Asking people to become self-employed if they want to keep their jobs or telling agency staff they don’t have a legal right to sick pay are just some of the things employers say to find ways around people’s rights at work, Citizens Advice Cornwall can reveal.
The charity has identified 10 common things that some employers say to try and mislead people about their rights.
In the 12 months to April, Citizens Advice Cornwall helped 1,105 people with a problem at work.
People were most likely to ask Citizens Advice Cornwall for advice on:
– Pay and entitlements, especially sick pay
– Dismissal and unfair dismissal
– Contract terms and conditions, such as whether they were workers or self-employed
All employees are entitled to basic rights such as national minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and fair treatment during pregnancy.
However, issues such as contract types and unclear employment status can leave workers unsure about what they’re entitled to, and allow unscrupulous employers to find ways of depriving them of pay and protections.
Now Citizens Advice Cornwall is exposing 10 things employers say that attempt to undermine people’s rights and setting the record straight on how they should be treated.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Neil Colquhoun, said:
“Unscrupulous bosses are using excuses to duck out of giving people the rights they’re entitled to.
“People with complicated working arrangements such as flexible hours, temporary or agency contracts can find it particularly difficult to work out what their rights are, allowing some bad bosses to trick them out of pay and entitlements.
“Anyone who thinks they aren’t being paid properly or are worried about things their boss has said should come to us for advice, so we can help clarify their rights and work out what to do next.”
10 things your boss shouldn’t say
If you hear any of these, get advice:
- “You work for us, but you’ll need to pay your own national insurance contributions.”
- “We can’t afford to pay you any more – you’ll have to go self-employed.”
Being asked to pay your own national insurance or to go self employed when nothing has changed are signs of ‘bogus self employment’ – where your boss claims you are self-employed but you’re not. This saves employers money as they don’t pay national insurance on your wage – or need to pay you minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay or maternity pay either. Check your employment status – if you think you are an employee, ask to be treated like one. Get advice on how to approach the conversation.
- “Your disability means you don’t do as much work as others, so we’re not going to pay you minimum wage.”
- “You were traveling between clients – so we didn’t pay you for those hours.”
Every employee should get national minimum wage, and you should be paid for all the time you spend at work. HMRC can help resolve problems with underpayment – Citizens Advice can guide you on next steps.
- “You’re pregnant? Great! But we’re worried you won’t cope so we’re cutting your hours.”
- “You’re having a baby next year? We’ll need to take you off that important project now.”
Your working arrangements during pregnancy should stay the same unless you ask for a change – any changes imposed on you are discrimination. Let your boss know that you want to continue work as normal, and if they insist on changes get advice.
- “We don’t have to pay you redundancy pay because you’re on a zero hours contract.”
Wrong – some zero hours workers are entitled to redundancy pay. You need to have been working for your employer for two years or more, usually doing at least one shift a week. Citizens Advice can help you work out if you qualify.
- “We need to close for the next two days for stock taking, so you’ll need to take holiday.”
If your employer needs you to take holiday, they should give you twice as much notice as the length of holiday needed. If you aren’t given proper notice, you should be paid and not asked to use leave. ACAS can liaise with both parties to resolve problems with leave if a discussion with your employer doesn’t work.
- “You work through an agency, so you don’t get sick pay.”
Agency workers should be paid sick pay by the agency. Check if you qualify for sick pay and work out your next steps.
- “We took you off the rota, so we don’t owe you sick pay.”
If you’ve already agreed to work the hours and you’ve been absent long enough to qualify, you should get sick pay.
Citizens Advice top tips for tackling problems at work
- Keep evidence – keep hold of letters, payslips, emails and texts, and note down a record of conversations you’ve had which could be used to support your case.
- Talk to your boss – problems may arise from honest mistakes or misunderstanding the law. If you don’t feel confident having a conversation one to one, ask a colleague or Union rep to join you.
- Have a more formal discussion – if the issue isn’t resolved with an informal conversation, the next step is to raise a written grievance which should give you the chance to discuss your issue formally. ACAS has guidance on what to do.
- Get advice – if you’re still not getting anywhere, speak to Citizens Advice, your Trade Union or to ACAS. Options might include using dispute resolution to liaise with your employer, or going to an employment tribunal.