Parents, carers and disabled twice as likely to be laid off, Citizens Advice finds

Citizens Advice is calling for the urgent establishment of a single enforcement body.

6 Aug 2020| News

Research from the Citizens Advice Bureau has found that parents, carers and disabled people are at least twice as likely to face redundancy due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A survey of 6,000 people conducted by the organisation found that nearly two in five parents and carers (39%) were being laid off, as were 27% of people with disabilities, rising to 37% if their disability had a large impact on their day-to-day life.

Nearly half – 48% – of shielded workers classified as extremely clinically vulnerable to the virus faced losing their jobs.

This compares to the much lower rate of redundancy across the whole working population of 17%.

This comes as demand for the charity’s advice on redundancy selection has increased almost seven-fold.

Jamie McGlynn, Contact Centre Manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: “People are absolutely wracked with worry. One lady with underlying health conditions told her employer she felt unsafe about returning to work as another worker had Covid symptoms but wasn’t isolating. The next week she had her redundancy notice through.

“We’re retraining some of our advisers on employment rights because we know what we’re seeing now could be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Indeed, discrimination law exists to try and curb disproportionate redundancies of disabled workers, but Citizens Advice warned that breaches of this law may be rife in this climate yet go unnoticed, as there is no national body to enforce employment law.

Already, the redundancy rights pages of the body’s website have seen traffic increase seven-fold as workers try to understand if their employer is following the rules.

“As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules,” Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, Dame Gillian Guy, said.

“If someone is facing an unfair redundancy, the odds of getting redress under the current system are stacked against them. Workers need a watchdog that will be a one-stop shop to protect their employment rights.”

IER proposals for strenghtening enforcement

Indeed, the IER agrees with Citizens Advice that a single enforcement body to ensure compliance with employment law is urgently needed.

Not only are there issues related to the identification of legal breaches, but when workers do take their employers to Employment Tribunal, a shocking number never receive their court-ordered compensation.

Only around half of employers obey court orders to pay compensation to workers.

An Independent Labour Inspectorate

Properly resourced, and with the power to enter workplaces, trained labour inspectors should be able to proactively identify breaches of law and issue enforcement notices, reinstate unfairly dismissed workers.

Similar agencies have proven their value in France, Belgium and Germany.

Stronger trade union rights

Workers’ representatives should be allowed to enter workplaces to monitor compliance and follow-up on reports of law breaking.

Increase funding for the Health and Safety Executive and Environmental Health Offices

More relevant than ever during the Covid-19 crisis is the plight of the Health and Safety Executive and Environmental Health Offices. These agencies – responsible for ensuring workplaces are safe – have had their funding cut so much that proactive inspections of businesses fell by 69% and 96% respectively between 2012 and 2015.

Require companies to demonstrate their compliance with the law

Instead of putting the onus on workers and the State to fish out wrongdoing, put the ball in the employer’s court and ask them to report on their compliance.