Confusion and lack of information about one’s rights at work is causing high levels of exploitation and unpaid wages in the Eastern European communities. Lack of language skills, lack of knowledge of the system and social exclusion make it harder for workers to understand their rights and makes it easy for unscrupulous employers to take advantage.
Such was the case of our client, S.
S came to us for advice at the beginning of February this year. She was working for an agency as a self-employed cleaner, as many Eastern European women do in London. Her last two invoices were not paid and the agency had withheld £250 to cover the cost of a Health and Safety training that never took place. The money that was withheld in total represented the value of her wages for a month.
S contacted them several times asking for her pay but they refused to speak with her. Eventually she came to our offices and we helped her with a letter requesting overdue payment but the agency did not respond. Consequently, we decided the best way to go further at that time was to make a Money Online claim. After this was made we supported her through all the court procedures.
After the claim was made S learned that she is not the only person in the same or similar situation. We found other cleaners who used to work for the same agency and experienced the same issues on a Facebook group.
Eventually, S won the case in the court but the agency still refused to pay her so we helped the client to enforce the judgement. Finally, after 8 months and two weeks she received the money.
S does not speak any English and when she came to us she did not understand what tools she could use to get her wages back. She was the only working person in the household, supporting her husband and her two children. With no savings she found herself in a very difficult situation. Without our support she would have probably gave up at some point like other members of the above mentioned Facebook group.
47% of clients approaching our employment law advice service are not paid. Withhold wages in many cases put our clients and their families at risk of homelessness.
We often highlighted that self-employed workers and agency workers are particularly vulnerable, as their employment status offers very few rights and protections and for whom there is little recourse in cases of abuse and exploitation.