More than 90% of hand carwashes in the UK employ workers illegally, study finds UK news | Daily News Byte


Three years after the government backed a voluntary scheme to tackle abuse in the sector, more than 90% of hand carwashes are likely to be employing workers illegally without proper pay, records and first aid measures.

A surprising investigation into carwashes in Leicester, Suffolk and Norfolk found that only 7% carried out right-to-work checks, a legal obligation or could prove that legal employment rights were being upheld.

The research was carried out by Nottingham Trent University in partnership with the government-backed Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS) and the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Prevention Fund.

Only 6% of carwashes had written contracts with workers while only 11% provided payslips to prove they were paying the legal minimum wage, holiday pay or sick pay. Less than half (41%) of the companies were registered, indicating that most were not registered with the tax authorities.

The 36 businesses visited for the study this year were not alerted to the inspections and were partially identified using a tool to spot neighborhoods likely to host non-compliant businesses developed by the Nottingham Trent team as well as police intelligence.

RCWS managing director Teresa Sayers said she had visited more than 150 carwashes over the past few years and the study was “representative of the picture” across the UK. “This is local,” she said.

“It is absolutely shocking. Even though I’ve seen so many carwashes, I’m amazed at how upfront these operators are. [in the study] were [about illegal practices] Because they were so confident that they would not be challenged.”

Sayers called on the government to implement local or regional licensing schemes for carwashes based on the RCWS code of practice, enforced by better sharing of data and objectives between agencies, including HMRC, responsible for monitoring the payment of the national minimum wage. Gangmasters and Labor Abuse Authority, which works to protect vulnerable workers.

Sayers said only a “very, very small percentage” of the estimated 5,000 hand carwashes in the UK, which are thought to employ at least 15,000 people, had signed up to the voluntary good practice scheme she oversees, which was set up in 2018. was Efforts to improve the situation in the sector.

She said: “Good operators say they want to operate fairly, but they can’t afford to do so. [they are] will be mitigated by businesses across the street or around the corner.”

Sayers said oversight was fragmented and operators realized they were rarely at risk of inspection, allowing them to return to poor practices with the possibility that any action would be completed quickly.

Margaret Beales, director of Labor Market Enforcement, a government role created in 2017 to help co-ordinate the monitoring of the treatment of workers in the UK, said the range of problems seen in carwashes “requires a joined-up approach – including engagement with local authorities, because there There may be environmental issues as well as employment concerns associated with hand carwashing.”

She said: “Evidence suggests that a wide range of non-compliance is prevalent in the hand carwash sector, mostly labor market non-compliance and low levels of exploitation, although instances of modern slavery and human trafficking have been found. Underpayment of the minimum wage is a frequent issue. .”

The latest findings about continued ill-treatment of workers at carwashes come after the government rejected the idea of ​​a national licensing scheme for the sector in early 2019.

A parliamentary report by the Environmental Audit Committee called for a licensing scheme to be carried out after hearing evidence about worker exploitation and environmental concerns, but the government at the time rejected the idea in favor of greater support for regional, voluntary RCWS.

A government spokesman said: “Illegal work undercuts honest employers, puts vulnerable migrants at risk of exploitation, cheats legitimate jobseekers out of employment and cheats the public purse. Tackling this damaging crime is a key government priority, which is why we continue to work with law enforcement agencies to tackle illegal migration in all its forms.

“Our Nationalities and Borders Act will ensure that the system is fair to those in genuine need and tough on those who seek to abuse it.”


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