Unpaid Britain

Key findings

£1.2

billion of wages are unpaid each year

£1.5

billion of holiday pay are unpaid every year

1 in 12

workers does not receive a payslip

Unpaid Britain – report reveals that workers are denied £1.2 billion of wages and £1.5 billion of holiday pay each year.

Researchers from Middlesex University London describe today’s (15/6) interim report results about unpaid workers in Britain as the “tip of the iceberg”.

The report “The Weighted Scales of Economic Justice”* from the Unpaid Britain project based at Middlesex University estimates that:

£1.2 billion

of wages are unpaid each year

£1.5 billion

of holiday pay are unpaid every year

one in 12 workers

does not receive a payslip (a breach of employment rights)

one in 20 workers

receive no paid holidays (a breach of employment rights)

on 23,000 occasions in a year

the impact of unpaid or delayed wages is so severe it leads to workers having no food

sectors most likely to not pay wages include

sports activities, amusement and recreation, food and beverage services, employment activities – in London arts and entertainment as well as construction are also high offenders.

“It has not been easy to find accurate data on the true scale of failure to pay wages in this country and I fear that this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of painting a realistic picture of unpaid Britain. One of the problems is that there is no official data on non-payment. Not paying wages is a civil rather than a criminal offence which means there are no crime statistics. Our interim findings demonstrate that there is a desperate need for improved workers’ protection and better guidance on their rights and how these can be enforced. With an uncertain Brexit around the corner there has never been a more important time to safeguard, protect and enhance workers’ rights.”
Nick Clark, Lead author from Middlesex University London

The researchers found employers can withhold wages with impunity and there is a widespread culture of repeat offenders. Moreover they found that directors of half of the companies that were dissolved and who had defaulted on wages returned as directors of other companies in due course.

Types of unpaid wages include failure to provide holiday pay, unpaid hours of work and unauthorised deductions. Other types include not paying the last wage (or outstanding holiday pay) or ceasing to pay when insolvency was likely.

Middlesex University researchers used the following sources to gather data on this subject: Labour Force and Family Resources surveys, lists of National Minimum Wage offenders, Insolvency Service data (secured through Freedom of Information requests) and Employment Tribunal judgements. In addition the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau, Lambeth Law Centre and the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals all permitted access to survey or casework data. A series of case studies (mostly from London) were also used to illustrate the stories behind non-paid wages.

The Unpaid Britain project was established at Middlesex University Business School in September 2015 and is co-funded by the Trust. The final report is due in November 2017.

Download report

Unpaid Britain

Full report 984.5 KB

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