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All Work and Low Pay - Join in the Debate

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Eamonn Walsh | 14:07 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

With millions of people enduring pay freezes and cuts, the National Minimum Wage is supposed at least to guarantee that pay can't drop below a legal minimum level.

But as the adult rate rises to £6.08 an hour, Panorama goes undercover to reveal how
some employers exploit loopholes or get round the rules so workers don't even get paid that minimum.

And it speaks to others, especially the young, who feel they're being forced to accept low - or even no - pay just to get work.

We welcome your views on All Work and Low Pay. Please use this forum to leave your comment.


  • Comment number 1.

    It doesn't suprise me one little bit - the fact is that caring and the caring profession, some would say vocation, is exploited from recruitment until retirement - from shady employers asking the prospective employee to pay for their own enhanced disclosure, often pre-interview (from advertisements I've seen on Job Centre Plus) to recruitment agencies not making it clear that travelling to care appointments isn't actually paid time - and you're using your own petrol to do it.

    The way they then try and get people to do additional hours - in effect "Do them or you'll never, ever get offered them again" and then despite all the heavy lifting and exposure to dangerous human matter, absolutely no sympathy to needing time off (as if people want to take time off when they are in hideous pain that often renders them unemployable!)

    Any "homes" or "care companies" that get caught doing that should have their companies expropriated by the State for zero compensation (including the buildings).

  • Comment number 2.

    The company I work for uses contracts for their managers. Part of your contract states that you are willing to work extra hours above your basic 39 as and when needed. however the expectation is that you will do a minimum of 50 hours per week every week. On my present wage that will mean that I will be paid less than the minimum wage every hour I work, and I am better paid than many people in management within my company. I really feel that the government needs to step in and make sure that people are all treated fairly wether they are paid hourly, or salaried.

  • Comment number 3.

    i have been working at a company where my pay has been less than minimum wage for the [past 3 months, i have had a dispute where i have eventually left due to this.
    it is now in the hands of ACAS and the matter should be resolved quickly. it works out that doing 52 hours a week over a monthly period i have been earning £4.61, i am 22 year old and this is not acceptable, overtime also has never been paid

    i would like to recommened ACAS to anyone as they have been really helpful in purseing the matter, and dont be put off my confronting your bosses as they do it all for you, great service and look forward to the programme

  • Comment number 4.

    I have worked in the care sector for just over a year what a eye opener, I was made redundant so not wanting to be out of work I went into the caring proffesion, I worked for a company that is well respected in the community, they paid over the min wage, but working for them was horrendous, I stuck it for three months. The work was hard and never enough staff. I still work in a the caring sector , Yes I am only paid just above the min age, expected to cook clean and look after the residents. but the shifts are shorter,I find it strange that people are lifting the residents in the panarama programme, Where evere I have worked we are not allowed to lift. I also made inquiries in to home visits, this was a night mare too.
    Caring is the poor relation, we are expected to be jack off all trades bit not be paid a decent rate

  • Comment number 5.

    People are going on about how they get paid less than minimum wage so when i ask them how much they actually get their reply is usually £5.50 an hour , this might not seem alot to some people but to me that is loads as i only get £2.25 an hour and i work 5 hours in quite a physically demanding job , i dont get paid for my break and when i asked about the chance of a pay rise the answer is immediatley NO!!

  • Comment number 6.

    The courier industry needs to be looked at, so many people are working long hours for large companies, being told what to do and when to do it and that they cannot do work for other companies yet are dealt with as self employed and in most cases earning well below the minimum wage and would be better off in mcdonalds

  • Comment number 7.

    I worked for a company that was contracted to do installs for another company. The hours would vairy but it was a 6 day a week job and a typical day would be a 7am start until 8 or 9pm finish. They made everybody 'self employed' but would only pay us through a payment company who charged us for putting our wages in the bank.

    If we wanted time off we had to run it past them and if they said no and you argued then you wouldn't have any work for some time to come. The worst part about this all is the payment companies were linked to the family running the original contract firm we worked for in the first place. Because they said we were 'self employed' we wouldn't get any holiday or sick pay and the payment company would sort the 20%tax and we looked after our own N.I.

    We were paid price work which quite often by the time we were done for the day worked out at £4 per hour if we were lucky.

    The comopany supplied the vans and paid for the fuel and the equipment and the uniform etc so surely we weren't self employed?...They said we were and no one had the guts to challange them about it.

    I left in the end and got myself another proper job but this company still operate today and the guys i left behind still say how they keep cutting the price of jobs thus giving them an involentary pay cut and as yet there seems nothing they can do about it. They just keep getting told they should think themselves lucky they still have a job.

  • Comment number 8.

    I funded my daughter for three months unpaid work at vivienee westwood, no pay, no travel costs, no lunch costs. she was even styling major celebrities, such as duffy, lilly allen, -- great experience. but totally funded by me, the person quoted at stella mcartney was well off by comparison. my daughter was offerred a further 3 months unpaid in a studio but was fed up with all the travel for no pay and no peospects. she was given a short reference at the end of 3 months by a junior manager who has since left. an absolute waste of time and complete exploitation. this is what is being promoted as deregulation of employment, no pay and no prospects.

  • Comment number 9.

    i currently work for a delivery company, i am supposed to be on this seventeen week period thing where i dont work over 48 hrs, however it has brought to our attention that we are goin well over this in some cases as much as sixty/seveny hrs averaged, when trying too find out more about this we are told its not up for discussion, they must be making afortune out of us, we dont get paid overtime or time off in liue. we must be getting in the region of 4 pound odd an hour,were told be thankfull you have a job.not a good place to work for considering how hard we actually work for our pittance

  • Comment number 10.

    I work as a transcription typist for an online company. On their websit they state that a good typist can type 1 minute of dictation in four minutes. They used to pay between 50p per minute of dictation which is 60 mins x 50p = £30 divided by 4 = around £7.50 per hour (unfortunately there is always time spent looking up things on the internet, going back over something which is badly dictated, so this would probably go down to about £6.00 per hour. Then they bought in the bidding system and within six months typists were forced to go down to 20p per minute which is 60 x 20 = £12 divided by 4 = £3.00 per hour or right down to £2.50 on a bad piece of dictation. Not as bad as some wages but bad if you have spent a lifetime typing and once earned a good wage. You have no choice but to be self employed and there are hundreds of agencies on the internet who probably run their agencies the same way. It is nigh impossible to get an office job where I live and typing jobs rarely appear unless offered online. I thought my situation was bad but was shocked to find out that even Care Workers and hairdressers are being made to go self employed. There is now an epidemic of self employed jobs with no rights for the workers and no minimum wage. As a self employed typist I have to provide a shredder, because I also do copy typing which pays just as badly. I also have to own a computer, headphones, footpedal, pay for internet access, printer, paper, ink, electricity and heating (gas), all out of the paltry wages I get. The Government are losing out on huge a huge amount of tax because people like me don't earn enough money to pay any, yet I have to fill in a self assessment form every year!

  • Comment number 11.

    Recently graduated, I have found I have no choice but to volunteer just to get a foot in the right direction. After three years of study and previous volunteer and work experience I had not anticipated the difficulty in finding work.

    Part of the difficulty is knowing where to seek advice or support from. Despite not earning a penny I am still expected to pay rent, bills, etc and jobseekers support does not cover the expenditure. It is also unrealistic with the work they recommend, so far I have only been offered places for less than NMW. Considering undergraduates are promised an average of £20K, it is disheartening to say the very least.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well Done on exposing the truth behind the "Basic hourly rate" fiasco..all we needed was a coalition spokesperson to "explain" it all to us .Especially as they are now talking about "reforming" employment laws.

  • Comment number 13.

    After a period of unemployment, I managed to get a job in the caring profession with a respected care company. Like many who have posted comments, I don't get paid travelling time, I regularly have schedules that are 12 to 15 hours long yet if I am lucky I may get 6 hours pay for completing the work. There are no guaranteed hours so one week I may have 18 paid hours and the next 6. I, like many others feel exploited but, I need a job, JSA is not an option.

  • Comment number 14.

    Completely agree with all the comments regarding the care sector here. One of the worst offenders in underpaying staff is the company Care Uk. When a mr John Nash was chairman of this company, he and his wife gave a donation of £21,000 to the health secretary Andrew Lansley to help the Tories win the general election. Since then the companies associated with Mr Nash have donated hundreds of thoushands of pounds to the conservative party. Mr Nash is also one of the main four financiers advising George Osbourne on making cuts.
    Care UK have recently been awarded a £53 million nhs prison health contract! And this is just the tip of a very murky iceberg.....

  • Comment number 15.

    Since 1980 when the Thatcher government broke the unions, the free labour market has been praised as if the post WWII prices and incomes policy was a mistake. But Panorama’s exposé and these tragic stories show it’s creating a self defeating tyranny as more worker suffer and more companies cannot sell stuff because more people have no money save for absolute essentials.

    I’m surprised none responds with bring back militant trades unions all is forgiven!

    And given the wonderful machines that engineers make, how come economists cannot design national and international, financial and economic systems that work properly?

    I offer this advice: Three outputs must be controlled; unemployment, inflation and the current account balance: So three variables must be controllable; demand, wage rises and the exchange rate. And a national government can't do this if it lets capital leave the nation in search of the highest rewards. Simple really save none wants to know!

    See Richard Wolff’s 7 minute Economic History. “The story is about wages and profits, not just banks and credit. That’s the tip of the iceberg.” http://vimeo.com/1863172

  • Comment number 16.

    Many people in the jobs shown in the programme should be contacting HMRC NMW compliance via the Pay & Work Rights help line. 0800 917 2368.

    Charity chuggers should keep a record of when they start and finish work, otherwise it wil be difficult to work out what they are owed and stories of 70 hour weeks might be disbelieved, plus keep a note of the way the company controls what you do.

    Interns were low priority for HMRC because they rarely complained, but are taken more seriously now. If you are working for the business you are entitled to NMW. If you are late and are told off, record it, put an apology in an email. If the company does not write back saying you can come in when you like you will have proof you are not a volunteer, and therefore should get NMW.

  • Comment number 17.

    DHL Supply Chain - Its not just small business that doesnt pay workers. I am an HGV driver and I went fro an assesment at Emmersons Green Sainsburys distribution centre. It is run by DHL and not Sainsburys. I went to do a driving assesment. This took 2hrs and was unpaid. Ok I accept that. My driving was to the standard required by them. But then I had to do a 9 hr induction which took a whole day. DHL did not pay me for this. When I contacted Sainsbury's directly they told me that all training is paid. The problem was that they didnt run their Emmersons Green depot but it was run by DHL. This is obviously the massive DHL company ripping off workers. DHL are one of if no the biggest transport operations in the UK.

  • Comment number 18.

    And people wonder why those on benefits don't want to work. Even on the minimum wage many people are worse off-how are you suposed to get on when you earn less than that? I've noticed a lot of people with disabilities end up working for VERY LOW wages or for free. I used to work with a young man with DS at a well known fast food chain who was on £2 an hour doing the same job as everyone else.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's worth investigating the other side of this equation. I know we don't want workers to be exploited, but we don't want to lose jobs. The programme should also have asked:
    * What is the right NUMBER for the minimum wage?
    * Why are more and more employers trying to circumvent the minimum wage?
    * If all the offending employers were forced to pay minimum wage, would they stay in business? and if not, what would that matter to the UK economy? (In other words, would we be happy to lose these jobs if they could not justify the minimum wage?)
    * Are our workers all skilled enough to warrant a minimum wage of £6.08 in the context of the world market for similar labour/services? (and if not, how can we sustain the minimum wage for those services?).

    The answers to these questions might have prompted a more considered and balanced conclusion. Instead, the tone of the programme appeared to suggest that it was a moral crime, as well as a legal one, not to pay the minimum wage. Unfortunately, moral judgements rarely lead to useful conclusions on their own. Moral judgements need to be tempered with practical (in this case, economic) considerations.

    The programme should have investigated whether the offending companies had a choice: For example:
    * If the sales company paid the minimum wage, PLUS commission, would that result in acceptable performance, or would it attract workers who would be content with the minimum wage, and not get the commission (or any sales for the Red Cross).
    * If the Sales company paid minimum wage + commission, and made a reasonable profit, what would be the cost to the red cross? and would the red cross pay the higher cost anyway?
    * If it was not profitable, and the conclusion was that a) the sales company should go bust, and b) the red cross could not use this method of fund-raising, would that matter? Are we in a position to say that the UK would rather have the minimum wage at £6.08 than have jobs of the type shown?

    Please Panorama, show more balance. The programme comes across as one-sided, and moralistic. This style of journalism has changed the culture of this country to one of blame and entitlement. If we are to make things better, we need a culture of understanding and problem-solving.

  • Comment number 20.

    Politico 19 – If you raised your issues with Panorama, I expect they would say they did consider more flexible wage limits but could not cover the many issues you raise in a single program. Wages are not just business costs; they are the main component of demand for business products and services. And our economy is open to nations that must pay much lower wages mediated by exchange rates set by international capital.

    To Richard Wolff’s Economic History I cited in 15, I add the Overviews of UNCTAD’s recent Trade and Development Reports that can be found from http://www.unctad.org/Templates/Page.asp?intItemID=3742&lang=1 and
    Stewart Lansley’s Tinkering on the economic brink in today’s Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/04/global-recession-wealth-inequalities

    I welcome your plea for a culture of understanding and problem-solving and note that although religion urges restraint, concern for others and loyalty to the common weal, the conventional wisdom offers freedom to pursue self interest subject to competition. I seek a synthesis that values productive work but helps people to live in harmony with themselves, each other and the planet. The BBC is well placed to promote this!

  • Comment number 21.

    You need to look into restaurants all over Manchester they refuse to give payslip never pay overtime and only get5.50 per hour cash in hand. Is like

  • Comment number 22.

    Background music inappropriate. This programme is very interesting but unfortunately BBC the music drowns out the reporting. This is totally unnecessary and distracts from a very serious and worthy journalistic report. Can your editing team not hear for themselves that parts of the programme are unintelligible. If I want to sit and hear music I will buy a cd!!

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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