Citizens Advice warns of growing crisis of low pay and poor working conditions
Employment cases seen by Citizens Advice Scotland rise by 12 per cent over four years to record high
The numbers of employment cases seen by Scottish citizens advice bureaux has risen to its highest ever level, according to a report by the advice network.
Submitting a report to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism committee, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) warned of a “growing crisis of low pay and poor conditions in Scotland”, with the network seeing a 12 per cent rise in employment cases in the last four years.
The report warns of rising levels of in-work poverty, at its highest since 2008, and pointed to the prevalence of zero-hours contracts as “serious cause for concern”.
CAS cites figures from the Ministry of Justice demonstrating an 81 per cent decline in the number of cases lodged in the Employment Tribunal between January and March 2014, compared with the year before when no fee was payable.
It says: “Evidence from Scotland’s citizens advice bureaux shows that unfair employment is still as common as ever, but people simply cannot afford to pay to bring their claim.”
CAS urges the Scottish Government to encourage proper enforcement of Employment Tribunal awards in Scotland and remove fees for bringing a claim following the devolution of further powers.
CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said: “Around half of Scots who are in poverty are actually working. This reflects the fact that the minimum wage is not in fact keeping up with inflation, and many of the benefits that are meant to supplement low wages are being cut.
“With wages falling in real terms, families are becoming trapped in poverty, less secure terms and working hours, and with basic employment rights becoming harder to enforce.
“The second part of the problem is that too many rogue employers are using this environment to exploit their workers, and deny them basic rights.
“The growth in Zero Hours contracts has become a huge problem, which leaves thousands of Scots in huge financial uncertainty. And meanwhile it is becoming harder than ever to challenge unfair treatment.”
Between 2011 and 2015, new employment issues in Scottish citizens advice bureaux increased from 45,131 in 2011-12 to 50,625 in 2014-15.
The report found that, prior to a slight decline in 2013-14, the proportion of working age adults in in-work poverty in Scotland reached a record high of 52 per cent in 2012-13.
The proportion of children in poverty where at least one adult in their household was employed rose from 45 per cent in 2008-09 to 59 per cent in 2012-13 before a small decline to 56 per cent in 2013-14.
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Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that since 2012-13 an extra 300,000 children and 400,000 pensioners are now living in poverty