From education to employment

Young people don’t know their rights in the workplace

Many workers are unaware that time spent travelling between assignments for their job should be counted as working time, a poll has revealed.

Employers should be aware of issues around paid travel time as there is renewed focus on National Minimum/ Living Wage compliance.

This coincides with the Government’s NMW/NLW campaign following the increase in the rates on 1 April 2019 and the subsequent initiative encouraging people to check they are being paid what they are entitled to, after new payslip legislation was introduced.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is encouraging workers who may be at risk of not being paid correctly to speak to their employer or make a complaint to HMRC.

Legislation makes clear time spent travelling for the purpose of working (for example between different assignments) qualifies for the national minimum wage. However, travelling time between home and work does not qualify.

Young workers are not only unaware of the rights they hold in the workplace, but are less likely to belong to a trade union – an organisation that is specifically designed to protect employees.

Key findings:

More than a third (39%) of the working population wrongly think NMW/NLW should not be paid for the time they spend travelling during working hours. This is according to a recent independent poll of 2,001 people conducted online by Kantar Public, on behalf of the BEIS.

Older workers were more likely to think this, with 31% aged 16-24 thinking that travel-for-work time does not qualify for the national minimum wage, compared to 52% of those aged 55-64.

The contrast amongst genders is even more stark. More than half (54%) of men believe the NMW should be paid for the time they spend travelling during working hours, compared to just 36% of women.

The poll also explored awareness of the NMW/NLW rates and payslip understanding and how confident workers were in querying their pay with their employer. BEIS is encouraging all workers to check their payslips, with advice on the best way to handle any potential NMW irregularities.

What is Government doing to help workers?

  • HM Revenue and Customs has identified £24.4 million in back pay for more than 220,000 workers who did not receive the minimum wage, up from £15.6 million last year, and issued £17m in financial penalties to employers who breached the rules.
  • 2018 was a record year for enforcement, with money owed to workers the highest since National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1999.
  • Since the introduction of NMW, the government has ordered employers to repay over £118 million to 835,000 workers, issued over £40 million in financial penalties and completed over 78,000 investigations.
  • The Government has doubled HMRC’s budget to enforce the National Minimum/ Living wage since 2015.
  • Government has committed £26 million for minimum wage enforcement in 2018/19 and launched a £1m awareness campaign for workers this year.
  • In April 2016 the Government introduced tougher penalties for employers who break the rules: making them liable to be charged up to 200% of the wage arrears owed to workers.

Kelly Tolhurst, Business Minister said:

“We are leaving no stone unturned and are cracking down on employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.

“All workers deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and, as our latest figures demonstrate, we are recouping more money than ever before for people that have not been paid correctly.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are determined to end low pay and boost the earning power of people right across the country.

“Our minimum wage rates are amongst the highest in the world and today’s figures are a reminder to all employers to check they are paying their workers correctly.”

Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury & Minister responsible for HMRC, said: “The latest minimum wage enforcement statistics show that HMRC remains firmly committed to ensuring that all workers receive the wages they are legally entitled to, irrespective of their employer’s size or business sector. We’re proud of the work done at HMRC in this space and will continue to support it this year.”

Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Many businesses already pay above the National Minimum/ Living Wage, but it’s crucial that all employers are aware of the recent changes to wage rates and check to ensure they remain fully compliant with the legislation.

“The increase in the NMW/ NLW will impact on businesses across a variety of sectors and regions, and firms need to review their systems to ensure they are meeting their responsibilities to employees.

“While it’s been a time of great change and uncertainty for UK business communities, the importance of staying compliant and avoiding the possibility of penalties has not diminished.”

In April, Ministers introduced the biggest ever increase to the National Living Wage (NLW), as part of a wider move to end low pay. Workers aged 25 and over are legally entitled to at least the NLW. Workers aged under 25 are legally entitled to at least the NMW.

The NLW/NMW rates increased on April 1, with approximately 2.1 million people expected to benefit. From 6 April 2019 all workers are entitled to a payslip, with an estimated 290,000 workers eligible.

If paid hourly, payslip will show how many hours worked and make it easier for employees to check they are being paid the legal minimum.

In addition, the government will bring forward proposals for a single labour market enforcement body to ensure vulnerable workers are better protected. This forms part of the biggest increase to workers’ rights in a generation and a vital aspect of the modern Industrial Strategy. For more information visit:

In February 2018, Government responded to the Taylor Review of impact modern working practices stating that good pay is one of the five principles that underpin the quality of work. The Good Work Plan published on 17 December also highlights the importance of the National Living Wage for those aged 25 and over as a means to end low pay. 

50% of 18 -30 year olds believe trade unions are a vital support network for employment rights, despite 65% not belonging to one

A new study conducted by UIA Mutual Insurance shows that half of 18-30 year olds understand the support network trade unions supply, despite two-thirds of them not belonging to their relevant union.

“The rise of the ‘gig economy’ job and zero-hours contracts serves to highlight the changing face of British working life and the growing need for better workplace representation and assistance,” says Jon Craven, CEO of UIA Mutual.

“We found in our study that nationally just over two fifths of 18-30 year olds believe that young people are far more vulnerable at work than others and should be protected by unions.” For the few 18-30 year olds that have decided to become part of a trade union, however, nearly 39% say that they feel more protected at work.

Elsewhere, just under a third of young union members across Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been assisted with an issue at work, and over a quarter identified a sense of community that comes with belonging to a trade union.

Research key findings:

  • 76% believe that their employer has an obligation to educate them on their workplace rights
  • 28% are completely unaware of their rights within their current workplace
  • 34% would not know where to turn if they felt they’d been unfairly dismissed
  • 76% falsely believed that their employer has an obligation to educate them on their workplace rights
  • 45% think this responsibility falls on the government
  • 69% believed that trade union members know more about their rights at work than those who don’t
  • 39% of those that do belong to a union said they felt more protected at work
  • 41% believe young people are far more vulnerable and should be protected by unions

Related Articles