How Weymouth and Portland employers underpay their staff

What should I be paid?

The first thing you need to know is the minimum you should be paid. The UK National Minimum Wage for every age group can be found on the Minimum Wage website here

Legal… just

The first method we look at how employers underpay their staff is extremely common in domiciliary care agencies.

The care worker will only be paid for the time they are physically doing work for the company, but given a tiny sum for travel between the clients’ homes. In one case we at WeyPAW know, the care worker is paid £10 per hour for the time they are looking after the client. This might mean, for the estimated time it takes to come into the house, dress the person and perhaps make them a cup of tea.

Assume this takes 15 minutes. The worker will get £2.50. They are given time based on clear traffic to get to the next address, for which they are paid 50p. Imagine they are travelling across Weymouth in mid-July holiday traffic? They may get to two addresses for two, 15 minute calls (£5) and be travelling for £1 in that hour.

Their gross pay before National Insurance and tax are taken will be £6 an hour. 12% of £240 is £28.80 for NI. Net income £211.20 a week. £915.20 a month.

Out of that must come:

  • £500 on rent.
  • £250 on food.
  • Assuming their car will cost £500 a year for tax and MOT + £100 a month in fuel? £225 for a month for the car.
  • Let’s add in some essential bills: £40 a month on electricity. £60 on gas. £100 on council tax. Mobile phone? £30. Something over £230 just to survive.

They will be £289.80 a month in debt. This is perfectly legal. Is it ethical?

Given that these people work hard to care for the most vulnerable in society, their pay is honestly a rip off. If a company that takes money to care for people genuinely cared for the people paying them out of their pensions to care for them, shouldn’t the firm go for some wage competition? If they offered £10 an hour for the hours the worker is in uniform actually working for the care agency? £1600 a month gross. You’d see proud, dedicated care workers on £20,800 a year, doing their very best to maintain high standards. You certainly wouldn’t be hearing ‘elder abuse’ stories in the press every week!

Zero hour contracts – even on National Minimum Wage, how can you budget on that? These are legal but wholly unethical again.

Employers underpaying illegally

Let’s now dance through some common illegal working practices that are even done by major supermarkets that manage to find £1.4 billion in their back pockets to buy out home furnishings and homewares companies.

  • Unpaid overtime. Common in grocery store chains is asking checkout staff to do an extra quarter of an hour at the till. They are unpaid for this, but it saves the company £1.96 + other employment costs every time they do this. Rolled up across the whole company every year, the supermarket may save £10 million or more in employee costs. When was the last time a supermarket chain went bust due to lack of income?!
  • Many delivery drivers are considered self-employed for tax purposes. Being ‘self-employed’ you are responsible for paying your own tax, NI, and do not get paid if you are not at work. The writer of this article is self-employed and has 10 different clients for whom I do different things. I make a good living and can afford 5 or 6 holidays a year. Most ‘self-employed’ drivers get around £7.83 an hour, for which they must insure and tax their van, pay for all their home and business expenses, some adding to the pay packet of a man widely estimated to be worth £70,000,000,000. They are not paid holiday or sick pay.

The law on employment decides your actual status according to the work you are physically doing for the company – not what your contract says. If you are working for 40 hours a week for one firm and no other then the law says that you are actually employed by them. The company is breaking the law in this case.

  • Piecework. Delivery drivers will be paid per package they drop. If they drive through clear traffic and everything is sweet they will take £7.83 an hour. Now imagine it is Bank Holiday Monday in summer? Traffic around Weymouth and Portland is snarled up in all directions. They certainly won’t be getting paid the National Minimum Wage! Delivery drivers aren’t the only piecework paid staff…

The outright illegal

Smaller companies, perhaps that sell burgers on the beach, run a pub on Weymouth Esplanade or are council run hotels have smaller annual margins. They may actually dodge the law more flagrantly.

  • No employment contract. Even on ‘zero hour contracts’ you should be given an employment contract that details your sick pay, holiday pay and other entitlements. Once more that employer must observe the law.
  • No holiday or sickness pay. If you are formally employed by a company you are entitled to holiday or sick pay, even if working through an employment agency.
  • No pension payments. By law your employer must enrol you on a workplace pension scheme to which they must contribute and you must pay a small portion of your income too.
  • No payslip. By law an employer must give you a payslip detailing all the deductions they have made from your gross pay.

What can you do about it?

Here are some solutions:

  • Speak to your employer about it.
  • Speak to your Citizens Advice Bureau about it and ask for support
  • Join a trade union. There is a union for every trade and job in the UK. A list can be found here
  • If you live in Weymouth and Portland, contact us at weypaw@gmail.com to discuss your problems. We will put you in touch with those who can help.

Just remember this – Weymouth and Portland has the lowest pay per person living here in the whole of the UK. We are not a town where the industry has moved to China or has been otherwise destroyed by market forces – we are in one of the most beautiful and most vibrant holiday towns in the UK. This is why we at WeyPAW believe fervently that Weymouth and Portland needs a pay rise!