Emma calls for debate on exploitation in the construction industry

July 18, 2014

131015 - ELB at DPMQsOn Thursday (17 July) Emma raised the issue of construction workers who lose out through unfair employment practices, and asked the Leader of the House William Hague MP for time to debate this important issue.

The Government announced changes to self-employment law earlier this year, but left a loophole which allowed employees to be exploited through what are known as “umbrella companies”, fake companies which employers can use to avoid their duties to workers. The construction union UCATT reports that thousands of workers have been switched onto these schemes since the Government’s changes took effect in April.

Emma asked:

“Despite the Government’s claims that they will tackle false self-employment, construction firms continue to exploit loopholes which mean that people like my constituent, Ron Boyle, are losing hundreds of pounds every month. Will the Leader of the House give the House time to debate that issue and discuss how those loopholes can be closed, so that people like Mr Boyle are not robbed of a fair wage?”

Mr Hague accepted the case for a debate, but sadly said that he “[did] not have a lot of time to give away for debates.”    

However, a number of MPs have since approached Emma saying their constituents have experienced similar problems, and together they will seek a debate on the issue.

Umbrella companies operate through complicated arrangements which enabled them to deduct hundreds of pounds a month in fees, including making workers pay for their own holidays and training.  The arrangements also transfer the responsibility for paying employers’ National Insurance Contributions onto workers themselves.  Some workers estimate that their take home pay has fallen by more than a quarter since switching to these contracts.

Speaking after Questions, Emma said:

“The Government was warned by UCATT and should have seen this problem coming.  It took employers only months to transfer thousands of workers onto these unfair new arrangements, and these people are now losing hundreds of pounds a month.

“Employers must not be allowed to ignore their responsibilities, and I hope the Government will look closely at this issue and close these loopholes as soon as possible.”

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