The Unpaid Britain Project has been set up to examine the non-payment of wages in Britain, with a particular focus on London. This project is jointly funded by Trust for London and Middlesex University Business School. For the purpose of this study, we are considering failure to pay, on time, the contractually agreed sum for work done to constitute unpaid wages. Contractual agreement is taken to include minimum legal guarantees such as National Minimum Wage, holiday pay in line with the Working Time Regulations, and statutory pay such as sick pay (SSP), maternity pay (SMP), paternity pay (SPP) and adoption pay (SAP). Work is also taken to include “self-employment”.
Other forms of unpaid time such as work experience, volunteering, family work, unpaid internships and additional hours worked by salaried staff are not included in this study, although they are clearly related. This relationship will be the focus, however, of a later discussion paper.
Unpaid Britain will consider the right to a wage in a historical, legislative and international context, and the significance of its breach. We have begun to investigate the scale, distribution, trends, causes and costs to workers, their families and the state, of non-payment of wages in Britain, focusing predominantly on London, but data and case studies from other parts of Britain will also be examined. We envisage the project continuing until at least October 2017, and will be holding a major conference on the findings in June 2017. A workshop on the typology of non-payment is planned in May 2016.
We are using mixed methods. In addition to examining official datasets such as the Labour Force Survey, and administrative data from Citizens Advice and ACAS, we are going to be developing our own set of data on cases involving unpaid wages and holiday pay from records held at the Employment Tribunal registry of judgements. Using academic and “grey” literature, data and Key Informant interviews, we propose to develop a typology of non-payment. This, in turn will be used to identify case studies illustrative of the various types of non-payment. Based on documentary sources and semi structured interviews, we hope these case studies will help us to gain a detailed understanding of the forces at play when workers find themselves unpaid. The relevance and efficacy of means of redress for those workers will be examined (that is to say how easily they can obtain the money they are owed), and this will also be informed by casework diaries completed by several advisors and representatives during the course of the project.
Many findings and progress of this research will be written on this blog, whose aim is to display our research and increase awareness of the issues of non-payment. But it is also intended to provide a platform for discussion of the phenomenon itself and worker’s experience of it.
The project is led by Nick Clark, who has a long career in trade unions and research into the world of work. He was one of the original board members of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Assisting in the research and administration of the project is Eva Herman, who has recently completed her Masters in Labour, Social Movements and Development at SOAS. We are guided by an Advisory Group consisting of academics and practitioners in the field.
Nick Clark N.Clark@mdx.ac.uk +44 (0)20 8411 4015
Eva Herman E.Herman@mdx.ac.uk +44 (0)20 8411 4146