UK's new working time plans risk employee exploitation, says TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has today (13 July) warned that ministers’ plans to loosen rules on how working time is recorded would help rogue employers cheat workers out of pay.

In 2019, the European Court of Justice ruled that employers should establish an “objective, reliable and accessible system” for recording working hours. 

However, to reduce the administrative burden on employers, the new plan means companies in the UK will only be required to keep “adequate” records of hours worked. 

Ministers could impose these changes using the Retained EU Law Act, which received Royal Assent last month (29 June). 

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TUC general secretary Paul Nowak has said reducing the quality of record keeping would make it hard for staff to challenge underpayment of their hours or illegally long shifts. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Watering down rules on recording working time is a gift to bad employers looking to exploit workers and put them through long, gruelling shifts without enough rest. 

“Ministers must think again and ditch these reckless plans. It is a recipe for low-paid, burnt-out Britain.” 

Shakil Butt, founder of consultancy HR Hero for Hire, said longer shifts and underpayment is unsustainable. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “This fallacy of do more, do it with less, do it faster is a left-over broken concept from the 1970’s.  

“This is counter intuitive to being productive.  

“With so many jobs requiring us to be innovative, problem solvers and critical thinkers; having your people burn out means they are not bringing their best selves to work, quite the opposite.” 

Butt said during the current labour shortage, employers who do not keep fair records will risk a high turnover rate. 

“Treating people like people has to be more than lip service and a fair day’s work should mean a fair day’s pay irrespective of legislation.  

“During a skills and talent shortage, employers who get this wrong will find their best people will vote with their feet and go where they are actually valued,” he said. 

Nicole Bello, group vice president, EMEA at HR platform UKG said automated record keeping can help reduce the administrative burden and keep it accurate.  

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Technology can accurately track hours worked across the entire workforce and ensure a more reliable payroll process. 

“The alternative means relying on outdated processes, manual workarounds, and results in a lack of visibility and transparency into employee performance.  

“This can also impede decision making and create opportunity for manager bias. 

Bello said visible employee data can also help HR monitor employee wellbeing. 

She added: “Having an accurate overview of when each employee works and how long for can make it easier to spot and tackle employee burnout when it arises, as well as ensuring that employees are paid correctly.”