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When it doesn’t pay to work too hard or take a break

Published 17 July 2017

It may be the holiday season but some employees are likely to be jetting off for their summer break having been short changed.

A study has revealed that employers have failed to pay British workers £1.5bn of holiday pay, which they are legally entitled to (1).

The research published by the Unpaid Britain Project in an interim report titled The Weighted Scales of Economic Justice (2) found that an additional £1.2bn had not been paid for hours worked.

The study by Middlesex University-based researchers also discovered that one in 12 employees does not receive a payslip, and one in 20 was not paid for holidays.

Almost all workers (3) are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holidays per year. There is no legal right to be paid for bank holidays.

An employee’s statutory rights include the right to be paid the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (4). The National Living Wage rate for those aged 25 and over is currently £7.50.

Employers have a number of legal obligations in relation to paying employees, which include:

  • Providing an itemised pay statement.

  • Adhering with national minimum wage law.

  • Making statutory payments, eg maternity, ordinary paternity, additional paternity, adoption, sick and guarantee pay.

  • Only making lawful deductions from wages.

However, there are clearly a large number of rogue employers who try to avoid their legal obligations to their workforce.

Figures from the Citizens Advice Bureau (5) show that the number of cases it dealt with for non-payment of wages nearly doubled in a year. The charity handled 4900 cases of ‘wage theft’ in 2014 with that number climbing sharply to 9000 in 2015 (6).

If a worker raises a complaint in regards to not being paid wages or being paid incorrectly it is important to listen to them, consider what is said, look into it and address it.

Dealing with the concern in a fair, reasonable and timely manner is crucial as if all attempts to resolve the matter fail, and the employee remains aggrieved they can eventually submit a claim to an employment tribunal.


  1. Lawrence F. UK workers are cheated out of at least £1.5bn a year in holiday pay. The Guardian [Internet]. 2017 Jun 19 [cited 2017 Jul 17]; Available from:
  2. nickmclark. The weighted scales of economic justice: Unpaid Britain interim report [Internet]. Unpaid Britain. 2017 [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from:
  3. Employment status: Worker - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from:
  4. The National Minimum Wage and Living Wage - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from:
  5. About Citizens Advice [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from:
  6. Casual workers at risk of ‘wage theft’ from unscrupulous employers [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from:

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