 instances of unfair treatment at work last year, an increase of 5.5% on the previous year, and said the figure is likely to be even higher this year.

Cases include people being dismissed in unfair circumstances, such as for being off sick, attempting to take holiday, or when they became pregnant.

Some workers were informed of their dismissal by text message.

The incidents are contained in a Citizens Advice Scotland report titled Fair Enough?, which sets out the problems in detail and suggests solutions to make Scotland's workplaces fairer.

CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said: "The evidence we present today 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.

"Some of the unfair employment practices we see put workers in difficult, complex and miserable situations. In exposing these today 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.

"Because Scotland's workers deserve better. And it is also in the interests of government and society as a whole that fair employment is promoted. Workers in low quality, stressful jobs have poorer general health, and poor daily quality of life than other groups - even those who are unemployed.

"It is also important to ensure that unscrupulous employers who wilfully undermine their employees' basic rights do not gain an unfair advantage over fair employers.''

The report contains examples such as employees who were not paid at all by their employers, in one case for six months' full-time work, instances of racist and sexist bullying at work, and migrant workers who were exploited and made to work excessive hours.

It makes several recommendations including improvements to the employment tribunal system and strengthening the rights of people on zero-hours contracts.

Other suggestions include the creation of a new statutory body, an Employment Commission, to oversee the enforcement of employment law, which would have the ``legislative teeth'' to target rogue employers.

It also calls for additional resources on an ongoing basis to ensure that payment of the minimum wage is enforced, and an increase in efforts and resources to tackle employers not paying employees' income tax and national insurance.

The report is being sent to ministers, MPs and MSPs.

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.

"In addition to this, we fully support the Living Wage campaign and encourage all employers across Scotland, regardless of sector, to pay the Living Wage - we recognise the real difference this can make to the people of Scotland.''

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