European working time legislation that UK ministers have failed to introduce provide cover for rogue employers that want to cheat employees out of pay, according to the Trades Union Congress.
The union body issued the warning after suggesting the government has watered down rules on how working time is recorded and is “giving cover” to bosses who exploit workers.
Its accusations follow a 2019 European Court of Justice ruling that employers should create an “objective, reliable and accessible system” for recording hours worked. However, the UK has not done so despite being legally required to, instead calling for “adequate” records.
While minimum wage regulations are not directly impacted by the changes, the TUC believes good record-keeping is key to avoiding minimum wage underpayments.
According to the union, employers will be encouraged to keep record-keeping minimal, making it more difficult for staff to challenge underpayments. It therefore says the government is in danger of making an “already bad system even worse”.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “There should be no hiding place for bad employers, but these plans give cover to bosses who exploit their staff.
“Minimum wage enforcement is already undermined by poor record-keeping – these changes will make a bad system even worse. And watering down rules on recording working time is a gift to bad employers looking to exploit workers and put them through long, gruelling shifts without enough rest.
“The government’s own impact assessment couldn’t be any clearer. Safe limits on working hours are not being enforced properly by employers. But rather than legislating to fix this problem, ministers are diluting protections even further, and giving rogue employers who underpay and overwork staff a helping hand.
“Ministers must think again and ditch these reckless plans. It is a recipe for low-paid, burnt-out Britain.”
The TUC also believes that minimum wage rules and other working rights will not be enforced because of a lack of inspectors. It suggests relaxing the working hours reporting rules will also make it easier for some employers to implement long, strenuous shifts without providing enough rest for workers.